The holiday season is a perfect excuse to break so many of the restrictive food rules some of us follow throughout the rest of the year, and we can pretty much sum up this revelry in one word: indulgence! It’s tempting to pass some of that culinary generosity along to your feline family members during the festive seasons, and the good news is you can! But not all of it. To help you spread the cheer without putting your precious furballs in harm’s way, here’s a simple guide to some foods you can safely share with your cat on Thanksgiving (and any time!).
The major concerns
In case you’re already holiday-stressed and your attention span is lagging, let’s start with the high-level concerns. There are some common ingredients found in Thanksgiving dishes that your cat should NOT have. Here they are:
*Citrus fruit or juices
Of course, there are plenty more foods that cats shouldn’t eat, and a fuller list is provided by the ASPCA, along with more information about each, but these are the prime suspects for Thanksgiving danger. Keep in mind that some ingredients may slip into recipes in less obvious ways, so you need to think carefully about the full preparation of each dish before you serve it to a kitty.
Good question! Here are some examples of potential pitfalls to common dishes that would make them unsafe, or at least unhealthy, for your cat.
If you’ve stuffed your turkey (a practice generally considered unsafe even for humans) or roasted it with onions and garlic in the pan, you’ve made it unsafe for Mister Whiskers. Yes, it’s possible to find uncompromised pieces of meat, especially before carving and plating, and you’re welcome to do so, but just be super sure those pieces truly haven’t come in contact with dangerous ingredients. The same holds for citrus fruits that may be used to moisten or dress the turkey for the table!
Skip this one entirely. Aside from harmful spices or flavoring ingredients that may end up here, your cat simply doesn’t need the fat content. A little caloric splurging can be fine for you, but things like sugar and fat have a stronger impact on cats’ tiny bodies. Store-bought gravies may also contain dairy, which your cat shouldn’t have either, despite what you’ve always thought about cats lapping at saucers of milk.
This one is almost surely to be a problem for Princess, very likely containing some degree of onion and garlic, even if just in their powdered forms. Stuffing recipes are often a source of family pride, so they vary considerably, adding even more potential for the inclusion of some ingredients that may make it the best Thanksgiving stuffing in America, but unsafe for your four-legged feaster.
Green Bean Casserole
Remember what we said about dairy? If you’re using cream of mushroom soup in your recipe, the cream content alone is too unhealthy for your cat, but the addition of mushrooms makes it even more likely to cause some unsavory symptoms and regurgitations you don’t want to find around the Thanksgiving table. This is most likely another pass.
We’re assuming you’re catching the drift by now, but we’ll repeat this just in case you’re already in a Thanksgiving food coma: If your recipe is full of dairy, this is a problem food. If you’re serving lactose intolerant guests and have prepared your potatoes with an alternative like oil, then your mashed potatoes are better for Boots, but still not healthy, so a little dab will do.
Greens are nearly as good for kitties as they are for humans, and you may be surprised by how many furballs will go for them, but just be mindful of what you used to season your vegetables. As always, onion and garlic are out, and powders still count. Too much salt is dangerous to cats, too, so if you’ve been heavy-handed with the shaker, you’ll have to skip this seemingly healthy side.
Like dairy-free mashed potatoes, there’s nothing toxic in cranberry sauce and nothing that will cause unpleasantness like vomiting or diarrhea. Still, this jellied sauce that we inexplicably now eat as a side dish is more akin to a dessert than anything else and is pure indulgence. You’re welcome to add a smattering of cranberry sauce to Calico’s plate for color, but it’s unnecessary, and she won’t particularly care about it anyway.
Isn’t this supposed to be about what cats CAN eat?
Okay, you’re right—this does sound a little foreboding, so far. But keeping the kitty safe is our primary concern, and yours, too, or you wouldn’t be here! It’s far more effective and important to point out what you cannot give your cat, rather than imagine everything you could. Lest you think, after reading this, that there’s nothing left on the Thanksgiving table you can share with your hungry hairball, consider that every one of these dishes can be safe for your cat, depending on what you use to prepare them. If you really want to share your holiday meal with your kitty in a way that you are 100% sure is safe, you can often separate a very small portion of each dish before no-no ingredients are added and prepare a purrfect platter for Paws. If you need some extra inspiration for this heroic endeavor, check out books like Cooking for Two: Your Cat & You, which even has a Thanksgiving Dinner recipe already mapped out for both of you.