Can Cats Eat Garlic?

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Garlic is a part of the Allium family, which also includes onions and leeks. It is used in many tasty dishes for humans (who doesn’t love garlic bread?), but garlic should be kept well away from our cats.

Some cats are interested in human food, and it can be tempting to let them share a treat with us, but you must be very careful which foods they try.

Garlic is bad news for cats. As well as causing stomach upset, garlic also causes severe damage to the red blood cells carrying oxygen around the body. The red blood cells rupture, leading to life-threatening anemia. Cats who are suffering from anemia may be lethargic, pale, breathing rapidly, and may even collapse.

Quick Overview: Can Cats Eat Garlic?

toxic Toxic: Yes
allergenic Commonly Allergenic: No
specie Species Appropriate: No
clock-2 How Often to Feed: Never
bowl How Much to Feed: None

Summary of Content

Cats are carnivores and are mostly attracted to meaty or fishy smells and tastes. They are not particularly drawn to plant materials as food. However, cats are known for their curiosity and may take a taste of anything they might find, including leftover human food.

The symptoms may not be immediate; anemia can take a few days to progress to a point of causing visible signs. If your cat has eaten garlic you must seek veterinary attention immediately, even if you cat does not appear unwell.

This applies to all forms of garlic, including garlic powder, garlic tablets, dried, cooked, and fresh garlic.

Garlic Nutritional Stats

Here are some basic nutritional stats for garlic. These are based on 100 grams of fresh garlic and will vary depending on if the garlic is dried, powdered, fresh, or cooked.

Calories (kcal) 149
Total fat (g) 0.5
Carbohydrate (g) 33
Sugars (g) 1
Fiber (g) 2.1
Protein (g) 6
Iron (mg) 1.7
Calcium (mg) 198

Garlic Nutritional Facts

Looking at the nutritional values above, we can see that garlic is low in fat, but contains some protein and carbohydrates, as well as some added nutrients.

Cats have very specific nutritional needs, and as carnivores, they derive a significant amount of their needs from meat and meat derivatives rather than from plant material. They do not digest fruit and vegetables well.

This is all rather obsolete when it comes to garlic and our feline friends, as garlic is toxic and therefore of no nutritional benefit.

Benefits Of Garlic For Cats

If you suspect your cat has eaten garlic, even a small amount, contact your veterinarian immediately.

There is a well-known myth that feeding garlic to cats and dogs can rid them of fleas. This is not true, and in fact, feeding garlic is harmful to cats rather than beneficial. There are no known benefits to feeling garlic in any form to cats.

How Much Garlic Can A Cat Eat?

Cats shouldn’t eat any garlic at all. Even small amounts of garlic can be problematic and cause serious health problems. This includes powdered or dried garlic, fresh garlic, and cooked garlic (such as on garlic bread).

How Often Can A Cat Eat Garlic?

Cats should not eat garlic at all, as it can be toxic even in small quantities. If your cat eats a small amount of garlic and suffers no ill effect, they could still react badly to it in the future, and the effects can be cumulative.

Is Garlic Used In Commercial Cat Food?

Keep cooking garlic stowed away so your cat doesn’t accidentally ingest it.

Cats are carnivores and commercial cat diets usually reflect this by using a high proportion of meat and meat derivatives. It is unusual for fruit or vegetables to be a mainstay of a cat diet, as they are not well digested by felines.

Garlic would certainly not be included in a commercial diet due to its toxicity to cats.

The Risks Of Eating Garlic For Cats?

Eating garlic has multiple risks for cats, even in small amounts. It is thought to be about five times as toxic to cats as onion is, which means that even small amounts can cause problems.

The main risks of garlic to cats include the following:

  • Garlic contains organic sulfur compounds that cause damage to the red blood cells, causing them to rupture. This leads to anemia, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms can take a few days to develop, and include lethargy, pale gums, increased heart and breathing rate, and discolored urine (brown/red).
  • Garlic can cause irritation and ulceration to the gastrointestinal tract. This can result in vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and tummy pain.
  • Garlic can cause heart problems by relaxing the heart vessel and dilating blood vessels, causing weakness and collapse.

These risks are serious ones. Eating garlic can lead to severe health problems for your cat.

Do Cats Like The Taste Of Garlic?

Cats are carnivores and are mostly attracted to meaty or fishy smells and tastes. They are not particularly drawn to plant materials as food.

However, cats are known for their curiosity and may take a taste of anything they might find, including leftover human food. For optimum safety, it is therefore recommended to keep any form of garlic away from your pets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if a cat eats a little garlic?

Even small amounts of garlic can be toxic to cats. Symptoms can take days to develop, so if you think your cat has eaten garlic in any amount or form, seek veterinary advice, even if your cat appears well.

Will garlic hurt cats?

Yes, garlic is highly toxic to cats and can cause them to be severely unwell. It can cause tummy upset, anemia, and heart problems.

Can cats eat meat cooked with garlic?

Cats should not eat garlic in any form whether fresh, powdered, or cooked in food. This includes seasoning on meat, garlic bread, and human supplements containing garlic.

Can cats eat garlic for fleas?

Garlic is not an effective anti-flea treatment and is actually harmful to cats. If your cat has fleas, speak to your veterinarian for a safe and effective treatment.

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About Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt (MRCVS) is a small animal veterinarian and writer who is passionate about helping owners to learn more about their pets in order to improve animal welfare. She loves to write and wants to empower owners to make the best decisions for their pets by giving them all the information they need. In her spare time, she takes consultations on the small island of Guernsey.

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