A slice of warm bread is a tasty treat for many pet parents but should it be shared with a feline friend? Can cats eat bread, or is bread bad for cats? Before giving your pet some of your sandwich or baguette, here's what you need to know about cats and bread.
Can Cats Eat Bread?
As is the case with many human foods, small amounts of baked bread are generally OK for cats to eat in moderation. Cats shouldn't eat bread on a regular basis but, rather, reserve it for a once in a while treat.
Healthwise, there is nothing in baked bread that is bad for your cat, but the concern is that it also does not supply nutrients your cat needs. Essentially, for cats, bread is considered a source of empty calories. For a frame of reference, a slice of white bread provides one-fifth of all the calories an average cat needs in a day. So, while two slices of bread might barely satisfy your appetite, it is far too much for your feline friend. For more information, on how much energy human foods provide to pets, see this human caloric translation article.
Bread can come in handy if you have to give your cat oral medication. You may be able to hide a pill in soft-baked bread or even squirt liquid medicine on it. However, your cat may not fall for this trick. Many cats will avoid food with medication because of its bitter taste, explains the PennVet Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. You may have better luck with canned cat food, the hospital advises, but if your cat enjoys a nice bit of bread, you can opt for that route.
Is Bread Bad for Cats?
Now that we know the answer to whether or not cats can eat bread is "yes, in moderation," it brings us to our next question: "Is bread dangerous for cats?" Certain varieties of baked bread are safer for cats than others. A good rule of thumb is the plainer the baked bread, the better it probably is for your cat.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association emphasizes, what's safe for a human may be toxic for an animal — and bread is no exception. If baked bread is flavored with tomato, onion or garlic, the loaf should be considered one of the toxic foods for cats. Steer clear of herbs and spices, too, unless you can confirm they're safe for cats. It's always a good idea to consult your veterinarian before giving any human food to your cat.
In this article, you may have noticed the reference to "baked" bread. That is to clarify that while most baked bread is not one of the dangerous foods for cats, bread dough, which contains active yeast, does poses a substantial risk to a cat's health.
As Preventive Vet points out, "The yeast contained in even a small amount of raw bread or pizza dough can quickly produce enough alcohol and carbon dioxide to cause serious problems for a cat." Raw dough — any kind of yeast dough, not just bread — can expand, just like it does on the counter, inside your cat and lead to a distended stomach and severe bloating. In rare instances, surgery is required to remove the dough mass.
Additionally, ingesting uncooked yeast can cause your kitty to be intoxicated. Called alcohol toxicosis, it occurs because "yeast fermentation products include ethanol, which is absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in inebriation and metabolic acidosis (excessive amounts of acid that alter the chemicals in the blood)," the Merck Veterinary Manual describes. Alcohol is a big no-no for all animals because of the toxicity of ethanol, which can be fatal upon ingestion.
Signs of yeast ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea and excessive gas or bloating. Contact your vet's office or an emergency care clinic right away if you suspect your cat has eaten raw dough containing yeast.
How Does Bread Affect Cat Nutrition?
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must get some of their nutrition from meat. In other words, they are obligated to eat some meat. They need a cat food developed with the right ingredients, which provide the right balance of nutrients including meat-based protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and energy to keep them at an optimum level of health.
Therefore, before giving your cat bread, consider not only their nutritional intake but their overall health. For example, if your cat has feline diabetes, check with your vet before feeding them bread. "Your veterinarian may recommend feeding your cat a food restricted in carbohydrates, which has been shown to improve control of blood glucose levels," says the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.
In general, you'll want to limit your kitty's snacks as feeding foods they are unaccustomed to can cause stomach upset — even if they don't have a health condition. And remember, bread shouldn't have a regular place in a cat's nutritional plan. It's a savory treat you can share every so often, in very small bites.