Pet Consider

Can Cats Eat Ketchup?

Can I Give My Cat Ketchup?


The standard American diet is horrific, but it has led to a wide variety of food rules, including one related to everybody’s favorite condiment. This rule, which applies to any type of cuisine, is as follows: if it is edible, someone in the United States loves to eat it with ketchup. Almost everyone has learned to love ketchup drizzled onto hash browns, pumped into a pile next to a heap of French fries, and squirted into hamburgers, but many people take their love for ketchup to a whole other level. Even for those of us who pride ourselves on eating more healthfully than the average American, ketchup remains a common feature on our lunch or dinner tables.

This gives our pets plenty of opportunities to sample this salty, sugary, tomato-based condiment. But the question is: does it damage their health? Is it life-threatening? Can cats have ketchup?

The simple answer is yes, they can, but they definitely should not. If you give your feline friend a small amount of ketchup from time to time, it is unlikely to cause any lasting harm. However, ketchup is full of ingredients that can be harmful in the long term, so it is best avoided. If your cat licks a dollop of ketchup off the paper your fast food burger came wrapped in, you do not need to panic. But if you are wondering whether or not you should ‘treat’ Fluffy to this sweet and salty sauce, you’re better off keeping it to yourself.

Health Benefits?

ketchupThough not as common an argument as it once was, some people still suggest, half-seriously, that ketchup is healthy because it is a tomato product. As nice as it would be to believe that dousing your burger in ketchup turns it into a health food, it just isn’t true. Ketchup is a highly processed product. The process of making ketchup removes most of the health benefits and replaces them with substances that will only harm you (and your cat!)

Though the water and the fiber (and maybe the antioxidants) found in whole tomatoes may offer some small health benefits for your cat, ketchup does not. Ketchup is a low-fiber, high-salt food that will only contribute to dehydration and digestive issues for your pet. Tomatoes are most prized for their high levels of the antioxidant lycopene, but ketchup hardly has any lycopene. Ketchup is junk food for you, which means that it is definitely junk food for your cat.

Regularly slipping empty calories into your cat’s diet can cause your cat to gain weight. Over time, they may even wind up overweight or obese. While the number of calories in this red condiment may seem negligible to you, it can add up fast for your feline friend—this is because the average cat only needs roughly 250 calories every day. Your cat is far smaller than you, so it doesn’t take very much for them to pack on the pounds!

In addition to ketchup’s general junkiness, there are a few potentially dangerous ingredients to worry about. One of them is salt—our favorite condiment is absolutely full of it. In the long term, too much salt can exacerbate cardiovascular problems and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. In the short term, consuming too much salt can result in salt poisoning, or hypernatremia. If your cat has consumed too much salt, they may begin to exhibit symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, extreme thirst, low energy, poor coordination or stumbling, swelling, loss of appetite, tremors, or seizures. Left untreated, hypernatremia can result in permanent kidney damage or even death, so get your cat to the vet’s office as soon as possible.

Things to Consider

Though your cat is unlikely to eat enough ketchup for it to cause a problem, ketchup also contains both garlic and onions as flavorings. Both of these ingredients are extremely toxic to cats—either in one big dose or in several smaller doses over a long period of time. This is why you should not give your cat any amount of a food that contains garlic or onions on a regular basis. Over time, doing so may result in a condition called Heinz body anemia, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms of Heinz body anemia include fever, loss of appetite, sudden fatigue or weakness, discolored urine, shortness of breath, and pale skin, lips, and gums. If your cat demonstrates these symptoms, take them to the vet as soon as possible. To protect your cat’s health, it’s best to assume that there is no safe amount of garlic or onions to feed them.

Final Thoughts

All things considered, there is really no good reason to give your cat ketchup. At best, it is a nutritionally empty junk food that will only add extra calories into their diet and increase their risk of becoming overweight or obese. At worst, it is a potentially harmful food that can result in hypernatremia and Heinz body anemia if consumed in excess.

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