Can Cats Eat Onions? No, Not At All—and Here’s Why

Katten TrimSalon

Our beloved feline companions often display an insatiable curiosity when it comes to our food. Their persuasive meows can be hard to resist, but there are times when it’s crucial to steer them away from certain human foods that may be harmful to their health. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they rely on animal protein for their sustenance and survival. So, what happens if your furry friend starts showing interest in your plate of chicken and sautéed onions? Can cats eat onions? Absolutely not. Let’s delve into the reasons why.

Are Onions Bad for Cats?

Without a doubt. According to Genna Mize, DVM and technical services veterinarian at Katten TrimSalon, even a tiny amount of onion can have devastating consequences for your feline companion. Cats, more than dogs, are highly susceptible to the toxic effects of onions due to a compound called n-propyl disulfide. This compound disrupts the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body, leading to anemia.

It’s important to note that onions belong to the Allium spp family, which encompasses numerous species. Mize advises cat owners to avoid feeding their pets any Allium foods, including chives, leeks, scallions (also known as green onions), shallots, and garlic. Even ingredients like powdered or freeze-dried onion spices should be completely off-limits. The toxicity of an onion product increases with its concentration and flavor. So, if you ever decide to offer your cat a small piece of chicken as a treat, make sure it’s unseasoned and thoroughly cooked—no salt or spices at all.

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Onion Poisoning Symptoms in Cats

Regrettably, it doesn’t matter if your cat consumes cooked onions, raw onions, or onion spices—they are likely to become ill. To make matters worse, some symptoms may not manifest immediately. If your cat ingests enough onions to cause medical problems, the first sign is usually gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting and diarrhea. However, other symptoms might appear up to five days later, putting your pet at risk.

“When the body’s compensatory mechanisms have been depleted and red blood cell changes have caused a level of anemia, illness sets in,” warns Mize. Vets advise pet owners to seek immediate medical attention if vomiting becomes frequent or if diarrhea persists for more than two days. Additional symptoms of onion poisoning in cats include red-to-brown colored urine, pale gums, yellowed skin, increased breathing and heart rate, sudden weight loss, weakness, exercise intolerance, and depression.

What To Do If Your Cat Eats Onions

If you suspect that your cat has consumed onions or if you observe any of the aforementioned warning signs, it is crucial to seek professional assistance from your veterinarian without delay. Mize emphasizes that there is no home remedy for onion poisoning, and your cat must be evaluated by a vet as soon as possible.

“Unfortunately, there is no specific antidote for onion poisoning. If your cat has recently ingested the food items (within approximately two hours), your vet will most likely recommend decontamination methods, such as inducing vomiting,” advises Mize. Additionally, your veterinarian will perform blood work, including a complete blood cell count, organ function tests, and a urinalysis to gain a better understanding of your cat’s condition.

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As a responsible pet owner, you can provide valuable assistance by providing a detailed history, including specific timelines of your cat’s consumption or possible exposure to onions, and reporting any unusual behaviors or signs you have noticed at home. Remember, keeping onions and other Allium foods away from your cat is the best way to ensure their well-being.

So, the next time your furry friend shows interest in your plate, remember to prioritize their health and feed them an appropriate meal.