Can Cats Eat Garlic?

Fresh garlic on wooden background
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Whether you're preparing an Italian feast, cooking up a homemade flu remedy, or warding off vampires, garlic is a key staple in many homes. From cloves to powder, garlic makes regular appearances in our kitchens. Because it is so heavily utilized, it's easy for our pets to get their paws and claws on these cloves. But is garlic safe for cats? Let's find out.

Can cats eat garlic?

We'll keep this answer short and sweet, well, maybe not that sweet: Cats should never eat garlic. Garlic is unsafe and can cause serious digestive and general health issues in cats. If too much garlic is ingested, the vegetable will prove toxic and can lead to death if symptoms go untreated.

The harmful effects of garlic

Garlic belongs to the allium family along with onions, chives, shallots, and leeks. If a high dose of these vegetables are given to cats or dogs, the results could be poisonous. Garlic in particular, is considered to be five times more poisonous to both cats and dogs than onions.

Vegetables from the allium family contain a compound that causes oxidative damage to the red blood cells. The compound makes these blood cells more likely to rupture. Too much garlic can also cause gastroenteritis with symptoms that include oral irritation, drooling, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains and diarrhea.

In cats, garlic can be dangerous enough to produce signs of anemia (lethargy, elevated heart rates, weakness, and even fainting). Cats are quite sedentary to begin with so anemia symptoms can be hard to detect but with garlic poisoning, there can be a drastic drop in energy and increase in weakness.

Feline Health
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Are small amounts of garlic alright?

Most pet owners know not to give their kitties cloves of garlic. But it's important to really watch out for sharing foods that have garlic as an ingredient, even in small amounts. If your cat accidentally eats food with garlic as an ingredient, he can still be in harm's way.

As little as 5 grams of onion can be harmful to cats and since garlic is five times more harmful than onion, even trace amounts of garlic can do damage to your cat's health.

What to do if your cat eats garlic

If you catch your kitty getting his claws on pure garlic or a substantial amount, do your best to calmly take it away from him. If it's already ingested, watch for signs of poisoning including, drooling, vomiting, lethargy, or diarrhea. The signs of poisoning may have a delayed onset. Clinical signs may not show up for several days. If they do, contact your veterinarian immediately for further instruction.

Conclusion

Although a great addition to human diets, garlic is toxic for cats and should never be fed to any pet. Garlic belongs to the allium family and contains a compound that leads to oxidative damage and gastroenteritis. Your kitty's tiny body is not strong enough to fight against this compound the way a human body would. Stay on the safe side and feed your cat a protein based diet of quality brand cat food. If your little guy somehow gets into the garlic or eats food containing garlic, watch for signs of trouble and contact your veterinarian immediately.