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Can cats eat bread?

Cat sitting next to bread advice
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Bread is not a staple food of cats, but it is not as bad for them as some of our other foods. Read on to find out whether cats can eat bread or should they avoid it at all costs.

By Nick Whittle

Some of the foods we eat are toxic to our pets. Foods such as grapes, raisins, artificial sweeteners and chocolate can cause cats and dogs serious harm, and if taken in large enough quantities can even kill them. 

Then there are the other foods we eat - just about everything you can think of - that while not toxic ought not to be eaten by domestic animals. 

A cat survives adequately on cat food. Gone are the days of cats roaming the streets and feeding their hunger with anything they might find. These days, as a responsible owner, your cat is fed with cat food. And because that is now the way of things, cat food manufacturers make their product with exactly the right amount of minerals and macronutrients to support a cat’s health. 

On the face of it, it may seem mean not to treat a cat (or a dog) to something we have eaten, but what we should take into account is the effect doing such a thing may have on the cat’s health in the long term. 

Our food contains a lot of salt, sugars, carbohydrates and fat; far more than even we need. If our food doesn’t harm our pets in the short term it will certainly harm them in the long term.  

Bread is one such food. While not toxic to a cat it has nothing in it that a cat can use and plenty in it that will harm him. Read on to find out why feeding a cat some bread may do nothing more than give him the satisfaction of being fed by you… and maybe a tummy ache. 

What’s in bread? 

If we are conscious of our own diet we know that some breads are better than others. White and Italian breads have the highest number of calories; multi-grain is crammed full of calcium; wholemeal bread is high in fibre. Most types of bread will also contain a host of B vitamins and trace quantities of fat, sugar and protein. 

Nutrients needed by cats

What all breads have in common is that they are a source of carbohydrate, and our bodies can process carbohydrate effectively. We transform carbohydrates into the monosaccharides glucose, galactose and fructose which in turn are used in various parts of the body to maintain a healthy metabolism. 

In short, carbohydrates give us energy. 

Cats on the other hand are NOT very good at processing carbohydrates. They are carnivorous animals and as such have a quite different process of breaking down their foods. In order for a cat to stay healthy it needs to eat lots of animal protein and fat. 

It is from the protein that most of the cat’s energy comes. 

Clearly, a cat needs something more than what is provided by bread. And nowhere is this more obvious than when we look at the feeding habits of the domestic cat’s ancestor: the lion. A lion’s primary source of food is animal meat, and from this it extracts all of the fats, fatty acids, protein and carbohydrate it needs in order to survive. 

A cat’s digestive system – just like a lion’s – is designed to breakdown a meaty diet; and any other food stuff that they eat just does not cut the mustard!

So can a cat safely eat bread? 

There are no important nutrients in bread that a cat has to have; and his poor absorption of what few nutrients there are means that he will gain nothing from eating bread. However, if you are intent on giving your cat a little piece of bread now and then you can (taking note of some caveats along the way – see later). 

To feed your cat something you are eating constitutes a small yet significant bonding moment; your cat will at least enjoy having been fed some human food. But the important point to remember is that cats do not need anything more than they get from their cat food. 

A balanced and well-considered diet of good quality cat food gives your cat every bit of nourishment he needs to live a full and happy life. 

When is bread bad for cats? 

There are two points to raise here:

  1. feeding your cat too much bread and
  2. breads containing substances toxic to cats. 

Feeding your cat too much bread

  • Bread contains high levels of sugar and salt
  • Bread lacks some vitamins and minerals a cat needs
  • Mass produced bread are mostly high in preservatives
  • Too much bread can lead to obesity

Breads containing substances toxic to cats 

  • Cats must not eat raw yeast dough; it contains yeast which ferments inside your cat and leads to alcohol poisoning. Raw dough may also lead to seizures and coma.
  • Some breads contain harmful ingredients such as garlic, chocolate, onion, chives and raisins. 

Although a normal, baked loaf contains nothing that would harm your cat if he ate small quantities of it, it also contains nothing he needs to stay healthy. He cannot absorb the nutrients in bread because his body is designed to absorb nutrients from animal meat. Bread can be fed to a cat on rare occasions but feeding him regularly will cause him to become obese. 

Furthermore, do not feed your cat with a bread containing something toxic. If he accidentally eats a type of bread that has a substance in it such as chocolate you should monitor his health over the course of the day and be vigilant of any changes to his behaviour. If he exhibits symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, seizures or disorientation then take him to a vet as soon as you can.  
 

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