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Can Cats Eat Burgers? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Lorre Luther

By Lorre Luther

Plain beef burger on wooden table

Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats often go crazy for human food, particularly French fries and hamburgers, so it’s perfectly logical to wonder if it’s okay to give your feline companion a bite or two of your burger. Cats are carnivores, so they eat primarily meat, including beef, so there’s nothing in regular plain, unseasoned hamburgers that should prove problematic for most healthy adult cats.

However, not all hamburgers are safe for cats to consume; some are mixed with onions and garlic, which are toxic to cats. Ultimately, the determination of whether a particular hamburger is okay for your pet to enjoy needs to be made on a burger-by-burger basis. A plain, cooked hamburger, while safe, should only be served as an occasional treat.

Why Do Cats Need to Limit Human Food Intake?

Giving human food to cats is not the best idea for two reasons. It often leads to weight gain, and it can be hard to tell whether or not a specific dish has something in it that could make cats sick. Sticking with cat food eliminates the problem altogether!

Weight Gain

Cats that regularly eat commercial pet food that carries an American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement of nutritional adequacy are generally getting the right mix of calories and nutrients. Human food and treats add calories to feline diets, but only provide some of the nutrients cats require, so they’re not really complete nutritional sources.

People and cats have pretty different nutritional needs; cats are carnivores, and people are omnivores, so foods meant for humans will contain a different balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins to what a cat requires. Additionally, we humans often eat foods that aren’t exactly good for us, and that is not a habit we should be sharing with our pets.

Human dishes are also often loaded with fat and calories, and cats that indulge too often can easily become obese. Risks of developing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are higher for overweight pets.

Cat Weighing Scale
Image Credit: Zhuravleb Andrey, Shutterstock

Problematic Ingredients

It’s not always obvious whether or not a burger has things like garlic and onions mixed in unless you’re the one doing the cooking. Some recipes call for mixing fresh onions and garlic directly into ground beef, but there are also seasoning mixes with onion and garlic powder, which are more dangerous in smaller amounts than the fresh variety. While onions and garlic are toxic to cats, garlic generally has more potential to cause harm than onions.

How Can I Tell if a Particular Hamburger Is Safe for My Cat to Eat?

Evaluating every ingredient that’s in a hamburger is the only way to determine if something is safe for cats. Plain beef is usually fine for cats to consume, but it’s healthier to serve lean beef than meat loaded with fat. It is common for burgers to contain flour or cornmeal, and although these ingredients are not harmful for cats, they add unnecessary carbohydrates to your cat’s diet.

Turkey Burgers

Turkey burgers are leaner than their beef counterparts, making them healthy options for people and reasonably good feline treats, as long as we’re talking a small bite from an unseasoned patty.

Open Double Burger with Turkey Meat, Lettuce and Tomatoes on Wooden Surface
Image Credit: Alp Aksoy, Shutterstock

Chicken Burgers

Chicken burgers have fewer calories than beef burgers, and are still full of healthy, low-fat protein. The same rules apply to enjoying bites of chicken burgers as to beef and turkey options. A nibble or two is fine as an occasional treat, as long as the meat isn’t seasoned.

Veggie Burgers

Veggie burgers are tasty, meat-free products made from soy or black beans. Whether or not a particular veggie burger is okay for cats to eat depends entirely on what it’s made from. Cats can safely eat many types of beans, provided they’re cooked and don’t have added seasonings. Soy isn’t toxic to cats, but it’s not really good for them either.

Commercial and homemade veggie burgers sometimes include ingredients such as onion powder, so make sure to examine the ingredient list before allowing your cat to have a bite of your veggie burger. Most cats probably won’t want to eat veggie burgers, and high-protein cat treats made with turkey or chicken are healthier snacks.

FAQ

Can Cats Eat Hamburger Buns?

Plain bread is okay for cats to eat every once in a while. A piece of a hamburger bun that isn’t topped with dried onions or seasoning isn’t toxic, but it doesn’t contain any nutrients cats need.

Can Cats Eat Cheese?

It depends! Many cats are lactose intolerant, and they can become sick after consuming dairy products. However, other cats can eat yogurt and drink milk without adverse reactions. Many hard cheeses have relatively low lactose levels, and most cats can enjoy a few bites of cheese occasionally, but we shouldn’t make a habit of it.

cheese on cutting board
Image Credit: Sunny Forest, Shutterstock

Can Cats Eat Toppings Like Lettuce and Tomato?

Cats can eat several types of plain, unseasoned vegetables, including lettuce. Broccoli and green beans are also okay. Ripe tomatoes are fine, but cats should avoid the plant’s stems, seeds, and leaves. Tomatoes are also high in acid, which can be difficult on sensitive feline tummies. Of course, if there’s a choice between the burger pattie or the salad, we know what your cat is going to go for!

Conclusion

Most healthy adult cats can safely enjoy a bite or two of a plain hamburger, provided there are no onions or garlic in sight. Keep in mind that some hamburger seasoning mixes and recipes call for onion and garlic powder, which can be toxic to cats.

To keep your cat from becoming overweight, restrict the treats you give them to around 10% of what they eat, and provide exercise and play sessions every day to ensure they burn off excess calories.


Featured Image Credit: Elena D, Shutterstock

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