It’s dinnertime and you’re serving up your signature dish of spaghetti with jarred tomato sauce, because who has time to make tomato sauce from scratch? A dollop of sauce accidentally hits the floor and your cat, waiting patiently by your feet, immediately licks it up.
Now your immediate concern might be, is the tomato sauce safe for your cat to eat? The short answer is, while tomatoes are safe, many ingredients commonly found in tomato sauce are dangerous for cats.
The Healthy Tomato
The tomato contains a high concentration of the antioxidant lycopene, which provides many health benefits. These can include reducing the risks of cancer and heart diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, as well as promoting healthy skin. The highest concentration of lycopene is found in the tomato skin. The redder the skin, the more lycopene is present.
Allergies to tomatoes are quite rare in humans, but the tomato plant can be toxic for our pets.
The Toxic Tomato Plant
Tomatoes are botanically classified as fruit that belongs to the nightshade family. The tomato plant contains solanine, which can be toxic for animals if eaten in large amounts. While poisoning won’t typically be the result when cats eat a small amount of the tomato plant, ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, weakness and lethargy.
Therefore, it is best to keep your cat away from tomato plants, but if you suspect your pet may have eaten part of a plant, you should take him to your vet as soon as possible.
The Tomato and Your Cat
The red, ripe tomato is the tastiest and safest part of the tomato plant for your cat unless he’s allergic. Tomatoes are full of healthy vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, potassium and are a good source of dietary fiber.
However, it is recommended that you stick with a good quality cat food that has the right balance of vitamins and minerals, rather than adding supplements. Supplements could potentially cause your cat harm unless he has an underlying health problem. Always follow the advice of your vet.
Tomato Sauce and the Cat
Now that you know more about tomatoes and your cat let’s look more specifically at tomato sauce.
Most red sauces have basic ingredients that are not harmful to your cat, such as ripe tomatoes, olive oil and seasonings (basil, oregano). However, both homemade and jarred tomato sauces tend to contain harmful ingredients for pets such as onions and garlic.
Both onions and garlic contain oxidants that will break down the red blood cells, which can lead to anemia as well as gastroenteritis (diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain). Garlic is about 5 times more toxic than onions and considering most tomato sauces contain garlic, it would be safer to keep your cat away from tomato sauce in general. Leeks and chives also belong to the same family as onions and garlic and should also be avoided if they are present in your sauce.
So, if your cat licks tomato sauce off the floor, your finger or even manages to stick his head in the pot when your back is turned, and if the sauce has onions or garlic in it, these are the symptoms you need to watch for:
- Allergic reaction
- Asthma attack
As well as signs of anemia such as:
- Pale gums
- Lethargy and weakness
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Tar-like, black stool
The symptoms from eating onions and garlic don’t always occur immediately and might be delayed by several days. If you do witness any of these symptoms or suspect your cat may have ingested these ingredients, take him to your vet immediately.
Therefore, as a general rule, tomatoes are okay for your cat, but tomato sauce is not. It should be kept away from your cat unless you’ve made it yourself and know exactly what is in it.
Try to educate yourself about what ingredients and foods are toxic for your cat and what some signs your cat might exhibit while experiencing a toxic reaction. Please consult with your vet if you have any questions or concerns regarding your cat’s health and diet.