Feline Friday: 10 People Foods for Cats

My cat Seren(dipity) never met a meal she didn’t like—including my own. Once she even decided to taste the hot mustard dip from my plate. Have you ever seen a cat LEVITATE?! Kitty foaming at the mouth is no laughing matter <snort> except the little squirt came back for seconds!

We love to indulge our kitties but people food can carry risks. Fortunately our cats appear less likely than dogs to taste-test toxic treats like chocolate, macadamia nuts, avocados, or raisons/grapes. Artificial sweeteners keep owners lean but any goodies sweetened with Xylitol could cause kitty liver failure. Thank goodness cats don’t easily detect or care about sweet flavors.

Seren manages to keep her svelt 6-pound figure even when the aroma of baking and roasting turns her purrs to begging. Responsible pet parents can offer healthy choices from the table. In fact, many holistic veterinarians recommend these foods as a natural way to treat your feline friend.

Treats typically shouldn’t make up more than about 10 percent of the pet’s total diet. So if you plan to offer table food, reduce the cat’s regular ration. Tiny amounts offered very gradually work best to avoid upset tummies.

  1. Lean Meats. Lean chicken is a feline favorite. A hunk of firm beef means your cat must chew rather than gulp, which can scrub teeth for dental health. Turkey contains tryptophan, a natural sleep aid that works to calm excited pets during holiday visits.
  2. Fish. Many cats adore fish. Salmon, shrimp and oysters may be a holiday favorite for both humans and pets. Be careful of tuna (offer only the water-packed variety) because the strong flavor can almost be addictive.
  3. Organ meats. Don’t toss out the giblets when you roast your holiday bird. Heart, liver and gizzards are power-packed with vitamins and minerals that cats relish.
  4. Green garnish. Cats are carnivores but often enjoy grazing on such things as fresh wheat grass and catnip. A few enjoy green beans—but hold the too-rich mushroom sauce. Serving olives? Your cat may not eat them, but many felines react to olives like catnip. Offer some parsley for greens munching felines—it will also freshen kitty breath.
  5. Stew. Leftover turkey soup cooked with spinach, green beans, mushrooms and slivers of beets (for liver health) makes a great treat and top dressing for regular food. A bit of garlic for flavor is fine, too, as it contains vitamin B—just don’t overdo as too much of onion or garlic can cause anemia.
  6. Sweet potatoes. High fiber sweet potato soothes upset tummies, and can be a tasty treat for cats. Cats don’t have much of a sweet tooth, though, so hold the sugary marshmallow—that’s not healthy for them.
  7. Canned pumpkin. Cats seem to love pumpkin. The high fiber also works as a great natural remedy for hairballs, diarrhea or constipation. Use the canned (plain nonflavored) version, divide servings into ice cube trays and freeze—and thaw only the amount needed.
  8. Yogurt. You’d think milk would be on the treat list, but many cats develop diarrhea from more than a tiny taste. A better milk-based treat is plain unflavored yogurt. Yogurt also helps maintain the beneficial bacteria in the stomach that keeps digestion healthy.
  9. Fruit. Not all cats like fruit but those that do can benefit from the vitamins. Kitties often enjoy cantaloupe and strawberries or bananas. Most cats HATE the smell of citrus and you’ll risk hissing the cat off by offering such things.
  10. Ginger. Ginger is a natural remedy that counters nausea, in case Kitty has car sick problems from the trip to Grandma’s house. But most cats won’t be interested in gingerbread or ginger cookies. Try offering a tiny taste of no-sugar whipped cream mixed with ginger as a special treat that soothes the tummy troubles.

Every cat has different tastes—and nutritional needs. Be sure to ask your veterinarian before “treating” your fur-kids. Remember you wouldn’t allow your human kid to munch exclusively on rich desserts or gravy, so balance your table-love with healthy moderation.

What table foods do your cats love? Do they counter-surf and serve themselves from the human smorgasbord? How do you foil the refrigerator raiders? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!


Feline Friday: 10 People Foods for Cats — 41 Comments

  1. We have the most stand-offish cat in the universe. She eats her food, then leaves. I’ve never even given her kitty treats because she’s hardly ever around. Us, that is. She sleeps on my son’s bed all the time, but isn’t interested in hanging out with the family. Maybe if I try some of these treats, she’ll like me more. I never knew parsley would be good for her. Now I’m intrigued!

    Thanks for the great list, Amy. I’ll let you know if it works on Frostbite’s loving capacity.

    • Hey Tameri, some cats “seem” to be stand-offish. But they give us love and attention in their own ways. For instance, Frostbite might sit and gaze at you from across the room, or sit with her back to you (a BIGGIE, sign of trust). And yep, some cats change their whole c’attitude for the right treat. :)

      • Hmmm, this makes things much more interesting! Frostbite will often watch me from across the room ~ I always thought she was planning my demise. As for the sitting with her back to me, yep she does that often. Who knew she was really telling me she loved and trusted me? Thanks for the head’s up!

    • Hi Donna, Cats don’t have the same “sweet” taste receptors that people and dogs share, but they still seem to relish certain textures, scents and flavors. Let me know how it works out for your fur crew.

  2. My tabby Malcolm was mad for….wait for it….cantaloup! DIdn’t get much because it upset his tummy, but he would have been a serious melon ball if I’d let him. :-) Good post, Amy.

    • There have been a lot of cantaloupe recalls lately for salmonella so the tummy upset might perhaps have been that? I recommend the FDA.gov web site for recalls as they are constant.

      • Possibly, but Malcolm went to the Bridge 20 years ago. Cantaloupe is always a potential source of salmonella.

        • Yikes Brenda, didn’t know about the recalls. We have lots of the melons over the summer, that’s good to know. *making note to self to check*

    • *s* Pat, it makes me wonder who was the first person who offered such things to the cat–maybe as a joke–and then had Kitty-kins turn into a sweet potato bandit!

  3. This is a great list, Amy! Having been a dog owner all my life and knowing that it’s an easy way to put too much weight on a dog by feeding them table scraps, I figured the same was true for cats, only more so. But I’m happy to know there are healthy foods they can eat. I do give Rocky a little tuna when I’m making tuna salad, or a tiny piece of cheese when I’m using it in a sandwich.He also loves whipped cream and butter (he likes to clean the butter wrapper). When i was a junk food eater years ago, he would beg for a cheddar potato chip. I would give him a tiny piece and he gobbled it up but never wanted a second helping.
    He’s a large cat (15 lbs since he was a year old), tall, long and solid, but recently he’s put on 2 lbs so I’ll be measuring out his food and curtailing even rare treats, as well as trying to get him to run more. He is slightly more active with the kitten, now. :)

    • Kittens are a great weight-slimming device for older cats, LOL! And yes, cats can put on the pudge, too. Just drinking the milk from the bottom of the cereal bowl each morning can add up in a year to a pound or more, and on a 12 pound cat that’s like you or me gaining 15 pounds! Measuring out food is a good thing. Helps us keep track not only of what kitty is eating–but when he doesn’t eat.

  4. My cat Molly will eat just about anything on that list, except fish. She does not like fish at all. She loves peas but isn’t too big on fruit. However, just try to eat a yogurt cup! You literally have to eat it standing up in the kitchen, unless you want Molly’s nose in it! I usually leave a little bit for her to lick of the spoon. She will beg for food at the table just like a dog, but she is a Maine Coon, and they’re supposedly the most dog-like cat breed!

    • Peas?! Really…now that’s fun, and peas make great cat toys to roll around, too. At my house the dog and cat argue over who gets the last of the yogurt, LOL!

  5. Anubis gets chicken as part of his daily meals now. Simba… well, we wish she’d eat some of it, but she snubs chicken. Still trying to find something full of healthy fats and nutrients for her.

    • Have you tried a/d (from the vet) for Simba? It’s pudding consistency and very calorie dense. Even meat baby food (as long as there’s no onion!) appeals to some cats.

      • Don’t think I’ve heard of that before… haven’t done any of the prescription diet stuff for her yet. What I REALLY want her to get is the gelatin from the bones, though. Wondering if I could sneak some into her tuna juice… LOL

  6. My cat absolutely looovvves mayonnaise. Best of all, ever since we’ve learned this we’ve not had hairball-spit-up to clean up.


    • Joanie, that’s BRILLIANT! High fat with egg protein, hmnnn. Karyl, might try offering mayo to Simba. Or smearing it on the chicken, LOL!

  7. Samantha will pull the olives out of my mouth if I’m not fast enough. LOL Okay..maybe an exaggeration, but she had no qualms about reaching up and snatching a black olive from a piece of pizza I was trying to eat and then she went absolutely crazy for more. Who knew? I don’t eat a lot of pizza anymore but when I do, I always order black olives on it for her.

    She also loves tuna (and I only buy the water-packed kind so it’s not an issue). She has great shiny fur to start with, but it’s even shinier and healthier after eating some tuna. Even a little has this effect. Chicken is also a favorite of hers.

    I’m definitely going to try the mayo Joanie recommended. I hate hair balls. Yuck!

  8. We may have the only cat on the planet that doesn’t want chicken, turkey, etc. If food doesn’t come in the form of professional cat food he suspects one is not treating him right. He developed an interest in sardines too late — he is on a special diet to assure he doesn’t get any more stones.

    Interesting about pumpkin as a hairball remedy. Oscar does not like his hairball remedy but knows when he needs it and generally loafs in the kitchen and grumbles until I am reminded he needs hairball medicine.

    • Brenda, cats get used to one thing and become sticklers for the tried-and-true. Stones can be a big problem with certain diets. Depends on the composition of the stone what type of diet to give so I’m glad you’re on top of that. Interesting that Oscar signals when he needs help. *s*

    • Hey Kimberly, isn’t it fun how very different our pets’ tastes can be? Even when they live together. Seren-kitty demands a taste/sniff of anything the dog wants, even though she won’t eat it, as if to confirm that dogs have really weird ideas, LOL!

  9. Pingback: Sunday Mash Up: 08/12-18/2012 | Rhonda Hopkins

  10. Hey Amy…Very interesting range of treats :-). I have never owned a cat with adventurous taste buds. Our Persian Lewi will only very occasionally indulge in a sliver of turkey or chicken or fish. I tried to change his diet over to a raw meat diet and miserably failed.
    I can’t believe there are cats out there that will go for fruits like strawberry :-). You learn new things every day.

    • Hiya Dr Rayya–Seren was VERY interested in the strawberries. But she just licked off the juice, made a face, and moved on. :) Now melon is another thing, that she does munch.

  11. My latest rescue kitten (at 8 weeks, now 1 yr) loves dog food. she was raised in a house full of dogs and jumps on the counter when their food is being prepared and will eat it if i don’t move it. she also comes for doggy treats when i get them out. all the dogs are lined up for a treat and the little cat at the end, really funny.

    • LOL! Growing up with dogs may indeed prompt a kitten to “copy-cat” some of the canine behavior. Tasting dog food or treats probably won’t hurt the cat–BUT just a caution. Cats require taurine to be in sufficient amounts in their diet to keep eyes/heart healthy and dog food won’t have enough taurine for this.