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Can Cats Eat Mushrooms? Everything You Need to Know!

If you’re cooking up a delicious mushroom risotto, you might be surprised to find your cat brushing up against your legs and showing interest in your vegetarian dinner. You might even be tempted to give your cat a piece of mushroom, but are mushrooms actually safe for cats to eat? Should you share this food with your cat, or is this something best left off the menu?

In short, shop-bought mushrooms can be a safe and very occasional treat for cats. But you should never let your cat eat wild mushrooms. Let’s find out a little more about this unusual pairing.

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Why might cats like mushrooms?

Champignon on wooden background
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Strange as it might sound, cats can actually enjoy the taste and texture of mushrooms. This is down to the fact that mushrooms contain high levels of glutamate, an amino acid that gives foods a distinctive savory flavor, sometimes called “umami.”

Cats can detect these savory flavors, and they enjoy them too! These umami flavors are also linked to the amino acids found in meat protein, so your cat is more likely attracted to mushrooms for the protein and savory flavor.

Are mushrooms safe for cats?

Store-bought mushrooms intended for human consumption can be safe for cats to eat in very small quantities. They’re probably not a good idea as a regular food, though.

If you do want to give your cat a small amount of mushroom, it’s best to serve it cooked without any seasonings.

While some cats might like the taste and texture of mushrooms, there’s nothing in a mushroom nutrition-wise that can’t be found in your cat’s own food!

Rather than feed your cat mushrooms, it’s probably better to buy or make them some yummy treats decided specifically for cats instead.

What about wild mushrooms?

Fresh wild mushrooms
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Cats should never be fed wild mushrooms. These can be very hard to safely identify, so unless you’re a professional mycologist (mushroom scientist), we’d recommend never trying to self-identify wild mushrooms for either yourself or your cat to eat!

The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) says that while cats do not often eat wild mushrooms out of choice, they seem to be attracted to dried Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina mushroom species, which can be fatal if eaten. Both these mushrooms have a fishy scent, which is likely the reason cats are attracted to it.

It’s hopefully unlikely that your cat will come across these mushrooms, but if you’re unsure, volunteers from the NAMA can help you safely identify them.

In the fall, as mushrooms start to appear, it’s a good idea to check your backyard each day and remove them as they appear. Some wild mushrooms are harmless, but others can be fatal. And it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the two!

Symptoms of mushroom poisoning in cats

If your cat has eaten wild mushrooms, the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) and the ASPCA warn you to watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Vomiting or diarrhea within a few hours of consumption should be a warning sign you need to contact your vet. Mild cases may resolve themselves in time, but severe cases can cause dehydration as well as electrolyte imbalances.
  • Muscarinic Effects: Some mushroom species can affect the parasympathetic nervous system. This can lead to severe drooling as well as a decreased heart rate. Gastrointestinal issues may also be present.
  • Neurological Effects: These can include unsteadiness when walking, tremors, sensitivity to touch or sound, agitation, and depression. Diarrhea and vomiting may also occur.
  • Liver Toxicity: This is the most concerning symptom of mushroom poisoning, commonly associated with the death cap mushroom. Symptoms can be delayed for up to 24 hours after ingestion and can include gastrointestinal issues, decreased energy and appetite, and a yellowing of the skin and white of the eyes. Left untreated, this can progress to liver failure and ultimately, death.

The symptoms that a cat that has eaten poisonous mushrooms will present depends on the type of mushroom. If possible, take a photo of the mushroom, plus keep a small sample, and then dispose of the rest of it very carefully, making sure you don’t get any on yourself!

Cat vomiting
Image Credit: Tunatura, Shutterstock

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Wrapping it up

Some cats do seem to enjoy the savory taste of shop-bought mushrooms, and it’s safe enough to give your cat a very small amount of cooked mushroom very occasionally. Bear in mind that nutrition-wise, it’s safest to stick to food and treats created specifically for your cat. Their digestive systems are designed to process a meat-based diet, after all!

Cats and wild mushrooms don’t mix at all. You should never ever feed your cat any wild mushroom, even if you think you’ve identified it safely. And if you see your curious cat showing an interest in or eating a small piece of wild mushroom, we recommend contacting your vet immediately and keeping a very close eye out for any of the symptoms we listed above.

Cats can be pretty curious creatures, but in this instance, it’s probably safest to keep them apart from mushrooms!