As children, most of us learned (thanks, Barney!) that sharing is caring, so of course, it’s only natural for us to want to share our tasty treats with our darling cats. I mean, cats eat the same food day in and day out, with the occasional pet treat. Surely, they would enjoy a sweet treat too, right?
When it comes to human food, sweets in particular, is it okay to share these with our feline companions? Do our cats enjoy sweets as much as we do? We know that sweets, in moderation, are generally safe for humans, but what about cats?
Read on to find out which, if any, sweets you can safely share with your favorite floof, and which ones might be doing more damage than you realize.
Does my cat even like sweets?
Cats don’t have the ability to taste sweetness, so, likely, your cat will not enjoy sweets as much as you might. Humans have around 9,000 taste receptors in their mouths, while dogs have around 1,700. Your cat has only 470 taste receptors and none of those can taste sweetness.
If your cat seems interested in your sweet treats it is more than likely due to something else — the fat content, perhaps or an interesting smell or texture — but your cat definitely does not have a sweet tooth. This means that you don’t have to feel bad for not sharing your treats. More for you.
Can cats eat sugar?
But what if your cat gets into the sweets on their own? You’ll be pleased to know that sugar itself is not toxic to animals. But it doesn’t offer them much nutritional value either. Cats also don’t digest sugar very well and they may experience digestive issues after consuming even small quantities. Sugar adds loads of additional calories to your cat’s diet and over time, can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and tooth issues.
What about artificial sweeteners?
As society realizes the harm that too much sugar can have on humans, more products are including artificial sweeteners, specifically Xylitol, to add sweetness without the calories. Great news if you’re concerned about your weight. Potentially catastrophic news for your pets.
As a pet owner, it’s vital that you check all food labels before sharing any food with your cat. Xylitol, specifically, is known for being extremely toxic to dogs and potentially harmful to cats too.
While the evidence is still sketchy as to whether cats are affected as badly as dogs, it’s simply not worth risking it as the effects in dogs are rapid and often fatal. Other artificial sweeteners like stevia, aspartame, erythritol are reportedly safe for animal consumption but can result in some digestive issues.
We’d recommend that anything with ‘sugar-free’ on the label should be treated as potentially harmful to your pet just to be safe.
Can cats eat chocolate?
In short: no. Chocolate is very, very bad for cats.
Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine which is not metabolized by cats and dogs. This leads to a build-up in the animal’s system which can cause some very serious and life-threatening problems. Cats and chocolate should be kept far apart.
While it differs from cat to cat, even a small amount of chocolate can cause some serious problems. Symptoms that can indicate that your cat has consumed chocolate include vomiting, diarrhea, panting, racing heart, fever, seizures, and muscle rigidity.
Here’s what to do if your cat eats chocolate: if you know that your cat ate chocolate, it’s best to get them to the vet as soon as possible. If you act early enough, the vet may be able to induce vomiting before too much theobromine enters your pet’s system. Take note of quantities consumed and bring any wrappers or packets with you to the vet as this can help determine the level of risk to our cat.
If you suspect that your cat has eaten chocolate but aren’t sure, you can choose to keep a super close eye on them and at the first sign of any symptoms, get them to the doc. If you are unsure about the dietary intake of your kitty as a whole, don't hesitate to use Vet Chat. With this 24/7 online service, you can get a consultation on what treats are fine for your cat.
Can cats eat peanut butter?
Technically, peanut butter isn’t toxic to cats so cats can have small amounts of peanut butter without any adverse consequences. It’s actually a handy way of getting your cat to take medicine — the stickiness of the peanut butter causes your cat to swallow more, thereby increasing the chances they’ll unknowingly ingest their meds.
Do cats like peanut butter? For sure. Some cats really seem to like the taste of peanut butter so be prepared for what you may be starting when you introduce your kitty to this treat.
Most cats can tolerate a little peanut butter here and there. The problem lies mainly in the very high caloric density of peanut butter. Giving your sweet kitty peanut butter too often can lead to significant weight gain.
There is some need for caution with peanut butter. If you’ve never given your cat peanut butter before, start with a very small amount. Peanut butter can cause stomach upsets in cats (this should pass after a few hours. If it doesn’t, call the vet.) There is also a small chance that your cat may have an allergy. While this is very rare, keep an eye out for swelling, itching, and difficulty breathing, and head to the vet pronto.
Gooey, sticky peanut butter also does pose a choking hazard for cats, especially in large doses. Definitely don’t plop a big ol’ spoonful in their bowl and leave them to it.
While peanut butter won’t generally harm your cat, it won’t really benefit them either. If you don’t need to give it to them, rather don’t.
Can cats eat honey?
Is honey good for cats? No. Is honey toxic to cats? Also, no. Can cats eat honey? Sure, but they probably shouldn’t.
We’ve already mentioned that cats can’t taste sweet, so honey would simply be wasted on your cat. Your cat would much rather seek out a treat with a high fat content.
Honey won’t add much to your cat’s nutrition other than calories which will invariably lead to weight gain over the long run. Your cats don’t have a need for sugar in their diet so it would be a pointless exercise to feed it honey.
Kittens, in particular, should be kept away from honey. For starters, the sticky consistency is difficult for their little throats to swallow, and secondly, honey may contain certain bacterial spores that juvenile immune systems aren’t equipped for.
If your adult cat ate honey, they may experience some digestive issues — vomiting, diarrhea — in which case, stop giving them honey altogether.
Can cats eat ice cream?
Cats love ice cream. Granted, it’s got more to do with the fat content than the sweet taste. But ice cream is not all that good for cats.
We’ve all been led to believe that cats love milk. There’s the quintessential image of cats lapping sweetly at a saucer of milk. In truth, most cats are lactose intolerant, which means that past weaning, they simply can’t digest the lactose in dairy products.
So, while your cat enjoys the fat and carbohydrate content of ice cream, their gut will probably stage a protest. Cue: diarrhea, and cramps, and gas. There’s also a risk of giving your sweet companion brain freeze (hint: don’t).
A little lick here and there is probably fine, but a spoonful is probably unwise. Also, remember to avoid chocolate-flavored ice cream.
Can cats eat marshmallows?
Marshmallows are not as innocent as their soft, cloud-like appearance will have you believe. While a small taste here and there won’t be toxic to your kitty, it’s inadvisable to give your cat marshmallows for several reasons.
For starters, there’s the obvious caloric injection that can lead to weight gain. The sugar content in marshmallows can also cause dental problems — marshmallows stick to your cat’s teeth and can cause decay. They add absolutely no value to your cat’s diet, and your cat doesn’t even enjoy the taste. Add to all of this the potential choking hazard that marshmallows present, and it’s a no-brainer. It’s just best to avoid giving them to your cat.
Can cats eat raisins?
Grapes, and their shriveled cousins, raisins are a hard no for cats. Even in small amounts, they can cause your cat to become very ill, very quickly. Kidney failure sets in quite rapidly after consumption of even the smallest amount and can be fatal.
It’s not clear why grapes and raisins are so dangerous to cats, but we strongly advise keeping your cat very far away from either.
Look out for repeated vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and decreased urination. The sooner your cat gets veterinary attention, the better.
Can cats eat whipped cream?
Much like ice-cream, your cat is most likely going to want whipped cream for the fat content. Whipped cream is likely fine for your cat to have in very small doses but keep an eye out for signs of gastric upset.
If you’re using fresh cream that you’ve simply whipped into in a cloud without adding other ingredients, then there’s even less for you to worry about. Whipped cream from a can may contain other ingredients like sugar and corn syrup which can cause weight gain. Always check ingredient labels and make sure you know what you’re giving your cat.
Overall, you could do worse than whipped cream, but remember that your cat may be lactose intolerant, and too much dairy can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Can cats eat caramel?
Typically, caramel is made from sugar, salt, cream, butter, and water. Aside from the water, none of those ingredients are very good for cats.
The sugar and dairy will at worst cause your cat some digestive issues, but overall aren’t toxic or harmful in small doses. If your cat has an occasional lick of caramel, it’ll likely be ok. But too much or too often, and Fluffy’s likely to pick up significant weight.
Remember, cats are much smaller than humans, so even a small amount of sugar will contribute way more calories than a cat can burn, no matter how enthusiastic the zoomies. So any product that features sugar as an ingredient is likely going to impact your cat’s energy balance — syrup, jelly, pudding, custard, you name it.
In a nutshell
It’s normal to want to share your treats with your pets, but it’s important to remember that while you feel that your pets are your children, they aren’t human. They have much simpler dietary needs.
When it comes to feeding your cat, it’s always best to stick to how they would eat in the wild. Mostly meat, with occasional carbohydrates.
If you really must share your treats with your cat, it’s vital to always check ingredient labels. Anything with caffeine, xylitol, grapes, and raisins, or alcohol should absolutely never be given to cats and must be stored safely somewhere that your cats can’t access. Sugar and dairy are probably fine in very small, very controlled doses.
Cats don’t get bored eating the same things every day as we do. Cats don’t need a variety of flavor profiles or something sweet after dinner. Not only can they simply not taste sweets, but their metabolisms are not designed for the high calories of sugary treats.
The average cat weighs around 10 pounds and only requires roughly 200 calories per day. Now, consider that a teaspoon of peanut butter contains around 31 calories, and a teaspoon of vanilla ice cream contains on average 12 calories.
It should be obvious how quickly sugary, human food can oversupply your cat’s energy needs without actually providing any of the important nutrients that your cat needs. An oversupply of energy results in weight gain and the various health concerns that come with that. Indoor cats are more at risk of gaining weight than their free-roaming friends, so bear that in mind as well.
If you want to treat your feline friend, there are loads of nutritious, calorie-controlled snacks specifically designed for cats that you can buy or even make yourself at home.