Is it a good thing or a bad thing to feed cats table scraps? I guess it depends on who you ask and whether you are considering their health or their behavior. The most basic and complete answer is no, it’s not a good thing. However, just like everything else that is relatively simple, the answer becomes complicated when you start looking at various angles.
When you start feeding cats table scraps you are in essence training him to be fed from the table. Of course, then you’re going to blow your stack at the sweet kitty when he jumps on the Thanksgiving table and helps himself to the turkey that hasn’t even been carved yet while you’re out back gathering the clan for a meal that would have been to die for. At least the cat thought so. More often than not, when you give cats the human leftovers, they begin to take liberties that you had never intended to give them. Some cats will take them even if you never feed them the tiniest morsel that falls on the floor. Other cats will take their cue from you, determining that if it’s good enough for you to give it to them, then it’s good enough for them to take it. Somehow they miss our human logic that denies them the ability to help themselves.
Some veterinarians believe that table scraps are the healthiest treat you can give a cat, or a dog for that matter, while some believe they should only ever be given cat treats. Most fall somewhere in between. In some cases, feeding a cat table scraps is healthier than some cats treats out there. If you are giving a cat undoctored healthy meat scraps, some vets will insist this is healthier than treats with the main ingredient of wheat or “byproduct” and “meal.” These are code words for “not the real thing.” Fish byproduct means a product derived from fish, not the fish we think of sitting steamed to perfection on our plates.
Some experts say that it can be okay to feed the cat pieces of fresh meats provided that this isn’t carried out at the table. This way you can offer your cat the best of the proteins and crude fats that are healthy for his digestive system and fur while regulating his behavior. Cats can be trained to eat only what is served to them at their dish. However, these same experts warn that dishing out the goodies regularly can cause your little fur ball to become rather fickle, turning his nose up in disgust when you feed him his regular cat food.
Cats need some form of regularity for their digestive tracts to work well. Despite your best efforts, unless you are eating the same thing every night, giving your cat random scraps can make his little tummy revolt on occasion, leaving you with a highly unattractive mess that hopefully made it to the litter box.
Cats do not ingest milk or other dairy products well at all. Despite the cute cartons which feature milk as a main staple for cats, it is one of the fastest ways to give them explosive bowel issues. And cats can not always make it to their litter box when they are ill. While it is true that cats love dairy products, and will often break the rules to grab a few precious licks of the ice cream you left in the bottom of your dish when you ran off to the bathroom, dairy is a terrible treat for cats. In some rare cases, dairy can actually cause serious health problems, and on even rarer occasions it can cause deadly health problems. As rare as this may be, it won’t matter how often or how little it happens if it happens to your kitty.
For those of us who still live without the convenience of a dishwasher, having a cat around to clean up some particularly unattractive left over meal remnants can seem like a handy idea. And it is handy. Nobody can deny how much easier it is to wash a plate that has been completely devoured by a cat with a mission. If it wasn’t for the tell tale kitty slime of their saliva all over the plate, you could just stick it back into the cabinet and no one would be the wiser. Expect your cat. Your rather obese cat that can no longer jump up onto his favorite perch to watch the birds outside or the cat you now have to heft up onto the bed for a cozy night of cuddling.
The number one health issue facing cats today is obesity. Fat cats are not cute, they are dangerously unhealthy. Fat cats have all the same troubles as obese humans, plus a few extras that we don’t have to contend with. When you allow your cat to become morbidly overweight you are robbing him not only of the length of his life, but the quality of his life as well. How much fun is life for a cat who can’t creep around his favorite places because he can’t jump any more. How much does he really enjoy sleeping on the floor because you are not home to pick him up on command? How horrible is it to watch your cat struggle with back pain knowing that you had a direct hand in his current condition?
Feeding a cat table scraps can lead to this situation faster than you might think. The best protection for your cat, whether you are concerned with his health or his behavior, is to regulate his food intake, give him plenty of exercise, and substitute that slice of fish with those dangerous choking hazard bones hidden inside with an extra helping of loving attention. Your cat will most definitely live a healthier, happier, and longer life and you will be pleased with the lack of kitty paw prints on the kitchen counter.