Is Bread Bad For Cats?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. October 24, 2018
Is Bread Bad For Cats?

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A cat's nutritional needs are specific to their species, but there are many times we give them human food which they find delicious. Whether your particular gluten filled favorite is pizza, sandwiches, French toast or another, it is reasonable to ask yourself can cats eat bread? The simple answer is yes, cats can eat bread. If you have left an unattended bagel, the salmon on top may attract your feline friend, but give them enough time and they'll make their way to the bread underneath. However, even if cats can eat bread and enjoy doing so, is bread bad for cats? This answer isn't quite so easy. Let AnimalWised explain.

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Cat nutritional needs

Cats are strictly carnivorous animals. More specifically, they are known as obligate carnivores[1]. This means their diet needs to consist of animal flesh due to the necessary nutrients found within. They may be able to eat small amounts of plant matter, but they are unable to digest it properly. If they were to eat only plant matter, then they would not naturally find the nutrients they need and the result is lethal. It is this specific metabolism which means there are certain foods which humans can digest, but which cats are unable to process. They simply lack the enzymatic capability in their digestive tract.

The reason cats need to eat animal flesh is because there are proteins and nutrients which they cannot get from other sources. Other domestic animals are able to synthesize these nutrients, but cats cannot. They need to eat them directly. Commercial cat feed is formulated in such a way that these nutrients are present, but this varies according to quality.

Some cat owners choose to provide alternative diets such as a raw food (BARF) diet or even vegetarian alternatives. For both of these types of diet, additional nutrients need to be provided. In the case of vegetarian diets, this is particularly important. Taurine is an essential amino acid needed in a cat's diet. Vegetarian and vegan cat food needs to have synthesized taurine added to their food.

It is important to state that there is a difference between being unable to metabolize certain foodstuffs properly and food which is toxic to cats. Some foods may cause them to have a slower digestion, but others will be damaging. Theobromine in chocolate inhibits cell receptors in cats, meaning their normal function can cease and they become very ill[2].

Is Bread Bad For Cats? - Cat nutritional needs

What is bread made of

The principal ingredient of most bread products is wheat flour. They may also contain yeast, sal, milk, butter, sugar or any other ingredient an adventurous bread maker may wish to add. Of course, there are many other types available such as cornbread, oatbread or a range of gluten free alternatives. Whatever the ingredients, most bread is by nature high in carbohydrates. They will may also be high in fiber and cereals as well as contain dairy products. Fresh pasta is made from similar ingredients.

For human beings, bread responds to the need for us to have the energy, vitamins and minerals we need to survive. The fiber is good for our digestive system and, as part of a balanced diet, it can help us to live well. Food intolerance may mean some cannot digest bread, but they will still need to find their essential nutrients from another source.

Many breads may also have other ingredients added. Sweet bread pastries might have sugar added, seeded batches may have nuts and dried fruit added and many breads incorporate vegetables. This makes the potential ingredients for bread almost limitless.

Is bread bad for cats?

As we have discovered, bread is made from many different ingredients. If you have a bread such as a pain au chocolat, the chocolate in the bread is going to cause harm for the cat. Fortunately, cats lack a sweet taste receptor[3]. This means, unlike many humans, they have little interest in sweet foods. They will usually only eat them if they believe there to be some other appetizing ingredient. If a cat eats bread with any food considered toxic, then it is certainly bad for them.

When many people think of bread, they may think of a white loaf. If this is the case, the general ingredients will be wheat flour, water, yeast, butter or oil and a little salt. These ingredients provide little to no essential nutrition for the cat. They are not toxic. A little of it will not cause your cat any harm and they may even enjoy it as a rare treat.

Giving your cat bread regularly is not advised. It can be difficult for them to process and in large quantities can cause digestive problems. High carbohydrate food has also been linked to obesity in cats. It disrupts their ability to process their essential nutrients and is turned to unhealthy fat. There are some reports debating the influence of carbohydrates in terms of obesity and diabetes[4]. The issues concerns the fact that eating too many calories of any substance can lead to weight gain and associated disorders. However, since bread essentially provides empty calories, eating too much will mean cats will have to eat more essential food. This means more calories and more weight.

Is Bread Bad For Cats? - Is bread bad for cats?

Consequences of cats eating bread

As we said before, cats consuming small portions of bread will have little to no serious health repercussions. They should not, however, become used to eating bread products. If they do consume them regularly, the result may be:

  • Obesity: this is something which will be affected by many factors. Although there are many other benefits, neutering your cat can increase obesity risk[5]. Sedentary lifestyles also contribute to weight gain. For this reason, cats in these circumstances should avoid carbohydrate intake in particular.
  • Fatty liver: as the digestive organs such as the liver and kidneys need to be kept at optimal processing rates, eating too much bread can affect their functionality.
  • Diabetes: a condition exacerbated by high food intake, if a cat has diabetes mellitus then carbohydrates should be avoided. There are other dietary considerations for cats with this condition.
  • Heart problems: related to obesity, heart problems can also be exacerbated by high calorie and high carbohydrate food intake.

If the bread contains other ingredients, the cat may not have the adequate enzymes to break them down. This is the case with lactose present in dairy products. The effects of this diet may cause gastrointestinal disruption resulting in vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Can cats eat raw bread dough?

During the baking process, there is a chemical change in the ingredients of the uncooked bread dough. One of these ingredients is likely to be yeast, used to make the dough rise in the oven. Yeast has been known to stimulate cats, perhaps due to the smell. It has even been suggested yeast extract can be used as a natural additive for stimulating feline appetites[6].

However, cats should stay away from uncooked raw bread dough. The amount of yeast is too high and will likely cause digestive problems in the cat. It is a myth that the yeast will grow in the cat's stomach and cause severe bloating. However, diarrhea, indigestion and even lethargy are likely side effects.

If you see your cat eyeing your bread based meal or snack, there are much better alternatives to give them. Meat, chicken or fish (potentially the filling of your sandwich) are much better options as they will not only be a tasty treat, but will provide the nutrients they need. We also have some homemade recipes for cats which may use a little flour to bind, but is not enough to cause dietary problems.

If you want to read similar articles to Is Bread Bad For Cats?, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.


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