Can Cats Have Bread?
If there is a single food that every man, woman, and child adores, it’s bread. Whether you make sandwiches, smother it in butter, dunk it in spaghetti sauce, or transform it into toast, you probably enjoy some form of bread several times a week. Whether it’s white, whole wheat, or even gluten-free, bread is a staple in most households. There is a type of bread out there for absolutely everyone: there’s vegan bread, there’s sprouted grain bread, there’s gluten-free bread, and all of those options are available in organic versions. Everyone eats bread. It’s delicious, it’s versatile, and it’s easy on our stomachs when we have a hard time keeping anything else down. But is bread suitable for our cats, or is it strictly a ‘people food’?
Can you give your cat bread? The answer: Yes, but only as a treat. There is nothing in most breads that will be in any way poisonous to your cat, but because of its low nutrient and high carbohydrate content, it should be kept to a minimum. This is in large part due to the way your cat’s digestive system evolved.
Cats, unlike people and dogs, are obligate carnivores. This means that, in a perfect world, cats would meet all of their nutritional needs by hunting and eating whole prey animals—including both muscle and organ meats. Since cats have evolved to eat meat, they have lost some of their ability to digest plant foods the way that omnivores and herbivores can. They are also unable to synthesize many of the vitamins and minerals that omnivores and herbivores can create on their own.
This is because, since they eat the muscle of other animals, they get all of these nutrients already synthesized in their proper form. This inability to synthesize many vitamins and amino acids is a big part of why even the heartiest, ‘healthiest’ bread will never be a health food for your cat. His body simply can’t combine the components into whole vitamins on its own!
So, is there any benefit to feeding your cat bread? For the most part, no. The one small health benefit may come from feeding your cat varieties of bread that are particularly high in fiber. Though cats should not eat large amounts of dietary fiber, a small amount may help improve digestion and reduce the risk of some cancers.
In addition, fiber can treat both diarrhea and constipation. How? Because it absorbs water. In the case of diarrhea, fiber can soak up some of the water sitting in the intestine, helping to solidify stool. For constipation, fiber absorbs water and adds bulk, which helps ‘sweep out’ the colon like a broom. That being said, if your cat suffers from severe or chronic constipation, bread is not a proper substitute for veterinary care. There are also other cat-friendly foods (including fruits and vegetables) which may help balance your cat’s digestion better than a slice of bread.
Things to Keep in Mind
If you make the decision to feed your cat bread, make sure you read the ingredients first. Much of the sliced sandwich bread on supermarkets shelves is extremely high in salt, sugar, preservatives, and artificial flavors, which can have adverse effects on your cat’s health. Any added sugar or salt is unhealthy for your cat, so it’s important to keep the serving size very small. This includes our favorite ‘healthy’ brands, like organic, gluten-free, or ‘natural’ breads. In general, look for options with less sugar and salt and shorter ingredient lists. These brands usually contain fewer preservatives and can be easier to digest. Avoid dessert breads altogether, and beware of any bread containing raisins. Raisins are extremely toxic to cats—eating them can result in kidney failure and death. Avoid garlic bread, in any amount, for the same reason.
Though it is safe to give your cat baked bread every now and then, avoid feeding them uncooked bread dough at all costs. No amount of raw bread dough is safe for your cats—if they eat it accidentally, you may want to contact your veterinarian to induce vomiting. Why? Because raw bread dough will rise inside your cat’s stomach. As the bread expands, it causes the abdomen to distend, which can cause severe pain. Bread rising inside of your cat can turn into a blockage, which cuts off the blood flow to and from your cat’s stomach. In addition, the yeast inside the dough may ferment, which can result in alcohol poisoning in extreme cases. If your cat shows signs of alcohol poisoning or being ‘drunk’, and you suspect that they might have consumed bread dough, take them to the vet’s office as soon as possible.
While baked bread offers no nutrition for your cat, it’s perfectly safe to give them as a rare treat. Just make sure that the bread is fully cooked, fairly low in salt and sugar, and free of no-no foods like garlic and raisins. And keep the serving size small!
Cat Eating Bread Video: