It’s natural for your cat to be interested in whatever food you’re eating. Cats are colony-forming animals and in their feral state, they’d be looking to other cats for guidance as to which food sources were safe and tasty. If you, the human caregiver, are eating something, your cats will assume that it’s good for them too. Unfortunately, a lot of our foods really aren’t great for cats. While it probably won’t harm your cat if she occasionally grabs a crisp or snack, this isn’t something you should encourage. This includes corn snack foods like Cheetos.
Are Cheetos bad for cats? Yes. A few Cheetos probably won’t make your cat sick, but corn snacks and similar foods are not healthy. They’re high in fats and salt, and often contain ingredients that cats should not eat. Consuming too many snack foods could make your cat ill over time, and certainly won’t contribute to good health.
You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about your cat and snack foods. Perhaps your cat has recently eaten a Cheeto or similar corn snack, and you’re worried that it might make her ill. Maybe your cat constantly begs for snacks when you eat them, and you want to know whether it’s safe to give her what she wants. Whatever your questions, you’ve come to the right place. We have the answers you’re looking for. Keep reading to find out why Cheetos aren’t good for cats, what cats should eat instead, and what treats might be better instead.
Are Cheetos Bad for Cats?
Cheetos really aren’t good for cats. They’re not in the same league as some foods, like onion or garlic, which can be severely toxic to cats. Nibbling on a dropped Cheeto won’t send your cat to the vet, or cause any noticeable health issues at all. With that said, they’re a long way from being a suitable treat or snack for your cat.
The first concern is the high salt content. Cats should not have too much salt. Many cats walk around in a state of mild dehydration much of the time, and salty foods can only make matters worse. In high doses, salt can have very serious health consequences for your cat. Vulnerable animals can develop a condition called hypernatraemia, also known as salt poisoning.
Another issue is the high-fat content of Cheetos. This can cause your cat to suffer from digestive issues: nausea, diarrhoea, intestinal discomfort. If your cat makes a habit of eating Cheetos or similar corn snacks, these could contribute to weight gain. We all love a chunky kitty, but actual obesity in a cat can be very harmful. It can cause joint problems, digestive issues, and problems with breathing and circulation.
Cheetos also contain very little in the way of actual nutrition. They are vegetable-based, made from cereals that your cat can’t digest properly. The only constituent that might be even remotely useful to an obligate carnivore’s short digestive tract is the light dusting of dried cheese powder, which is unlikely to contribute very much.
Some Cheeto flavours are particularly bad for cats. The spicy varieties contain chilli powder, which is likely to irritate your cat’s delicate mouth. Fortunately, stealing a bite of spicy food is usually a one-off. A friend’s cat who I was looking after once stole a noodle from a bowl of spicy ramen I was eating. He spent several minutes licking his nose and fussing, and never took food from my plate again.
Be aware that many snack foods are flavoured with garlic or onion powder. This is very, very bad for cats and can cause serious health issues if they eat enough.
In general, Cheetos won’t harm your cat. But they have no place in your feline companion’s regular diet and should not be given as treats. Later in this article, you’ll learn about safe snacks and treats that you can offer in place of Cheetos.
Salt Poisoning in Cats
Most cases of hypernatraemia in cats are not caused by something the cat ate, but by medical conditions that cause sodium to build up in the blood until they reach unsafe levels. If your cat manages to eat enough salty snacks, however, she could conceivably develop salt poisoning. It really doesn’t take many snacks to deliver a toxic dose of salt.
Symptoms of salt poisoning can include excessive thirst. If your cat normally ignores her water dish, and then suddenly can’t get enough water, she might have eaten too much salt. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on her, in case things deteriorate.
Another symptom is excessive urination. Your cat might need to visit the litter box much more frequently than usual, and may pee outside the box by accident.
As the condition progresses, your cat might rapidly become dizzy and disoriented. She might stumble and totter, losing her coordination.
In severe cases, cats with salt poisoning can start to have tremors and then seizures (fits). If the condition isn’t addressed, the cat may finally fall into a coma and might even die.
Salt poisoning is a serious medical issue. It’s not something you can treat at home. A cat with salt poisoning will need to visit the vet and might require interventions such as intravenous fluids. If there’s an underlying health condition that’s contributing to hypernatraemia, this will also need to be treated.
Healthy Eating, Cat-style
To properly understand why Cheetos are bad for cats, you should know a little bit about the proper feline diet. Cats are carnivores, with digestive systems that can’t really process vegetable matter. In their feral state, cats naturally eat lots of small animals, birds and the occasional fish. The best diet for a cat, therefore, is one that mimics this type of food as closely as possible. That’s why I like to give my cats food that’s based on poultry (duck or chicken) or rabbit if I can find it. If you could buy mouse-based cat food, I’d give them that, but the rabbit is a decent compromise.
Cats should generally eat wet food. I do put out the occasional dish of kibble for my three shorthairs to snack on if I’m going to be out for more than a day, but usually, I like to offer wet food. This isn’t just because the cats prefer it. Cats get their fluid from their food more than they do by drinking, so wet food helps with hydration.
When you’re choosing food for your cat, protein should be your watchword. Cats really can’t digest vegetables well and don’t need fibre in their diets in the way that we do. Go for brands that are chiefly made from named meat ingredients, with all their constituents clearly listed. Avoid food that contains grains or starches.
Safe Snacks for Cats
If cats really shouldn’t eat Cheetos and other human foods, what treats are safe to give them? Well, the thing that often attracts cats to Cheetos is the cheesy smell. Some cats absolutely love cheese. It’s not the greatest thing for them to eat, as it’s high in fat and doesn’t offer much in the way of useful nutrition. It’s fine, however, to offer your cat the occasional small sliver of cheese. This should be an unflavored hard cheese, such as plain cheddar. Hard cheeses are largely free of lactose that can cause intestinal irritation in adult cats.
Cooked unseasoned meat, poultry or fish is also safe to give cats. Make sure that the meat is cooked thoroughly to avoid the risk of food poisoning. You must also make sure that anything you give your cat is absolutely free of bones.
Another favourite treat for my own cats is baby food. I like to keep a jar of chicken baby food in the fridge and give them a small blob on a long spoon as a treat. Some members of my little shorthair gang are highly food-motivated, and will happily chase a sundae spoon with a dollop of baby food for ages.
The best treats, of course, are treats manufactured specifically for cats. My lot love Dreamies.
Cats are not very sensitive about their food choices. It’s up to you, as a responsible pet owner, to make sure they eat the right things.