Thanksgiving Dinner: The Cat-Friendly Options
Thanksgiving is an American holiday that centers around two things: expressing what you are thankful for, and eating a ton of yummy food. It’s arguably one of the best holidays on the whole calendar, especially for us foodies!
Thanksgiving is all about spending time with the loved ones in your life, and for many people, that includes their cats. Cat parents know that cats are considered an integral part of the family. So how can you celebrate Thanksgiving with your beloved furbaby? What foods and decorations are safe, and which should be avoided? Let’s take a look at everything cat-related during our turkey feasts.
We all are familiar with the quintessential Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, biscuits, pastries, green bean casserole, roasted veggies, cheese and crackers, corn, and pies of many flavors. It’s a holiday made for feasting and one of the few days out of the year when us humans can shamelessly be gluttons.
If your cats are anything like ours, it's nearly impossible to sit down for dinner without some curious paws hopping up on the table, licking the butter, or trying to paw at some chicken. Since cats are part of the family, why not share the love on Thanksgiving? So let's break down the family feast and see what's edible and what's on the no-no list for the kitties.
(Disclaimer: Even if some foods are cat-safe, we recommend limiting the amount of human food given to cats to ensure your cat receives their required nutrients.)
Turkey, Turkey Bones, and Gravy
As the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, turkey is the safest part of the feast to share with your cat. Cats are natural carnivores and most of their food is made up of different meats, some including turkey. Turkey-based gravy is also considered safe for cats to consume as well, as long as there is are no onions or garlic since those are extremely toxic to cats.
Turkey bones, however, should be avoided. These can be potentially dangerous for your cats to digest, many times causing bowel obstructions that could be life-threatening. The last thing you'd want to do is to try to get into an emergency vet hospital during a national holiday, especially once you're already in your food coma!
Ham, Chicken, or Roast Beef
Many people skip the turkey on Turkey Day and opt for an alternative meat. The most common alternates are ham, chicken, roast beef, or maybe even a nice smoked salmon.
Just because cats are carnivores doesn't mean they can eat any old ham hock. In fact, ham is not cat-safe due to its high fat and sodium content, which can result in an upset stomach for your cat as well as induce vomiting and diarrhea. A general rule of thumb for taking the carnivorous track is that any meat that you prepare for your kitty clowder should be free of seasonings and spices.
Chicken, similar to its feathered turkey counterparts, is considered safe for cats to eat. Roast beef is a much leaner meat, which is also considered cat-safe. Just be sure to do a proper inspection of the meat treats you may be doling out to ensure it's clear of sneaky spices like garlic powder, onion powder, excessive salt, and pepper.
Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing
On their own, potatoes are actually very safe for cats to eat. They can even be a good source of some vitamins and nutrients for animals. As long as you have not added any onions or garlic to your mashed potatoes, they are safe to give to your kitty in moderation. Most recipes call for butter and milk, which are technically considered safe, but are not great things to feed your cat in high quantities. Sweet potatoes and candied yams should be avoided due to their high sugar content.
Unfortunately, most stuffings are made with onions, scallions, and garlic, so this is one you should definitely avoid feeding to your cat. Unless you have made it at home and you're 100% certain that it does not have any FODMAP-like foods or ingredients, stuffing is one that should stay on your plate.
Green Beans, Cranberry Sauce, Dinner Rolls, and Other Sides
Some Americans will argue that the best part about Thanksgiving is all the fixings and sides, and these preparations are usually what sets one Thanksgiving dinner apart from another. The most common sides include delicious treats like cranberry sauce, corn, green beans, green bean casseroles, dinner rolls, and hors d’oeuvres like cheese and crackers.
Green beans are safe for cats to eat, but your kitties may not be very interested in them. Green bean casserole, on the other hand, usually calls for fried onions, which are very toxic for cats. Just make sure your green beans aren't doused in oil or seasonings in case kitty wants to have a nibble.
Cranberry sauce isn’t exactly toxic to cats, but it can be high in sugar which is not a good thing for them. Dinner rolls and biscuits are okay in moderation, but avoid them if they contain garlic or garlic/onion powder, which is actually more common than you may think in store-bought rolls. For corn, we all know that this is readily found in manufactured cat food as a filler and it definitely doesn't provide much nutritional value to kitties. If your cat is curious about the bright yellow kernels or the cob that can manage to roll around after a paw is taken to it, it definitely won't be the end of the world if they take a little bite.
This is the "no-go" section of the Thanksgiving table. While cats can't taste the same sweet sensation that we can, they might still be enticed by ice cream or other dairy-heavy, fatty treats such as a pound cake or buttery cookies. Most desserts should probably be avoided altogether since kitties have a tough time digesting excessive carbohydrates. While chocolate doesn't typically make a big debut during Thanksgiving, as most cat parents are already aware, this is the kitty danger zone.
Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which cannot be properly metabolized by cats. Ingesting chocolate can cause severe symptoms of poisoning which include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, panting, fever, muscle spasms, seizures, and in some cases, death. A good rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to kitties.
The good news is that there is one semi-sweet dessert that is safe to share with your cat: pumpkin! No, not pumpkin pie, just plain canned pumpkin. Pumpkin is actually added to a lot of cat foods for its nutritional benefits, so giving them a little spoonful straight out of the can is perfectly safe.
Play it Safe
When it comes to giving your cat any human food, the number one rule is to do so in extreme moderation. Most human food is highly processed and is high in fat, sodium, and sugar: none of which are beneficial to your tiny carnivore!
If you want to celebrate Turkey Day with your cat but don’t necessarily want to invite them to the dinner table, you can always get your cat some turkey-based cat food as a treat or even some wet food that contains extra gravy. And when the food coma rolls around, you'll both be ready to snuggle up and have a turkey-tastic tryptophan snooze.