11 Holiday Foods That Are Dangerous for Your Cat

Natalie Stilwell, DVM, MS, PhD
By Natalie Stilwell, DVM, MS, PhD. Reviewed by Jennifer Coates, DVM on Nov. 10, 2022

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When gathering with loved ones to celebrate the holidays, it’s natural to want to include our pets in the holiday traditions. And while it’s important for our pets to be part of the family, this shouldn’t include sharing in the holiday feast.

Sharing your table scraps with your cat can lead to a number of health issues, including obesity. Here’s what you need to know about keeping kitty safe this holiday season.

Dangerous Holiday Human Foods

Holiday dishes in particular feature foods that are dangerous or toxic to cats. These are some “people foods” you should keep away from your cat during the holidays.

1. Seasoned Turkey Meat and Skin

While a small amount of plain, cooked turkey is relatively safe for pets to eat, holiday recipes usually call for the turkey to be brined or seasoned. These processes add hefty amounts of salt, pepper, and herbs to the meat, making it less safe for pets to consume.

Also, cooked turkey bones are brittle and can damage the gastrointestinal tract or cause an obstruction in the intestines.

2. Stuffing

Most stuffing recipes contain onion, scallions, or garlic, all of which belong to the Allium family.

Vegetables within the Allium family are extremely toxic to cats because they cause oxidative damage to the red blood cells, which causes the cells to rupture, resulting in anemia. Other consequences of Allium poisoning include weakness, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.

Many stuffing recipes also include raisins, which (along with grapes) can be toxic to cats. 

3. Cranberry Sauce

This popular holiday condiment is either served straight from the can or homemade from a recipe. To reduce the tartness of the berry, cranberry sauce recipes typically call for large quantities of white sugar, and the canned sauce usually contains high-fructose corn syrup.

Unlike humans, cats don’t have a sweet tooth and don’t enjoy sugary foods. Excess sugar can also lead to obesity, diabetes, and dental disease.

4. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

When eaten in small amounts, plain-cooked potatoes are not harmful to pets. However, the ingredients used to make mashed potatoes put cats at risk of gastroenteritis.

Mashed potato recipes usually call for some form of dairy, such as milk, butter, or cheese. But because most cats become lactose intolerant after weaning, dairy can cause unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and gas.

As for gravy, this tasty topping usually contains potentially toxic seasonings, such as onion and garlic.  

5. Sweet Potato Casserole

While cooked, plain sweet potatoes are safe for cats, sweet potato casserole is off-limits. This side dish usually contains milk and brown sugar, making it unsuitable for a cat’s digestive tract.

If the casserole is topped with marshmallows and pecans, these ingredients add even more risk. (Did you know that a single, regular-sized marshmallow contains 4 grams of sugar?!) Nuts are also hard to digest, so large pieces can cause a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract.

6. Green Bean Casserole

It’s true that plain green beans can be an excellent treat for pets. But green bean casserole is a no-go.

This holiday classic gets its creamy flavor from a dairy-based sauce. Most green bean casserole recipes are also rich in onions—both within the casserole and added as a crispy French onion topping. Onions, like all Allium members, can cause fatal red blood cell damage in cats.

7. Candied Yams

Candied yam recipes are often passed down through generations, but this traditional side item is another one to keep away from your cat.

The dessert-like dish gets its name from the rich helpings of brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows that make it oh-so-sweet. Cats don’t benefit from such high levels of sugar, so avoid letting your cat lick your plate.

8. Corn on the Cob

A plain, cooked corn kernel or two is not hazardous for cats. However, you should never feed corn on the cob to your kitty. Corn cobs present a choking risk and could lead to intestinal obstruction if chunks are consumed.

9. Macaroni and Cheese

The ultimate comfort food, macaroni and cheese is a holiday favorite for many families. However, many adult cats are intolerant of dairy in their diet, so the cheese can lead to diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain.

10. Pumpkin Pie

What holiday feast is complete without pumpkin pie? This iconic Thanksgiving dessert gets its rich, custardy taste from sweetened condensed milk, which adds heavy amounts of sugar and dairy.

11. Eggnog

All alcohol should be completely off-limits to pets. Alcohol poisoning is a dangerous and potentially fatal condition for our furry family members.

One of the most popular alcoholic drinks of the holiday season, eggnog, also contains raw eggs and cream, which can be poorly tolerated by cats.

What Can I Give My Cat Instead?

Our cats are family, so it’s no surprise that we would want to include them in our holiday meals. However, cats have sensitive digestive systems that cannot tolerate a lot of human food ingredients.

If you want to share the holiday cheer with your cat, skip the table scraps (except maybe for a small piece of white meat turkey with the skin and bone removed) and get them some healthy, holiday-themed cat treats or a fun catnip toy as a special treat.

Natalie Stilwell, DVM, MS, PhD


Natalie Stilwell, DVM, MS, PhD


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