If there’s one thing cats love to do, it’s to try and steal food that’s meant for humans. This is understandable; after all, if they see you eating something then it must be good, right? Unfortunately, a lot of human food is unhealthy for cats. Some are downright dangerous, producing serious ill-effects. Baked good such as crackers and biscuits aren’t really very good for cats, although they’re usually not too dangerous. You probably don’t need to rush your cat to the vet if she happens to snaffle a cracker from your plate, but you should avoid letting her eat them if you can.
Crackers contain wheat or other grains. Refined flour and starches can cause intestinal problems. Crackers are typically high in sodium, which isn’t good for cats. Some crackers may also contain ingredients that are actively toxic to felines, such as onion or garlic powder.
You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about cats and what they can eat. Maybe your cat snagged a cracker off your snack plate and you’re worried that it might hurt her. Perhaps your cat is begging for snack foods as a treat.
Maybe your cat is always trying to consume human food, and you’re concerned about what it might do to her. Keep reading, because you’re about to discover all the answers you’re looking for. You’ll learn all about the effects of human food on cats, and healthy treats that your cat can enjoy safely.
Can Cats Eat Crackers?
If you’ve spent any time around cats, you’ll know that they’re highly prone to trying to eat human food. Cats aren’t always very sensible about what they consume (I’ve had to dissuade my British Shorthair from trying to devour plastic bags before now) so it’s up to us to make sure they don’t eat things that can harm them.
As far as human foods go, a plain cracker isn’t the worst thing for a cat to eat. The chief concern is the presence of refined flour, which just doesn’t agree with cats. Grain in general aren’t really something your cat should be consuming.
They are obligate carnivores with short digestive tracts. This means that they have trouble properly digesting things that aren’t meat. When they consume refined starches, cats tend to suffer digestive issues, including nausea and vomiting. Some cats seem to be able to eat this kind of thing with no problems, but many will get some kind of intestinal distress.
Crackers also tend to be fairly salty. While occasional small amounts of salty foods won’t do much harm to a cat, they should not eat salty things very often. Cats, on the whole, tend to get dehydrated very easily. They’re not great at drinking sufficient water, since they have adapted to obtain much of their fluid from their food.
Salty foods can make matters worse, as they can cause your cat’s fluid levels to drop. Dehydration in cats causes various problems: in the short term, it makes them lethargic and miserable, while long-term dehydration contributes to urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
If the cracker is flavoured, it may contain things that are really bad for cats. Many types of cracker include ingredients that can harm your pet. Onion and garlic would be my biggest concern; my favourite type of cracker has onion flavouring and contains chives, so I take care not to let my permanently hungry British Shorthair get hold of them. There are chemical constituents in plants of the allium family (onions, garlic, leeks, chives etc.) which have a serious effect on a cat’s health.
They produce a form of anaemia that can make your cat very ill. If the cat eats enough, the effects can occasionally be fatal. While the amounts present in a cracker might not be sufficient to harm a cat, I prefer to err on the side of caution.
What Snacks Can I Feed My Cat?
I try to avoid letting my cats eat “people food”. While it’s tempting to indulge your beloved pet, feeding them from your plate is unwise for a number of reasons. First, there are so many ingredients in our food that are toxic to cats. Many common vegetables, herbs and spices can make them ill. Secondly, it can become a bad habit. If your cat gets used to being fed safe food from your plate, you’ll have a harder time regulating her snacking if she starts to get too heavy.
Some cats, especially stocky and stolid breeds like the British Shorthair, can get pretty hefty in their mature years. While a little extra weight won’t harm your cat, too much can really impact their health and well-being.
If your cat is obsessed with crunchy snacks, it may be hard to say no. That’s okay. You can find crunchy treats for cats that will satisfy their urge to bite something. Mine go absolutely wild for Dreamies. You can also make your own, although be careful when looking up recipes. Some of the “cat safe” snacks I’ve seen online have included ingredients that are unhealthy or actively toxic.
If your cat likes consuming food with a crunchy texture, try offering chunks of cucumber. These provide virtually nothing in the way of nutrition, but they are very high in fluid and they help with hydration. Cantaloupe melon is also very appealing to some cats, although it’s not clear why; something about the smell, apparently. Again, it has no nutritional value but does have a high water content.
Less healthy, but still acceptable, are small slivers of cheese (only hard cheese though, as cats are lactose intolerant). Assuming it doesn’t contain garlic or onion, it’s also okay to give your cat small amounts of preserved meats or sausages like salami. These two should be reserved for very occasional treats.
Snacking Between Meals
There’s a prevailing myth that cats will only eat as much as they require, and can be fed freely without gaining weight. As anyone who’s familiar with cats will tell you, this is unfortunately not true.
Some cats will overeat to the point of nausea, and many will eat more than they really should from a health perspective. Unlike us, cats can’t really be healthy at any size. Additional weight can affect a cat’s joints, blood pressure and heart over time, potentially shortening her lifespan. For this reason, it’s important to regulate their feeding. This doesn’t mean they can’t have snacks and treats — just that you have to be a little careful about what you give them and how much.
Your cat’s daily diet should consist primarily of wet food, as this supplies the fluid that they need to stay hydrated. Choose a grain-free brand with high protein and named ingredients. Check the information for your particular brand on the manufacturer’s website — this will usually include a guide to appropriate portions for your cat’s age and size. I usually give mine a pouch of wet food each, two or three times a day.
It’s fine for your cat to have a little dry food from time to time. Some cats hate kibble, while others prefer it. If your cat is one of those who absolutely won’t eat wet food, that’s okay; just make sure you offer a high-protein kibble and provide plenty of water. A pet drinking fountain can really help here.
Snacks and treats are fine too, even if your cat is on the heavy side. The key is to make sure that treats don’t make up more than 10 per cent of your cat’s daily calories. Choose lower-fat, high-protein snacks for preference. They’re better for your cat and most cats like them more. It can be very useful to keep some treats on hand to reward behaviour you want to encourage, or to get your cat interested in play.
There are lots of fun treats you can give your cat, as long as you use moderation. Keep the crackers for yourself, though.