can cats eat crisps: white persian looking at bowl of crisps

Can cats eat crisps? Feeding your cat junk food can lead to a mineral imbalance and even obesity.

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Can cats eat crisps? Understanding the dos and don'ts of your cat's diet

By Greta Inglis Dog Behaviourist | Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the

Can cats eat crisps? This is a common question owners ask. While cats always seem interested in our food, some snacks can be toxic to cats. 

They may be one of the most popular snacks in the world, but crisps are not known for their health benefits for us humans. With high amounts of salt, fat and sugar, they aren't the ideal food choice for our four-legged friends either, and they certainly don't need this type of food in their diet.

All felines, including domestic cats, are obligate carnivores. This means that while they can digest vegetable matter safely, it by no means meets their nutritional requirements. Cats get most of their nutrition from high-protein meat sources. Feeding your cat anything else would mean they miss out on taurine, an essential amino acid which is available only in meat

Can cats eat crisps? 

The ingredients in crisps are not toxic to cats, but this snack could be considered "junk food" in the same way it is for people. You may have noticed your cat showing interest when you open a tube of Pringles or settle down for the evening with some tortilla chips. But while they may look like they are thoroughly enjoying crunching on a potato chip, it's sadly probably all down to the high amount of salt and fat that makes them so enticing to your cat. It may not come as a surprise to hear that eating crisps isn't very healthy for your cat.

In the right quantities in our food, fat can provide energy. But when consumed over extended periods, too much can lead to weight gain and even obesity, especially combined with the high-calorie content of potato chips. If you have any concerns about your cat's diet or overall health, speak to your veterinarian.

What are the risks of feeding crisps to your cat? 

While the ingredients in crisps aren't usually toxic in themselves, all crisps contain high levels of fat and sugar. These can be harmful to your cat over time. Furthermore, eating too much human food, especially these types of snacks, may lead to obesity in the long run. 

Our feline friends also have very different mineral needs from humans. Too much potassium and sodium in their food, both minerals contained in crisps, isn't healthy and has been known to cause alarming health issues for our feline friends. Too much sodium can cause an electrolyte imbalance in the blood, and an excess of potassium may lead to symptoms such as muscle weakness, depression and heart palpitations. Excessive salt intake can also lead to dehydration and kidney problems, while too much fat can contribute to pancreatitis in cats.

It's important to remember that crisps are also not a natural part of a cat's diet, nor are they particularly safe for your cat to eat. In the wild, felines eat protein they can chew and digest, avoiding textures like that found in crisps. Sharp edges could break off and become lodged in a pet's throat or the intestine, which may cause an obstruction. If you're concerned that your cat has got a crisp stuck in their throat or intestine, take them to see your vet straight away.

Can cats eat cheese and onion crisps? 

When it comes to cats and crisps, onion is one ingredient you should pay particular attention to. Onions, chives and garlic can be toxic foods to cats if consumed over a period of time, and certain crisp brands use real onion extract in their recipes. At less than 5% the size of the average human, certain foods can affect your cat faster than they would a person and are best avoided.

Can cats eat crisps like Quavers?

Quavers contain both milk powder and cheese powder as ingredients. Many adult cats are actually lactose intolerant, which means that consuming dairy products could lead to diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

Can cats eat Wotsits?

The ingredients contained in crisps are not considered appropriate for a nutritionally balanced feline diet but add to this the lactose contained in Wotsits, and you may want to steer clear. Many adult cats are actually lactose intolerant. The dried cheese and milk lactose contained in this popular crisp could lead to slight discomfort or, in severe cases, severe cramps and diarrhoea. 

What can cats have instead of crisps? 

Thankfully for our feline friends, there are lots of good, enjoyable options that are perfectly suited to their dietary requirements. Gently cooked chicken or white fish will always go down a treat, but remember that only 10% of your cat's diet should come from supplementary snacks. Alternatively to cooking, you can also purchase cat treats. Mix and match the selection to ensure they're getting lots of choice and excitement at meal times, all the while ensuring they're snacking safely.

If you're thinking about giving your cat a treat, sticking to nutritionally balanced cat food is the way to go. While a small nibble of a plain potato chip once in a while is unlikely to cause your cat much harm, the high levels of salt and other ingredients and crunchy texture mean it's best to avoid giving crisps to cats altogether. Instead, focus on providing them with a complete, balanced diet tailored to their specific nutritional needs. 

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