There’s nothing quite as tasty as a slice of fresh, warm bread or a sandwich served on thick-cut bread. Your cat won’t disagree. But should your kitty partake in this carbohydrate feast? Is bread safe for cats?
In short, plain bread isn’t toxic to cats, but that doesn’t mean that it should be part of a regular diet for your feline friend.
Can Cats Eat Bread? Does it Have Any Health Benefits?
There’s nothing harmful in a bite of plain bread. So, it’s okay for your cat to have the occasion bread treat. However, they don’t really get any nutrition from it, so it shouldn’t be part of their regular diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their digestive system is set up to digest meat, and lots of it. It’s not really made to break down carbohydrates.
If you give your cat more than the occasional bite of bread, it can start to take the place of their regular, balanced diet and starve them of some of the nutrients that they do need. It can also be an additional source of calories that can quickly lead to obesity and all of the complications that go along with it.
Is Bread Dangerous to Cats?
For most healthy cats, eating a bite or two of bread a few times a week isn’t going to cause any problems. However, if your cat is overweight, diabetic, or has any other health condition, eating bread can be detrimental. Again, bread doesn’t provide any real nutrition for your cat; it’s just empty calories. If bread is given in addition to their regular cat food, they can quickly start to gain weight, a dangerous process for any cat but especially for those already tipping the scales.
For diabetic cats, carbohydrates are a no-no. That’s because carbs are quickly broken down into sugars that elevate blood glucose levels. If these levels stay high, which is a common problem in cats with diabetes, organ damage and even failure can start to occur.
Feeding large amounts of bread at one time can also cause digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. A cat’s digestive system isn’t accustomed to digesting lots of carbohydrates, and eating lots of bread can overload it and even throw off the balance of the microbiome.
Types of Bread to Avoid
There are many varieties and flavors of bread; that’s part of the reason we humans love it so much. However, some of those additional ingredients can be toxic to your furry companion. Some spices, specifically onion and garlic, can destroy your cat’s red blood cells.
Raisins can lead to kidney failure, and high amounts of sugar can cause digestive upset. Xylitol is another “absolutely not” ingredient. Even though xylitol is more commonly considered a canine toxin, it can still be trouble for your kitties. You can never be too careful, so avoid giving it to your cat as well.
Is Raw Bread Dough Safe for Cats?
Raw, uncooked bread dough is definitely off the table for feeding your cat. Bread dough containing yeast is dangerous in several ways. First off, yeast expands as it ferments; that’s what makes bread dough rise. It continues to expand in your cat’s tummy, potentially leading to bloat or a dilated stomach.
Also, during the fermentation process, yeast produces ethanol. This alcohol travels to the bloodstream and can make a cat intoxicated or even give them alcohol poisoning.
If your cat eats raw bread dough, contact your veterinarian immediately. Depending on when and how much dough your cat ate, they may have you induce vomiting or bring them in right away to empty their stomach and treat any symptoms.
How to Safely Feed Bread to Your Cat
Even though bread doesn’t provide your cat any nutritional benefits, it can help in one area: giving them pills. Some cats can be fooled into taking their medications by hiding the pills in small pieces of bread.
Before giving your cat any bread, first, speak to your veterinarian to ensure that your cat is healthy enough to eat bread. Then keep the serving size small, just a bite or two once or twice a week. Any more than that, and you risk bread taking the place of other more valuable nutrients in their diet, or you may be putting your cat on the fast track to obesity.
Technically, cats can eat up to 10% of their daily caloric intake in treats like bread, but that doesn’t mean they should. Just keep portions small and infrequent for the best results.
Feed them only plain white or wheat bread. No additional seasonings or toppings (your cat doesn’t need butter or jelly), and definitely no raisins. Monitor your cat for any digestive issues after feeding bread and discontinue if they have any problems.
Bread is a great treat and staple in most human diets. However, it doesn’t hold any real place in your cat’s food bowl. Instead, if you choose to feed your cat bread or need a little to give them a pill, keep the amounts small and only feed bread to your cat every couple of days (at most). Be sure to avoid ingredients like garlic, onion, raisins, and high amounts of sugar to be extra safe. If your cat has issues eating bread, be sure to contact your veterinarian.
Dr. Chyrle Bonk has been practicing veterinary medicine since 2010. She lives in Idaho with her husband and two sons, where they spend their free time exploring the great outdoors that is right in their backyard.