Can I Give My Cat Candy?ice cream are best in the summer, warm cookies and brownies epitomize wintertime, and fruity muffins and cupcakes scream spring—but one dessert that manages to wiggle its way into just about every season and holiday is candy. Candy canes are an integral part of the winter holidays, candy corn is a necessity of Halloween, and Easter would be nothing without a big, hollow chocolate bunny. No matter how much we love candy, we’re careful when we share it with our little kids… but, heck, we have to let them indulge every now and then. Sure, candy does not boost kidney health or support a healthy immune system, but it is good for the soul.
We know we can treat our two-legged kids to the occasional piece of candy, but what about the ones who prance around on four legs? Should your Siamese reap the benefits of Halloween baskets and holiday stockings? Can cats have candy?
Since the term ‘candy’ covers quite a wide range of products, it’s difficult to provide an exact answer, but in general: no, candy is not recommended for cats. While eating a gummy worm every now and then likely will not do your cat any harm, there are some types of candy that may put your cat at risk of poisoning or choking even in very small amounts. To make matters worse, almost all candy is loaded with processed sugar, which can damage your cat’s overall health. Add in the fact that cats can’t even taste sweet things, and there is really no good reason to feed your cat candy!
Any Health Benefits?
What? Cats can’t taste sweet things? It sounds insane, but it’s true. Cats have long been considered to be extremely finicky eaters (especially compared to their canine counterparts), but in 2005, scientists figured out why: feline taste buds do not have the sugar detection equipment needed to experience sweetness. You could give your cat a bowl of powdered sugar soaked in maple syrup and they still would not be able to savor the religious experience that is devouring sugary foods. This is why many cats do not even like candy—if you offer your calico some of your Nerds, they will likely spit it in a drooly mess on the floor and look down their nose at you.
There certainly are no health benefits in candy, which is usually made almost entirely of sugar, corn syrup, and artificial flavors. At best, candy is empty calories and unnecessary sugar, which can wreak havoc on your cat’s health in the long term. If you sneak candy to your cat regularly, the extra calories will likely cause them to gain weight. If this carries on long enough, your cat will likely wind up overweight or even obese.
Cats who are carrying too much extra weight often experienced a diminished quality of life as a result of decreased mobility, low energy levels, shortness of breath, joint pain, and a general inability to enjoy exercise. Obesity can have more severe health effects, too, such as an increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. Fat, lazy cats tend not to be happy cats.
All that extra sugar is a nightmare for your cat’s dental health, too. Sugar increases your cat’s odds of developing cavities, gingivitis, and other oral health problems. This doesn’t just mean your cat will have to have some teeth removed. The bacteria associated with poor oral health often ‘leak’ toxins into the bloodstream, which can slowly poison other organ systems. Extreme cases of dental health problems can even result in organ failure.
Things to Keep in MindChocolate is poisonous to cats, and chocolate poisoning can be life threatening. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, extreme thirst, excessive urination, arrhythmias, seizures, and tremors.
Second on the list of forbidden candies is anything sugar-free, which often contains the toxic sweetener xylitol. While xylitol will not likely do you any immediate harm, it may cause liver failure in cats and dogs. To be on the safe side, avoid giving your cat anything that contains zero-calorie sweeteners. Other dangerous candies include those wrapped in foil and tiny, hard candies like Runts or Jolly Ranchers, which may pose a choking hazard.
Though we love to indulge in candy to celebrate all of our favorite holidays, we should probably resist the urge to share our brightly-colored goodies with our cats. They do not need the extra calories, and they do not need the extra sugar. Many types of candy even pose choking hazards or contain ingredients that are downright poisonous to cats. Since your furry friend can’t even taste the sweetness of sugar, there’s no real reason to use candy as a treat. Give them cat treats instead!