I know when it's 4 p.m. every day because that's the exact moment when my 3-year-old Calico, Puddin’, starts meowing for her afternoon hors d'oeuvre, a cucumber peel. While most pet owners know they should avoid human food, it's not always easy when you realize how much happiness can come from a few scraps. (That, and how weak you are against cat manipulation.)
And so, with Thanksgiving on the horizon, I wondered, would it be okay to let Puddin’ share in a little bit of my family’s holiday meal? To find out, I reached out to Dr. Michael Josephs, DVM, founder of Connecticut's Bethel Veterinary Hospital as well as an emergency clinic in Danbury, CT. Now semi-retired, he maintains a small practice in Colorado where he also performs veterinary acupuncture for small animals (including cats!).
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Unfortunately, he has experience in people-food mishaps. “The holiday season is the busiest time of the year at veterinary emergency hospitals. The majority of cases involve cats and dogs being fed foods that are harmful. Use common sense and caution and do not over indulge your pets," explains Dr. Josephs. Still, as long as cats eat mostly their own food, there are some ways to please them this week.
Josephs explains, “Since cats are true carnivores, related to African lions and tigers, animal protein is their number one prized food.” In addition to turkey meat, especially the dark—which is an excellent fatty protein source, as is the skin, they may also enjoy a small amount of turkey organs like kidney, liver or heart. Their attraction, Josephs says, is due to scent. As opposed to dogs, who are drawn by a food’s texture, “cats are stimulated to eat via their olfactory senses. And so cats are attracted to foods that have a strong odor like organ meat (and fish)” Plus, “the turkey liver provides much needed niacin and retinol!” Have leftovers? Josephs says to store a container in the refrigerator for a future meal. Just make sure all the meat is cooked and hasn't been sitting out too long.
Josephs said you can certainly offer your pet some vegetables like sweet potatoes—but avoid any with too many seasonings and butter.
As a refresher, here are some foods that Dr. Josephs says you should strictly avoid feeding your cat on Thanksgiving, and all year round:
Chicken or turkey bones. The bones can splinter and produce internal impactions, obstructions, and lacerations.
Chocolate or artificial sweeteners, and any desserts that contain them
Grapes, raisins and popcorn.
Dairy products like milk or cream. These cow-based milk proteins are foreign to cats’ digestive systems, and can give them loose stool.
Bread and cookies.