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With Halloween just around the bend, you and your family are probably looking forward to more treats than tricks. Those colorful, foil-wrapped delights can also tempt your feline family members, but cats and candy can be a dangerous combination. For their safety, keep your kitty away from your candy stash.
Dangerous Foods for Cats
Some ingredients commonly found in Halloween candy and treats can upset your cat's stomach, while others can be downright toxic. The ASPCA warns against the following foods in particular.
The ingredient that makes up the majority of Halloween candy — and the one that might just be the yummiest to your kids — is also one of the most toxic to your pets. Chocolate contains caffeine and the compound theobromine, both of which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, heart arrhythmia, muscle tremors and seizures. The ASPCA notes that dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk or white chocolate, as it has higher levels of these harmful substances.
Cats have low levels of the enzyme that helps the body digest lactose in milk and dairy products. While ingesting candy that contains dairy isn't likely to be lethal, it can cause an upset stomach, vomiting and digestive issues such as diarrhea.
This sweetener is used as a sugar substitute in many sugar-free candies and chewing gums. In dogs, xylitol is known to raise insulin levels and cause a severe drop in blood sugar, and it can lead to liver failure. While there aren't reported cases of this occurring with cats, Preventive Vet suggests this may simply be because cats are more discerning about what they eat. It's better to be safe than sorry and keep your cat away from sugar-free treats.
There's always that one house that hands out boxes of raisins in place of candy. What's meant to be a healthy treat for your kids, however, can be unsafe for your pets. All types of raisins and grapes are known to cause kidney failure in dogs. While less common, according to the Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, there have been reports of cats showing signs of toxicity after eating grapes and raisins. Keep those little boxes out of paw's reach.
Toxicity isn't the only danger that comes from mixing cats and candy. Your cat is actually less likely to be tempted by the candy itself than by those colorful, crinkly candy wrappers. What they may see as a new toy can be a choking hazard. If your cat manages to ingest a wrapper without choking on it, it could cause an intestinal blockage, warns the ASPCA.
Paper sticks left over from lollipops and hard candy can also become choking hazards. To keep your kitty out of harm's way, store all Halloween candy securely in a place where they can't get to it, and discard all of the wrappers properly.
If Your Cat Ingests Candy
Here's what to do if you think your cat might have eaten some candy (or a candy wrapper):
- If possible, determine what and how much they ate.
- Call your veterinarian, who can advise you whether you should observe your cat for signs of toxicity or bring them in for treatment.
- If you can't reach your vet, call the nearest emergency pet hospital. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
If you have small children in the house, there's more than one reason to supervise their candy intake. Make sure they aren't tempted to share their tasty sweets with the family cat and that they don't leave any wrappers lying around for them to play with. If you want to involve your cat in the Halloween fun, throw a few of their favorite cat treats or kibbles in a treat-dispensing toy. Give your kitty a Halloween cat treat that's good for them — and leave the human treats to the humans.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a freelance writer and blogger who has been writing in the pet health and lifestyle space since 2014. Her clients have included Hill's Pet, American Kennel Club, Chewy, and more.