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November 14, 2020

Can Cats Eat Sweets: What You Should Know About Cats and Sugary Treats

Can Cats Eat Sweets: What You Should Know About Cats and Sugary Treats

Is candy bad for cats? What happens if a cat eats sugar?

If your kitty seems interested in sharing your sweets, you’re right to be cautious and ask questions before feeding something new to your furry friend.

Read on to learn why sweet foods aren’t recommended for felines.

Why Does My Cat Like Sweets?

The truth is, cats don’t like or dislike sweetness. 

In fact, they can’t taste “sweet” at all!

Cats only have 470 taste buds. Compare this to 1,700 in dogs, and 9,000 in humans. Of those limited taste receptors in feline mouths, none are programmed to taste sweetness. So, no, your cat doesn’t have a sweet tooth, even if they perk up when you unwrap a sweet treat for yourself.

So, why does your cat try to sneak a taste of your vanilla ice cream or Halloween candy? Your cat may be interested in something other than the sweet taste. For example, cats enjoy the taste of fats and meats, so they may be enticed by the fat content, umami flavor, or amino acids of your snack rather than the sugar. Or, cats may try to eat candy canes due to the minty smell (which is similar to catnip). Or, they may mistake a lollipop for a toy.

However, even if your cat isn’t after a sweet fix, sugar ingestion can still be bad for them.

Can Cats Digest Sugar?

Sugar isn’t toxic to cats. However, it’s not very good for them.

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat rather than plant material. 

That being said, felines can have small amounts of carbohydrates in their diets. In the wild, carbs may have come from ingesting plant material in the stomachs of their prey, or munching on fibers like grass (if you’ve ever grown cat grass, you know how much some cats love it!).

Table sugar and modern sweeteners, on the other hand, are not natural to cats, and kitties don’t digest sugar very efficiently.

If your furry friend eats sugar, you might see vomiting, diarrhea, and discomfort. Symptoms can range from a mild to severe, depending how sensitive your cat is and what they ate.

Plus, in the long-term, sugar consumption can cause weight gain, diabetes, tooth problems, and other health issues.

Which Sweets Are Toxic to Cats?

Even though sugar itself isn’t toxic to cats — many other sweets and candy ingredients are very toxic! This includes:

  • Xylitol and other artificial sweeteners: Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free gums and mints, but may also present in other sweets and drinks. This sweetener causes stomach upset, liver damage, a severe drop in blood sugar, and even seizures and death in cats.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate is toxic to pets. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Chocolate ingestion can cause stomach upset, muscle tremors, seizures, and arrhythmias (heart rate abnormalities). If severe, it can even cause death.
  • Raisins and grapes: These fruits and their dried counterparts can cause kidney failure in pets. 
  • Caffeine: Caffeine is toxic to pets, causing the same types of symptoms and dangers that chocolate ingestion causes.

SEE ALSO: 7 Holiday Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

How to Keep Your Kitty Safe

Cats are curious critters. They’re also very agile — most felines can jump to a shelf or kitchen counter pretty easily. So it’s important to keep your candy and sweets where your kitty can’t access them. 

But if they do get their paws on something they shouldn’t have (and it may happen even if you’re very careful), it’s important to know what to do, and to act quickly.

Here are some tips for cats and sweet treats.

  • Keep sweets out of your kitty’s reach. Be sure that sweets are locked away, tightly covered, or high enough so that your cat can’t access them. And, be extra careful with the toxic sweets mentioned above.
  • Secure your trash can. Make sure it’s not possible for your cat to go “dumpster diving” if they smell tasty human food in the trash.
  • Make sure everyone in the home knows the rules. Explain to children why cats can’t have candy or sweet things, and discuss healthier treat options they can give to their favorite furry friend.
  • If your cat ate candy or another sweet, especially something you know to be toxic, call a vet right away. Let them know exactly what your kitty ate and how much of it, if you can. Bringing the wrapper or packaging to your vet visit can help. If you can’t reach your vet right away, call an emergency veterinary practice, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control line. Don’t wait for your cat to show symptoms—seek help right away!

What’s Better for Cats Than Eating Candy?

Giving your furry friend a tasty treat is a fun way to bond with them. Fortunately, you have options. Skip the chocolate cake, donuts, cotton candy, Reese’s, and marshmallows, which are bad for cats. Instead, give them a nibble of one of the below savory treats.

  • Small pieces of meat, like cooked chicken or turkey. These should be plain (no spices, salt, sauces, etc.) and marble-sized or smaller. Watch your kitty’s excitement grow as they smell their treats and start purring. It’s a fun way to include your pet in holiday celebrations, by giving them their own pieces of turkey to dine on.
  • A special gourmet treat from a local pet boutique.
  • Their favorite treat of all time. Cats are creatures of habit, and they know what they like. Sometimes, they prefer to stick with their favorite treat — even something they already receive every day — rather than trying something new.
  • Their regular cat food. You can’t go wrong with the classics.

Your kitty brings you so much joy, and it’s fun to make them happy in return. Sharing a little treat as part of a balanced diet is a great way to do that.

All of these options allow your cat to safely enjoy a tasty snack, as you bond with your furry family member. 

SEE ALSO: Can Dogs Eat Candy?