Sharing Thanksgiving Dinner with your Cat

What can your cat safely eat from your table?

The next two months of the year are filled with holidays, celebrations, and good food! Since many people consider their cats to be family, it’s only natural to include them in your holiday traditions.

Thanksgiving is month, the BIG meal of the year, and we’d like our cats to have a taste of the feast, too. But what is safe for your fluffy feline to eat from your dinner table? And what foods are an absolute no-no?

Let’s dissect the typical American Thanksgiving dinner items and figure out what foods are safe to share with your cats:

  • Turkey: It’s ok to share your thanksgiving turkey (or chicken, or ham, or whatever meat protein you are serving) with your cats. Make sure you give them meat only; no bones, fat, or skin. Cooked turkey or chicken bones are a choking hazard for cats since they splinter easily. You can give your cat a taste of turkey, without gravy or seasoning.
  • Mashed/Creamed Potatoes: Plain cooked potatoes are fine for your cat to eat. The problem comes when offering potatoes that are already mashed with milk, butter, cheese, onions, etc. Cats don’t have the lactase enzyme needed to digest dairy made from cow’s milk, and onions are toxic to both cats and dogs. While boiling your potatoes, save a few pieces before you mash the rest. Smash them with a fork (no additives) and serve them to your cat once cooled without added seasoning.
  • Stuffing or Dressing: Since stuffing/dressing is made with seasonings and usually includes onions, nix the dressing for your cat. It bears repeating, onions are toxic for cats (and dogs), and the other spices (sage, thyme) could also lead to intestinal distress for your kitty.
  • Vegetables: While not all cats like vegetables, its ok to offer a small bit to your cat. They are a good source of vitamins, fiber, and water for your cat. Serve them to your cat pre-seasoned.
  • Yams or Sweet Potatoes: Just like with the mashed potatoes, the problem comes after we’ve added butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Save a few pieces for your cat, sans the seasonings, and your cat can indeed have a taste.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Since cranberry sauce it loaded with sugar, it is not ok for your cat to eat. Cranberry itself is good for maintaining urinary health, and there are a number of cat treats containing cranberry available that are safe and effective.
  • Rolls: A small amount of unbuttered roll is ok for your cat, provided this isn’t given regularly and the dough is yeast-free. 
  • Desserts: I know it may be tempting to offer your cat a bit of pumpkin pie. But with all the sugar and spices that are in our traditional holiday desserts, its best for your cat to pass on dessert. Since cats cannot taste sweet, your cat won’t really miss sampling Gramma’s secret pumpkin pie recipe. (All the more for you to eat!)
  • Whipped Cream: My cats know the moment the canister of whipped cream comes out of the refrigerator. A small dollop won’t hurt your cat, but keep in mind that cats are lactose intolerant. More than just a fingerful of cream may cause diarrhea and stomach discomfort for your cat.

As for what to foods to avoid sharing with your cat, there are quite a few that could prove toxic, so please avoid these items and any foods that contain them:

  • Chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast breads
  • Coconut
  • Nuts, especially Macadamia 
  • Xylitol 

If you follow these guidelines, you can share Thanksgiving dinner with your cat and be worry-free! Your cat will be happy to share dinner and a post-dinner snooze with you. As for that late-night turkey sandwich your sneak down to the kitchen for later, if you share some turkey with him, your cat won’t dare tell on you!

For information or help with your cat’s behavior, visit The Cat Behavior Alliance

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