When the weather is cold and days are short but somehow still seem long and stressful, sometimes you just want to sit down to a nice, warm dinner of your favorite comfort food. If that food happens to be meatloaf, you might wonder if it’s okay to share some tasty morsels with your cat. Can cats eat meatloaf?
Generally, cats should not eat meatloaf because it usually contains some ingredients that are toxic for felines. In this article, we’ll look at why you should be careful about feeding your cat human foods as a general rule, as well as why meatloaf specifically should be avoided.
The Trouble With Meatloaf
Meatloaf is one of those foods that’s often made from old family recipes, with mysterious “secret ingredients” that distinguish them from basic versions. Generally, however, the staples of any meatloaf recipe are ground beef, egg, onion, milk, breadcrumbs, and various seasonings.
The primary ingredient that makes meatloaf unsafe for cats is the onion. Onions and garlic (which is also sometimes found in meatloaf) are both toxic to cats. These vegetables contain several natural substances that destroy the cat’s red blood cells and can lead to anemia.
Cats can be impacted by eating as little as 0.2 ounces of onion per 2 pounds of body weight, either all in one sitting or over several days. The early signs of onion poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite, followed by more serious symptoms like pale gums, weakness, and trouble breathing.
While onions are the primary troublemakers in meatloaf, many cats also get digestive upset from dairy products like milk. Some other common ingredients in meatloaf, like ketchup and mustard, could also upset your cat’s stomach.
Cats And People Food: Moderation Is Key
While meatloaf itself might not be a good idea to feed to your cat, some of the ingredients are safe to feed in moderation. Cooked ground beef and egg, for instance, are examples of human food that can double as kitty treats. Even non-toxic people’s food, however, should be served with caution to cats.
Many human foods are higher in fat than a cat’s normal diet. Eating too much fatty food can lead to health problems in your cat, particularly a dangerous and painful condition called pancreatitis.
Additionally, many pet cats, especially those who live exclusively indoors, can have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. It can be very easy to accidentally overfeed your cat between their normal food, cat treats, and people food treats. Obesity can cause similar health concerns in cats as it does in people, including increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
Treats, whether they be people’s food or commercial kitty treats, should be offered in moderation only. Keep treats to only about 10%-15% of your cat’s daily calorie intake. What should the rest of your cat’s diet look like? We’ll get into that next.
Feeding Your Cat: The Basics
Every cat is an individual and that applies to their nutritional needs as well. Your veterinarian can help you tailor diet recommendations and calorie estimates for your cat. Veterinary collaboration is especially key if your cat has any health concerns that require a special diet.
For healthy cats, there are some general guidelines you can follow when choosing the right food. Cats are obligate carnivores who must get all their nutrition from animal sources. A properly balanced cat diet should be high in protein and low in carbohydrates, with a moderate amount of fat.
Commercially prepared cat food, either dry or canned, is the safest and simplest diet to offer your cat. All commercial cat food must meet the same basic minimum nutrition standards, allowing you the peace of mind of knowing your cat’s diet is balanced.
Some owners feel that homemade food is a better option for their cats than a store-bought diet. While home-cooked food can indeed be a healthy diet and is sometimes the only option for cats with severe food allergies, making sure the diet is properly balanced can be tricky. Your veterinarian can assist you with this or they may refer you to a veterinary nutritionist.
Cats are notoriously picky eaters and it can be tempting to just feed them plain tuna or chicken or whatever food they most enjoy. If the cat’s diet is lacking certain nutrients, such as the amino acid taurine, they may develop serious health problems. In addition, avoid feeding your cat raw meat, eggs, or fish, which may contain dangerous bacteria that could sicken both your cat and you.
If you’re concerned that your cat is eating too much or too little, or if you have any other medical concerns, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian.
Meatloaf is a cheap and easy dinner choice, but not one you should share with your feline family member. Onion, a staple of most meatloaf recipes, is toxic and potentially life-threatening to your cat if ingested. If you really want your cat to partake in your comfort food, set aside a little lean ground beef, cook it without onions or seasoning and offer it to your kitty as a treat. Just remember that your cat should get most of their calories from a properly balanced, cat-specific diet and keep the people’s food treats to a minimum.
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