| 02 Mar 2015 | 04:26

    q: how bad is human food for cats? my cats always beg when i cook any kind of meat or fish. i've also heard of cats eating weird stuff like garlic, yogurt, fruit and even pasta. is there any kind of food that i should absolutely avoid? -monica tang, brooklyn a: the best recommendation that i can make is to feed your cat a high quality food specifically manufactured to meet feline nutritional needs. the guideline i use when educating cat owners is to feed 95 percent actual cat food and only 5 percent treats. look for a cat food that has been labeled as "complete and balanced" and one that meets the standards established by the association of american feed control officials (aafco). this will usually be clearly reported on the nutrient label.

    offering your cat more than 5 percent of their diet in treats could result in nutritional imbalances if he/she is not taking in an adequate amount of essential nutrients required for a healthy life.

    now what can you choose for the 5 percent of your cat's diet designated for treats? while it is true that most human foods are not "bad" for cats, there are a number of foods that can be toxic and harmful. some contain substances that can be dangerous, resulting in serious heath problems or even death. some examples include garlic, tomatoes, onions and onion powder, grapes, raisins, chocolate, coffee and even milk. these foods should never be offered to your cat, even in the smallest quantities. the safest treats would be commercial cat treats or small amounts of unseasoned meat/poultry/fish, baked or boiled. avoid spices, seasoning, fats and oils, as some of these ingredients can cause stomach upset and other health problems.

    most importantly, some cats with certain health problems and chronic conditions may have very specific dietary needs and restrictions. if you are unsure about the food and treat choices for your cat, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. be sure to break any treats into kitty bite-sized pieces and never offer any meat/poultry/fish while it is still on the bone.

    finally, try offering treats in a designated feeding area. this may help prevent cats from learning to beg or steal food. consider training you cat to do tricks for treats! treat time should be safe, healthy and fun.

    -lauren m. stein, vmd staff veterinarian north shore animal league america

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