Can Cats Eat Garlic? Nope—Keep Your Kitty Away From This Toxic Veggie


Can Cats Eat Garlic? Nope—Keep Your Kitty Away From This Toxic Veggie

If your cat snags any garlicky human food from the counter they could develop anemia, so you’ll want to call your vet right away. Tracey L. Kelley headshot
Tracey L. Kelley headshot By Tracey L. Kelley December 09, 2022 Advertisement Pin FB More Tweet Email Send Text Message Print cat with garlic bulbs in background; cat cats eat garlic?
cat with garlic bulbs in background; cat cats eat garlic? Credit: esseffe / Getty / Nynke / Adobe Stock

Some human foods are fine as special treats for our favorite felines. But technically, cats don't need human food at all as their wet and dry food is formulated to meet all their nutritional needs. There are also many toxic human foods they should avoid, but can cats eat garlic? Absolutely not—here's how to protect your kitty from the toxic veggie.

Is Garlic Bad for Cats?

Yes. Cats are particularly susceptible to the effects of garlic, even more than dogs, according to Genna Mize, DVM. "It not only causes gastrointestinal upset, but also potentially alters red blood cells and interferes with their very important function of transporting oxygen in the body," the technical services veterinarian at Virbac says. This often results in anemia, a possibly fatal illness if not treated in time.

RELATED: Can Dogs Eat Garlic? Why You Want to Keep Your Pup Away From This Toxic Veggie

The primary toxic property in garlic is n-propyl disulfide, found in active form in all vegetables of the Allium spp family. So can cats eat food with garlic in it? No way. It doesn't matter if it's fresh or cooked garlic, or garlic salt or powder—it's all toxic to cats. In fact, Mize says gram-for-gram, garlic spices are more harmful in small quantities compared to fresh garlic because they're more concentrated. But a single garlic clove, she adds, "can be all it takes to result in serious illness."

If you intend to give kitty a succulent morsel of salmon, turkey, or chicken, make certain these nibbles are thoroughly cooked without any type of garlic. Better yet, leave them completely unseasoned, and keep in mind that veterinarians recommend that treats make up no more than 10 percent of your cat's daily diet.

Here's another important point: Garlic isn't the only aromatic culprit in the Allium family potentially toxic to cats. Mize cautions pet parents to avoid: 

  • Chives 
  • Leeks 
  • Onions
  • Scallions or green onions
  • Shallots 

"Poisoning can occur from either a single exposure of large amounts of [garlic] or chronic smaller exposures over time," she says. 

Garlic Poisoning Symptoms in Cats

What happens if your cat eats garlic? It depends. "If he consumes enough garlic to cause clinical issues, you might see transient [gastrointestinal] upset with no serious clinical signs until days later, when the body's compensatory mechanisms have been depleted and red blood cell changes have caused anemia," Mize says. 

In fact, she adds that some of the other symptoms don't appear until up to five days later, which is a long time to determine the seriousness of the toxicity. Additional symptoms include:

  • Not eating
  • Depression
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Increased breathing and heart rate
  • Pale gums
  • Red-to-brown colored urine
  • Weakness
  • Yellowing of the skin

Monitor your kitty closely if you suspect he's ingested some form of garlic. If he experiences diarrhea or vomiting for longer than a day or two, don't wait for the other symptoms to appear. Schedule an exam right away. "Unfortunately, there's no home treatment, and unless your cat has very recently consumed the product, care is generally supportive in nature," Mize says.  

RELATED: 9 Signs That You Need to Get Your Pet to the Emergency Room 

What To Do If Your Cat Eats Garlic

If you know your kitty has gobbled some garlic and it was only a couple of hours prior to the vet visit, Mize says the first thing the clinical team will do is induce vomiting to encourage decontamination.   

"Otherwise, care is supportive in nature and may include fluids, anti-nausea medications, antioxidants, and so on. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary," she says. She adds that your cat's vitals will be monitored throughout their stay, and the duration of treatment will depend on the severity of their illness.

How can you help? Arrive prepared with a detailed report of behaviors and symptoms you've noticed at home, what your cat might have eaten that contained garlic, and the timeline of when consumption of or exposure to it occurred.

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