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Can Cats Eat Gum? 3 Vet-Approved Health Risks

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Can Cats Eat gum

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

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

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When we were young, we were always scared witless by the perceived dangers of swallowing gum. Our older cousins told us it would stay in our stomach for 80 years, or we would begin farting out gum bubbles! But in reality, ingesting gum doesn’t do much to harm us. Still, many gums on the market can potentially be toxic to cats due to the added sweetener xylitol, although the true extent of effects of xylitol in cats are poorly understood. Cats should not eat gum either way due to the choking hazard it poses for them.

While Xylitol is proven to be toxic to the point of fatality to dogs, the effects on cats seem less severe according to the ASPCA, however, and still with many reputable sources citing totally different responses! We’ve explored the ins and outs of potential harm from your cat eating gum so you can be best informed about potential risks around your household.

The 3 Risks of Gum for Cats

1. Xylitol

a bowl of Xylitol with branch of leaves on wooden surface
Image Credit: morisfoto, Shutterstock

A key ingredient for many gums on the market today is a sweetener named xylitol. Technically a sugar alcohol, it’s naturally derived from plants. For humans, it’s supposed to be a healthier alternative to sugar as it contains fewer calories, doesn’t contribute to cavities, and does not interfere with blood sugar levels. For those reasons, it’s prevalent in many of the popular sugar-free gums you can buy from the store.

Cats are not very well-known to eat many random things in the household (not like the usual family labrador!), so there are not many cases of gum-eating cats to draw conclusions from. It is well known that xylitol is toxic to dogs, leading to signs of low blood sugar and liver damage, but it seems like the same effects are not seen in most cats. 

The ASPCA and other veterinary poisons services do not consider xylitol as toxic to cats as it is to dogs, but it is still a compound cats should steer clear from. A study that has been conducted on a small number of cats suggests that the effect of xylitol may not be a concern in this species, and they do not seem to develop the same signs as dogs, but the sample size is too small to draw any certain conclusions. Xylitol is not a safe ingredient for cats, as currently, there isn’t enough reliable scientific evidence to explain the difference in toxic effects between dogs and cats and its effect on felines.

The toxicity in dogs causes a spike of insulin and a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels, also called hypoglycemia, and in some cases even leads to liver failure. The toxicity levels of many gums are incredibly dangerous and often fatal to dogs and is one of the reasons why most veterinary professionals exercise the same caution with our cats, due to lack of scientific evidence.

Xylitol can be named under alternative names on the ingredients list of products, including:

  • Birch Sugar
  • E967
  • Xilitol
  • Xylit
  • Xlite

Xylitol can also be found in many other items around your home, so always check the ingredients of things you bring into the home when you have pets.

Products that may contain Xylitol

2. Choking

Have you ever been chewing a piece of gum and accidentally almost inhaled it to the point it gets caught in the back of your throat? Pretty visceral rhetorical question I know, but if you have, you will know that even the smallest item like a piece of gum can cause a serious case of choking.

Now imagine that same small piece of gum but in the mouth of your wee furry friend! They’re a lot smaller than you are, and the risk of the soft, sticky piece of gum getting stuck anywhere in their mouth or at the back of their throat, obstructing the airway and leading to choking, can be a lot higher for them. If you cat is experiencing any signs of choking, which may exhibit as pawing at their mouth, gaging, retching, coughing, drooling, heaving, staggering, collapsing, and having blue gum color, you need to get them to a vet immediately or try removing the cause from the back of their mouth. This may be very difficult and even dangerous in a cat that is choking and panicking at the same time, and you may get bitten badly. You can attempt the Heimlich maneuver, as in these situations, time is of essence. 

The pieces of sticky gum can get stuck on your cat’s paws and fur, and you can try to safely and gently remove this yourself, or take your cat to the vet for them to do it.

3. Gastrointestinal Upset

Another risk is that gum is simply not made to be digested. Its chemical makeup can’t be broken down by humans, and especially not cats. In the best-case scenario, ingested gum will simply pass through and be pooped out whole. But gum also has the risk of causing a stomach upset, or rarely, a blockage in the digestive system in case a large amount was eaten, especially in small cats and kittens. This won’t allow anything to pass by it and causes the impaction of ingested foods in front of the blockage

Some of the signs your cat may exhibit are drooling, vomiting, reduced appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or straining to pass feces; however, a blockage from eating chewing gums is rarely seen and would require a significant amount to be eaten.

Sick cat
Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock

What Should I Do If My Cat Eats Gum?

If you suspect your cat has eaten some gum, give your vet a call. They will advise you on the best course of action, depending on the type and amount of the gum, the size of your cat, and the signs they may be exhibiting. It may be just a question of monitoring, while some cats need to be checked out.

In addition, immediate support can be provided from the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. (888-426-4435)

It can be frightening to see our pets eating something they shouldn’t, as regular cat owners knowing the full extent of risks is unlikely so getting professional help is absolutely vital. A veterinarian will be able to treat and monitor your cat, if that is what they require. A proactive approach is better and safer than waiting to see how it goes.

Now that you know what you can safely feed your cat, it’s just as important to find a bowl that supports their health and well-being. With whisker-friendly bowls and a wide tray to catch any spills, our Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is our favorite option.

hungry white cat hepper nom nom bowl licking lip

Final Thoughts

Gum may not be directly toxic to cats, but it isn’t safe for them to accidentally ingest either. Especially if it contains xylitol. Furthermore, there are risks associated with the gum in your cat’s mouth, back of their throat and in their gastrointestinal tract that extends beyond the gum’s ingredient list.

Little is known about the potential effects of gum on cats because, fortunately, cats are not all that fussed about eating gum. It’s not very common for them to eat something so strange such as a minty stick of gum, as they lack sweet taste receptors, but it’s still best to keep it away from somewhere they may get a hold of it.

Featured Image Credit: Marvin Meyer, Unsplash

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