Can cats have garlic? While many recommend feeding garlic to pets to help ward off fleas and ticks, this ingredient is actually toxic to cats and dogs and can make them seriously ill if eaten in large enough quantities. Even if you've fed your cat garlic in the past, you might have just been lucky and should stop the practice now. Reviewing some of the myths and misconceptions about garlic's benefits for cats and understanding why this food or seasoning is toxic will help you better care for your cat.
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Why do people recommend garlic?
If you perform a web search for home remedies for treating ticks and fleas in pets, you'll often see recommendations for adding garlic to a pet's food. Pet gurus recommend this because when pets ingest garlic, it gets into their blood. When ticks and fleas bite a pet who has eaten this plant, the pest dislikes the taste of the blood.
The flea or tick then communicates with the rest of its pesky friends to stay away from this animal, reducing ticks and fleas on the cat or dog. Instead of adding garlic salt or powder to a cat's food as a home remedy for fleas, try brewer's yeast instead or a homemade flea shampoo.
Is garlic toxic to cats?
Garlic is toxic to cats and can cause serious health issues if taken in the wrong quantity. Can you get away with adding a little garlic to a cat's food, or can you safely let your kitty have some of your leftover shrimp scampi? Maybe — but why take a chance?
Garlic is a member of the Allium family along with leeks, onions, and chives. Garlic is five times more toxic than onions. As a general rule, assume that garlic and cats aren't a good combination in any quantity.
What problems does it cause?
When cats eat enough garlic (either in one big dose or eating a small amount daily), it can cause gastroenteritis. This can result in vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, drooling, or oral irritation. In addition, garlic can lead to serious harm to red blood cells. Red blood cells help oxygenate animals, and when they are damaged, this can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including elevated heart rate, increased respiratory rate, anemia, organ function problems, lack of energy, or death.
Pet illness symptoms caused by eating garlic don't appear right away. The impact of eating garlic can be delayed by several days, so you might not connect your cat's sickness to her diet and particularly to the fact that you fed her garlic two days ago.
In addition to keeping garlic out of your cat's food, make sure family members, friends, and others know that you don't want this ingredient fed to your cat. If you let your cat roam outside or are feeding a feral cat, keep an eye out for neighbors' gardens and ask if they are growing garlic. If so, you might need to find a way to keep the cat away from that space.
If your cat gets sick
If you suspect your cat has become ill after eating garlic (or any other food), don't try to treat the problem yourself. Contact a veterinarian. Vets will use safe methods for inducing vomiting (if necessary) or will use treatments such as giving the cat an IV, activated charcoal, other medications, or even oxygen therapy or a blood transfusion.