Can Cats Have Garlic?


Cats are naturally curious creatures that like to get into all sorts of things, including human foods. Any vet can tell you it’s best to avoid feeding your cat ‘people food’ because it often contains ingredients that aren’t healthy for cats. However, some components are worse than others. There are foods we eat that could kill a cat. Can cats have garlic? We’ll take a deep dive into this Allium family member so you know whether to go to the animal ER.

The Garlic Family

Garlic is a part of daily life in most human homes. The Allium genus is a vast family with over seven hundred members. This group has many important food crops that are easy to identify by their pungency and cloves or layers. As Brittanica puts it, these are the “… scented bulbous herbs of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae)… Allium species are characterized by pungent linear leaves and flowers with six petals. Many arise from bulbs or rhizomes, and most are perennials.” Humans love to eat a lot of garlic. Specifically, we have two hundred and eleven different varieties in ten groups. Some are better raw, others hold up well for roasting, and they range in flavor from mild or sweet to rather hot and spicy. This tasty vegetable is often used dried and ground up as a spice. Peeled, baked, powdered, crushed, or minced, thousands of dishes require garlic for their unique flavor, and numerous spice blends include it. Sadly, even humans can be susceptible to too much garlic as it upsets digestion, causes bad breath, and can inhibit blood clotting, but that’s not as bad as what happens to our furry friends.

Can I Give My Cat Garlic

You cannot give your cat garlic. Doing so could even get you in legal trouble. Unfortunately, what people see as a tasty addition to their meals is toxic to cats and dogs. Too much garlic can kill a feline, and there’s no valid reason to give a cat any garlic. This includes ‘just a sprinkle’ and letting them have human leftovers. Knowingly feeding an animal a dangerous substance is a form of animal abuse, so it’s vital to keep your pets out of your spice cabinet. There are federal laws like the AWA or Animal Welfare Act, plus numerous state and local laws protecting pets from both intentional and unintentional negligence and harm.

What Happens When Cats Have Garlic

Much like Count Dracula, too much garlic can kill your cat. Furthermore, you can’t rely on them to know how much is too much because garlic tastes good. Sadly, your pet won’t turn into a neat pile of dust, and the real-world consequences of garlic ingestion for felines are horrific. According to Litter-Robot, “Garlic contains compounds called disulfides and thiosulphates, which can cause the red blood cells circulating through a cat’s body to become very fragile and burst. Therefore, ingesting garlic may result in the destruction of a cat’s red blood cells, a deadly condition known as hemolytic anemia.” Red blood cells are created in the bone marrow. These unique cells have hemoglobin, a metalloprotein that your cat (or any living creature with lungs) needs to move oxygen into their cells.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Cat Ingested Garlic

How much garlic is too much? Sadly as little as an eighth of a teaspoon, just a few pinches of powdered garlic or a part of a small clove can be enough to damage your pet. They can suffer organ damage or organ failure from garlic ingestion. If you see a cat reaching for garlic, or a person offering them food with garlic inside, it’s essential to stop them immediately. When you know or suspect a cat has eaten garlic, take them to the vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately. They may need their stomach pumped or other treatment. Unfortunately, it can take several days, forty-eight hours or more, for signs of accidental garlic ingestion to present themselves when you don’t know it happened.

How To Spot Potential Hemolytic Anemia

Domestic animals like cats and dogs have been known to hide their illness to avoid looking weak, especially if other animals are present. However, hemolytic anemia is serious, and there are lots of symptoms. Hopefully, you will never have to worry about a cat who ate too much garlic, but it’s essential to know what happens when they do. According to Web MD, hemolytic anemia has a whole host of unpleasant side effects. Below is a list of the significant signs to look for.

  • Chills- Look for shivering even when the temperature is warm.
  • Coma- If your cat falls unconscious and cannot be roused, take them to the vet immediately.
  • Dark Urine- This can be hard to spot because most domestic cats use the litter box.
  • Digestive Problems- These may present as low appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or signs of pain and distress.
  • Drooling- This is self-explanatory.
  • Enlarged Spleen- An enlarged spleen can only be diagnosed by a vet, but you may notice some bloating.
  • Fatigue- Cats sleep a lot, but most can be easily roused. If your cat has trouble waking up, seems listless, or doesn’t get up to do its normal activities, you should always be concerned.
  • Jaundice (Yellow Skin)- Jaundice is often most noticeable inside a cat’s ears or on the whites of their eyes.
  • Shortness of Breath- Panting is the most readily apparent sign of shortness of breath in animals.
  • Tachycardia (Fast Heartbeat)- This is hard to spot if you’re not an animal medical professional, but you may hear your cat’s heartbeat if you put your ear up to their chest. A normal heartbeat for a cat is a hundred and twenty to a hundred and fifty beats per minute.

Final Thoughts

When in doubt, keep it away from your cat. This rule of thumb goes for everything, not just garlic and onions. It would be best if you never assumed a cat ‘knows’ what is bad for them and what is safe to eat. Although your feline friend has a sense of smell thousands of times more potent than yours, it doesn’t mean they can literally sniff out danger, especially if they’ve never encountered something before.

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