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10 People Foods for Cats

by | Nov 24, 2021 | Cat Behavior & Care | 9 comments

I’ve written about safe people food for dogs, but it’s important to address the cats’ needs, too. We want to spoil our cats, but don’t want to cause harm. At our house, if Bravo-Dawg gets something yummy from the table, then Karma-Kat thinks he should, too.

For those who prefer audio/video, I’ve even posted this on my YouTube channel (you have subscribed, right?). So here’s the quick takeaway:

Of course, what’s safe for dogs may not be good for cats–and vice versa. How do you know what’s safe and what’s not? Learn about these 10 people foods for cats.
people food for cats

Healthy People Food For Cats

My Seren-Kitty never met a meal she didn’t like—including my own. Once she even tasted 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!

In her last year, I created a monster because at age 21, I figured Seren should get to eat ANYTHING she wanted. And then Karma-Kat thought HE should do the same. Yikes! (BAD Amy…)

The first week we had Karma, he conducted a snatch-and-grab, swiped a kabob from my husband’s plate, and took off with it. (10-second rule…hubby chased him down and “rescued” the kabob.) These days, Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup still get the occasional healthy treat from the table.

The key, of course, is the word “healthy.”

people food and cats

People Food Dangers

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 raisins/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. Instead, their kitty taste buds are attuned to “meaty” flavors. Makes sense, knowing they’re carnivores. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to nosh non-meat treats.

Sphinx cat eating chickenSeren kept her svelte 6-pound figure even when the aroma of baking and roasting turned her purrs to begging. Karma-Kat puts on table muscle, though, and his pudgy physic requires monitoring. 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.

Cat licked over the fish. In the kitchen.

Healthy People Food For Cats

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. Here’s my go-to list of people foods for cats.

  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. Seren never liked shrimp–that’s more for me! But both Karma can’t get enough fish, especially salmon. 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 wheatgrass 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. Seren loves wheatgrass.
  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 it as too much onion or garlic can cause anemia. At our house, we eat a lot of stew-type dishes as a side to Iranian rice, and all the fur-kids love a spoonful of the broth.
  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 keep digestion healthy. Karma ADORES plain yogurt. Whisker-licking good!
  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 time I fix whipped cream, Karma and Shadow-Pup line up to lick any errant splatters.

Every cat has different tastes—and nutritional needs. Be sure to ask your veterinarian before “treating” your fur-kids. Some cats doing extraordinarily well with home-prepared foods or even “raw” rations, but any change requires knowledge and a slow transition. Remember, you wouldn’t allow your human kid to munch only 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!

If you have questions about grain free cat foods, check out this updated post.

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9 Comments

  1. Cathy Keisha

    The only human food I’ll eat is chicken. I LOVE Chinese food but TW says it has too much onion so she won’t give it to me. Rarely, I’ll get a small piece of chicken after she rubs the sauce off.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Chicken is one of Karma’s favs.

      Reply
  2. leigh arrathoon

    Garlic is very dangerous. I had a kitten who had eaten just bits of garlic in the breeder’s kitchen. He developed Heinz Bodies, which we did get rid of with Sam-E, but he was very sick. I don’t think cats should ever have garlic, onion, tomatoes (even though some pet food manufacturers put it in cat food), tuna of any kind, salmon of most kinds – certainly not human salmon and tuna. I had a cat get cancer because I was always feeding him tuna and salmon.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      So sorry about your kitten and the Heinz Bodies, that is a risk not only for cats but also dogs. Haven’t a clue why tomatoes would be a problem, though. Could you explain? Also what is the correlation between tuna and salmon and feline cancer?

      Reply
  3. Karyl

    Anubis doesn’t eat as much people food now that we make his meals (he is doing MUCH better since I started doing everything home-cooked, by the way), but he used to go for plain pancakes (we’d tear him off a piece). And he used to steal french fries. Only the ones from Wendy’s before they changed to the better-for-you ones with sea salt and no trans fats (he snubs the new ones even though we’re rather fond of them). Now he gets chicken and egg yolks (two of his previous favorite table foods) daily as part of his meals, but still will beg for the occasional bit of fried egg, and he LOVES zucchini for some reason. We do frequently still offer him things from the plate (provided they are safe – so nothing with spices or too much salt) but he knows he isn’t allowed to eat from the plate (doesn’t stop him if you leave a plate with hamburger on it within reach – turned around and caught him paws up and chowing down once, then when he saw me he tried to scarf as much as possible before running like hell). Usually he doesn’t eat much of the extra stuff we offer him now, I guess he likes his meals well enough. But he still begs for everything on principle. And he still LOVES cake donuts. Cake in general, really. Even so far as trying to get into the cake box himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ6l5OMwGH8

    And he ADORES salmon skins, especially if we’ve done it up on the smoker (we checked, the alder wood we use to smoke is supposed to be cat-safe). He doesn’t care much for tuna lately, but he sort of goes in cycles with things like that. I also occasionally buy him gizzards that I chop up really tiny and pan-fry.

    Of course, I’m told anything that drops on the floor gets eaten by SimbaToo, including carrots, raspberries, and the bits of bark that fell off the Christmas tree (I wish I were kidding). Which naturally caused my mother to panic one day when she dropped her pill bottle and had to rush to pick them up before kitty could get to them. On the upside it ought to make giving her medicine a lot easier if we ever need to… just drop the pill and pretend you did it by accident. *shakes head* And unlike Anubis, she doesn’t have the impulse control to fully avoid temptations on the counter, even though she’s not allowed on it at all.

    I always thought cats weren’t supposed to have ANY garlic. Any idea what the threshold is for too much? Will also have to keep the beets in mind… wonder if he’d eat those? Also didn’t realize ginger was safe. Good to know because he does sometimes have tummy issues.

    Right now we have Anubis on a diet of chicken leg quarters roasted with the bone in and then peeled off the bone and chopped. He gets the skin, any feathers that are left stuck there (which happens every now and then), and any organ meat stuck up along the spine portion that gets cut into the mix. We pour back in any of the liquid that has cooked out into the bottom of the roaster, so he gets that too. That all gets blended with powdered eggshells that I prepare myself, as a calcium supplement (added that in after reading on raw diet advice pages that cats with high kidney values will benefit from balancing the phosphates from the meat with a sufficient amount of calcium, and that this combined with a more digestible protein instead of the plant proteins often used as fillers in commercial food is an alternative kidney health solution for cats who don’t do well on reduces protein diets – which our kitty does not, he loses too much weight). He also gets an egg yolk daily (he won’t eat the whites, and the yolk is the part with the remaining nutrients he needs anyway). This seems to have boosted his health a LOT and he’s doing so much better now since we made that switch, so that and the medications seem to be the right combination for his health issues. We make about a week’s worth at a time and keep it in the fridge, that seems to work out well. And he gets to eat as much as he wants, when he wants. We’re working on figuring out a chiller system for his chicken bowl so we don’t have to worry about it going bad from sitting out too long, since some days he prefers to pick at it all day instead of having regular meals, but he has a thing about not wanting to eat if his bowl isn’t filled high enough. We’ve also noticed he isn’t as interested in the carb-heavy treats (such as the pancakes) anymore. Probably since he’s now metabolizing protein and fat instead of the carbs that would have been in his kibble and such before. Figures, we did it because the only foods he would eat anymore were the “junk” foods that kept getting recalled, or his kibble that was starting to make him constipated, and he’s doing better now than he was when we were trying to use a good canned food. He doesn’t get any raw only because he’s this old and has never had raw meat, so we don’t trust that his tummy could take it being introduced at this age.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      That’s great that you’ve found some good options! I have a food bowl that has an inside “freeze-able” section that keeps water cool for the pets. That might work for keeping the food longer, too–some cats don’t like cold food, though. There are also timed feeders for pets that have cold packs for keeping it fresh. I know PetMate makes one.

      As for the garlic, when I wrote the book Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats, the holistic vets said to be very careful with cats. But for specific things, like helping to stimulate appetite, the veterinarians said no more than 1/8th teaspoon a day for up to 2 weeks at a time. That’d be mixed into something else, like in a broth for instance. I’d check with the vet first, always.

      Reply
      • Karyl

        Yeah we were talking about rigging up something with ice packs. And he’ll eat the chicken right out of the fridge so presumably he’s okay with it cold (though we always give him some when it’s freshly made – by hand because apparently fresh chicken is meant to be fed to him in proper royal fashion). Timed feeder may not work because we found out when we tried to give him timed meals he started losing weight again. It seems to be a very delicate balance.

        Will definitely file away the extra info on the garlic. Didn’t realize it was an appetite stimulant, so that’s good to know.

        Reply
  4. Ruth Cox

    What a thorough list of people foods for cats, perhaps dogs too, and the reasons why each food is good for them. I must add that I learned a lot from your reader comments too!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      I always learn from the comments. The blog followers are smart!

      Reply

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