Can I Give My Cat Crackers?One of the longest, hardest-fought battles throughout American history has been the battle between sweet and savory. Some people insist that cookies are the superior snack food, while others will fight to the death (not really) insisting that chips are far tastier, more satisfying, and generally more munchy-friendly. But, if there is one food that can satisfy both fans of sweet and savory, it’s the humble cracker. There are crackers for every occasion, from your Kindergartener’s lunch (graham crackers) all the way to an appetizer spread at a party (Ritz, Wheat Thins, or Triscuits). Crackers are great crumbled into soups, slathered in sweet or savory dips or spreads, covered in spices and toppings, or simply snacked on straight out of the box.
Many of us use healthier, more natural brands of crackers as treats for ourselves and our children. But can we do the same for our pets? Can cats have crackers?
The answer is no. In ideal circumstances, cats should not eat crackers. While most types of crackers are not necessarily poisonous to cats—they will not result in immediately life-threatening symptoms—they have no health benefits, they are often high in calories and salt, and they can mess up your cat’s fragile digestive system. You have no need to panic if your cat eats a couple goldfish crackers off the floor, but if you want to look out for their health, you should avoid feeding them crackers when possible. Crackers are junk food, and your cat has no need for them.
Risks of Feeding Your Cat Crackers?
Are there any pluses whatsoever to feeding your cat crackers? Not really. Even crackers that are marketed as baked, low-sodium, or as a ‘healthy’ alternative to potato chips are hugely lacking in nutrition—most of them are primarily carbohydrates, added oil, and salt. There are no micronutrients in crackers, so your cat will not get the benefit of any added vitamins, minerals, or phytochemicals. Though we may consider crackers to be less harmful than potato chips, they are still by no means a health food, and our cats do not need them.
Since crackers are empty calories, the biggest risk associated with them is weight gain, which may lead to obesity. If you make a habit of giving your cat nutritionally empty, unsatisfying foods such as crackers, they will be more compelled to overeat. It doesn’t matter how ‘careful’ you are—if your cat takes in more calories than they expend every day, they will start to pack on the pounds. A family of pudgy Persians may be adorable, but they are not healthy.
Feline obesity is the most common nutrition-related problem seen in cats today. The Internet may love to watch portly pets waddle across the kitchen in search of snacks, but obesity is no laughing matter. For starters, obesity will have an immediate impact on your cat’s mobility and quality of life. Cats who are carrying around extra weight may become lethargic, clumsy, and short of breath, which can ruin their innate love of physical activity. Running after a laser light becomes a chore when your joints ache from hauling around extra body fat!
Things to Keep in MindIn addition, feline obesity can exacerbate existing health problems, or even increase your cat’s risk of developing problems further down the line. Being overweight or obese puts added stress on your cats musculoskeletal system, which wears down cartilage, stresses joints, and greatly increases their risk of suffering from the symptoms of arthritis and hip dysplasia. In addition, fat cats are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, and even many types of cancer. Considering roughly half of all cats who visit vet’s offices across the United States are overweight or obese, there is no need to add any extra calories to your cat’s diet!
In addition to concerns of weight gain, crackers often contain ingredients that can harm your cat’s health in other ways. Many crackers are flavored with ingredients like garlic, chives, and onions, all of which can cause life-threatening toxicity. If your cat eats a substantial amount of crackers containing these ingredients, it would be wise to contact your veterinarian. Your vet may be able to induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal, which will head off symptoms of poisoning.
Crackers also have quite a bit of added salt. Cats can’t handle nearly as much added salt as we can, and they may be at an increased risk of high blood pressure, dehydration, and in severe cases, salt poisoning.
We all love crackers, and we love the ‘cute factor’ associated with feeding pudgy pets human snack foods. Sharing your crackers, which are often pressed into fun shapes, may be appealing, but it isn’t in your cat’s best interest. Crackers are junk food. Giving your cat this unhealthy snack can put them at an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, joint problems, and, if they contain garlic, chives or onions, even life-threatening poisoning. Skip the crackers and opt for small amounts of cat-friendly fruits or vegetables.