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9 Foods Cats Should and Shouldn’t Eat on Thanksgiving

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

Beautiful striped cat is near the basket with ripe red apples and pumpkin in the autumn garden

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to review what common Thanksgiving foods cats can and can’t eat. In many cases, cats can share a bit of the feast with us. However, in other cases, foods can be toxic or just unhealthy for our cats. It is vital that you review what your cat can and cannot eat if you plan for them to join in the feast. It is important to remember that any change from their usual diet, however tempting, may cause an upset stomach, so keep this in mind before setting them a place at the dinner table!

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at some of the foods your cat can eat and some foods that they should completely avoid.

Thanksgiving Foods Your Cat Can Eat

There are many simple foods at Thanksgiving that your cat can eat. However, you should be cautious regarding seasonings, as some of them are toxic. Also keep in mind that any change of food from their normal can result in an upset stomach.

1. Turkey and Chicken

Image Credit: Andmonk, Shutterstock

Plain, cooked, boneless turkey and chicken are both pretty safe for cats. In fact, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need to eat meat to survive. They cannot synthesize all of their amino acids, which means that they must get these amino acids from meat.

However, you should be cautious regarding seasonings on these meats. While plain turkey and chicken are completely fine, there are some seasonings that are toxic to cats. For instance, garlic and onion are both toxic to cats, and foods seasoned with them should not be fed to your feline.

If you want your cat to join in the Thanksgiving feast, it is best to set some turkey aside if you plan on seasoning the main bird.

2. Apples

Image by: pasja1000, Pixabay

Apples are utilized in many different Thanksgiving desserts. While these desserts shouldn’t be given to your cat, plain apples can be. The sugar used in many of these desserts is simply too much for felines. Plus, many of these desserts include seasonings like cinnamon, which can be troublesome for some cats.

If you’re making a dessert containing apples, consider putting some apples aside for your feline. Avoid giving them the pips. Not all cats like apples, though. Cats are typically most driven by meat and some do not like fruits.

3. Broccoli

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Broccoli is a great option for cats, as it is healthy and full of antioxidants. If you leave your broccoli unseasoned, you can feed it to your cat. However, even salted broccoli shouldn’t be provided to your feline, as it can be unhealthy. A bit of sodium isn’t a problem for us. However, it can be a serious problem for our cats, as they are much smaller than us and more susceptible to salt toxicity.

4. Squash and Pumpkin

canned pumpkin on a green bowl
Image Credit: BW Folsom, Shutterstock

Both squash and pumpkin are great for cats. Pumpkin specifically is associated with improved digestive health in felines, so it is often added to cat food and even recommended by some vets in certain situations.

However, around thanksgiving, these ingredients are often used inside casseroles and desserts. These final products often contain ingredients that your cat cannot have. For instance, while cats can have pumpkins, they shouldn’t be given pumpkin pie.

If you purchase canned pumpkin, be sure that it is just pumpkin before you give it to your feline.

Thanksgiving Foods Your Cat Cannot Eat

While some foods are safe, others can be quite toxic to your cat. Here’s what you should avoid this holiday season.

1. Chocolate

Image Credit: Cokolatetnica, Pixabay

Most people know that chocolate is toxic to your cat. However, different types of chocolate are more toxic than others. Baker’s chocolate is particularly toxic and can kill cats in very little amounts. Therefore, if you’re using it in any baking this year, be sure to keep it well away from your cat.

You should always double-check any foods to ensure that they do not contain chocolate. You’d be surprised by the number of things that contain chocolate around Thanksgiving.

2. Coffee and Tea

cup of coffee on wooden table
Image Credit: VectorCreation, Shutterstock

Both coffee and tea contain caffeine. Caffeine is toxic to cats (and humans who eat too much of it). A little bit of caffeine isn’t a problem for most cats. However, lots of it can be an issue. It will cause your cat’s heart rate to rise too much, which can cause a host of other problems.

Therefore, we don’t recommend feeding your feline any food that contains caffeine. Even if tea or coffee is just an ingredient, it may be too much caffeine for your feline.

3. Cooked Bones

Chicken Bones
Image Credit: Achirathep, Pixabay

While some cats do like to chew on bones, you should not give them cooked bones. The cooking process causes bones to become brittle. Therefore, they splinter more easily and can get stuck in your cat’s throat. Shards can damage the intestine walls, which can be potentially deadly.

Therefore, we don’t recommend giving your feline any bones and especially those that have been cooked.

4. Grapes

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Grapes are very toxic to dogs and there are anecdotal reports they are poisonous to cats too. When consumed, they may cause digestive upset, vomiting, or even kidney failure. Raisins are also toxic and should not be fed to cats.

Anything with grapes or grape products in it should be avoided, as even a small amount can potentially cause severe illness.

5. Dairy

pouring milk in a glass
Image Credit: Petra, Pixabay

Cats start out able to digest lactose. However, after kittenhood, most cats lose their ability to digest lactose. Therefore, cats shouldn’t be given dairy at all, as they are usually lactose-intolerant. While it isn’t deadly, it can lead to stomach upset and a host of other issues.

While a little bit of dairy as an ingredient in a dish may be fine, dishes heavy in cheese or milk should be avoided.


There are many potential food hazards for your cat during Thanksgiving. Many common foods, such as chocolate, can cause lasting problems for our furry friends. Therefore, it is best to stick to plain turkey as a treat for your cat during this time.

Seasonings are a sneaky way for cats to eat potentially toxic substances. Therefore, don’t forget that cats should not eat any seasoned foods. Even sodium can be a serious problem for smaller felines.

Featured Image Credit: Caterina Trimarchi, Shutterstock

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