When it comes to their food choices, cats tend to be a little more discerning than dogs. Whereas dogs will snaffle anything even vaguely edible (and sometimes, quite a lot of things that aren’t), cats usually show more restraint. But even these normally fussy eaters can sometimes surprise us. Some cats, for example, have been known to develop a taste for Cheetos. But just how healthy is their snacking habit? Can cats eat Cheetos? Or could these cheesy bites end up doing them more harm than good? Here’s what you need to know.
Can Cats Eat Cheetos?
Ultimately, there’s no straightforward yes or no answer here. Technically, cats can eat Cheetos. A few little bites here or there or a couple of licks of Cheeto dust from your fingers isn’t going to kill them. But neither is it going to do them much good. In fairness, it’s not going to do you much good either… Cheetos are brimming with preservatives, fats, artificial dyes, salt, and additives, all of which are about as healthy as they sound. Ultimately, Cheetos aren’t toxic. They aren’t going to make your cat ill in small amounts. That doesn’t, however, mean they have any place in a healthy diet. Tasty they might be, but all that flavor comes from the kind of unnatural ingredients that really shouldn’t be making their way into your cat’s tummy with any kind of regularity. So yes, cats can technically eat Cheetos. But the real question here is not whether they can eat them, but whether they should. And the answer to that is a resounding no.
Why Are Cheetos Unhealthy For Cats?
Why are Cheetos unhealthy for cats? For the same reason they’re unhealthy for everyone – the less than wholesome ingredients. According to Thrillist, the average bag of Cheetos contains the following:
- Enriched cornmeal (cornmeal, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
Vegetable oil (corn, canola, and/or sunflower)
Cheese seasoning (whey, cheddar cheese [milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes], canola oil, maltodextrin [made from corn], salt, whey protein concentrate, monosodium glutamate, natural and artificial flavors, lactic acid, citric acid, artificial color [yellow 6])
- Does that sound appetizing to you? No? Then just wait till we break it down even further.
Enriched cornmeal doesn’t sound too unhealthy, and providing you’re a human, it’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world to eat. But ultimately, corn is a grain, and if there’s one thing that no cat really needs in its diet, it’s grain. Cats are obligate carnivores. They don’t get a choice in the matter – meat gives them every vitamin, mineral, and nutrient they need in a way that nothing else does. Switch your cat to a plant-based diet and you’ll soon be dealing with one very sick kitty. Even the added vitamins don’t change the fact that cornmeal adds zero nutritional value to your cat’s dinner bowl.
A small amount of fat is healthy, but certainly not to the extent that’s in a bag of Cheetos. It’s especially not healthy when that fat comes by way of a slightly suspicious mix of three different vegetable oils. The natural fats found in animal products are fine for cats. The processed fats that come out of a factory…. not so much.
The cheese seasoning is what makes a Cheeto a Cheeto, but it’s also a big part of the reason why cat’s really shouldn’t be snacking on them. There’s sugar, milk by-products, an artificial color that the FDA thinks is safe, but that Norway, Finland, and Sweden have all banned and which comes with a warning in the UK.. your cat’s taste buds might think all of those things are tasty, but their digestive systems might beg to disagree.
The final ingredient in Cheetos is salt. Salt is a natural, necessary ingredient that’s vital for cellular and nerve health. Cats need it just as much as us, and without it, their bodies would be thrown completely out of whack. But as faqcats.com notes, too much of even a good thing could be bad. When a cat indulges in too much salt, they’re at risk of the same problems as us – namely, dehydration, high blood pressure, and even a stroke. While most cat food contains a very small amount of salt, the amount in human foods like Cheetos is far more than cats need. At best, it’s likely to give them a raging thirst. If you have to knock back a pint of water after you’ve scoffed your way through a bag of Cheetos, just imagine how your much tinier furry friend will feel if they do the same. Although it’s rare, too much salt can even lead to salt poisoning. While it’s rarely lethal, it’s not exactly pleasant either, and can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, excessive thirst, and even seizures.
What are the Alternatives to Cheetos?
As Excited Cats writes, cat’s can be pretty finicky about what they will and won’t eat. Most won’t consider Cheetos worthy of anything other than a slightly disdainful sniff. Some, however, will love that cheesy taste enough to gobble up as many as they can. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives that will do both their tastebuds and their belly the world of good. Next time your cat’s feeling a snack attack coming on, give them some strips of tasty chicken. Some scrambled egg with just a tiny amount of grated cheese usually goes down a treat too, although go easy on the cheese if your cat has trouble digesting lactose.
If your cat can’t resist sharing a Cheeto with you occasionally, don’t panic too much. A bit of what they fancy from time to time isn’t going to do them any harm. Providing they don’t guzzle down the entire packet, they’re unlikely to come out of the experience any the worse for it. Just don’t get into the habit of sharing an entire packet with them. And for obvious reasons, steer well away from the spicy flavor varieties – a cheesy Cheeto might not do their digestions much harm, but the same can’t be said for a hot one.