As you begin baking for the holidays, you may have a feline “helper” supervising your baking. After all, cats have powerful noses and gingerbread smells amazing.
As you pull the cookies out of the oven, your cat is eyeing the cookies and you, trying to convince you to share. Can your assistant have a sample?
Unfortunately, cats cannot partake in enjoying a snack of gingerbread with their families, or in the traditional snack of raw dough while the gingerbread is baked.
All baked goods that people enjoy around the holidays should be off-limits to your feline friend. Cats are carnivores, and as such, baked goods do not offer the nutritional values they need.
Why are cats not allowed to eat gingerbread?
According to Catological, Cats cannot eat gingerbread. However, ginger is not the problem; the sugars, spices, and herbs are what cannot be on your cat’s menu.
Cats cannot partake in gingerbread because of the sugars. According to Avoderm, sugars containing xylitol are toxic to cats and sugars that do not contain xylitol are bad for cats too.
Gingerbread is often decorated with candies and icing that contain xylitol, and the gingerbread itself has the potential to contain this ingredient too.
Can cats eat ginger?
Yes, cats may eat ginger. According to VCA (Veterinary Centers of America) Animal Hospital, ginger has been used to treat cats in Western Herbal Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Ginger is most often used to help prevent pets from vomiting and feeling nauseous, such as during pregnancy or during chemotherapy treatments. Ginger is also used to aid pet’s digestive systems, and to help pets who have heart disease.
However, the veterinarians at VCA Animal Hospital recommend that pet parents always use caution when introducing ginger to their cat as the effects of ginger in cats are still being researched.
Further, there are many homeopathic remedies for cats that contain ginger. Always consult with your veterinarian before treating your cat with a homeopathic remedy.
Ginger must be administered to cats by weight, and your veterinarian can assist you in determining what amount would be healthy for your cat. Never blindly serve your cat a large amount of ginger; there is such thing as too much of a good thing.
Many supplements also contain ginger. Supplements for cats are not regulated very strictly, and as such, it is recommended that cat owners consult with their veterinarian before administering any new supplements to their cats.
What can gingerbread or other human baked goods do to cats?
While your cat may initially appear happy to eat human baked goods, the flavor they savor momentarily will be regretted later.
Gingerbread and other sugary foods cause digestive upset in cats due to the sugars, spices, and herbs. Their little bodies were not made to digest and break down sugars the way our bodies can.
They will experience unpleasant physical symptoms associated with digestive upset, such as stomach ache, diarrhea, and vomiting. The phrase, “nothing is free”, is best understood by a cat who has eaten a human food that they should not have.
The dietary needs of cats
According to Canidae, cats are obligate carnivores. This means that a healthy cat diet contains more meats and fewer carbohydrates.
Scientists have studied the diets of wild cats. They have not seen a wild cat forage for fruit and vegetables; they actually consume very low amounts of plant-based foods and often obtain plant-based nutrients through the live prey that they eat.
Cats need the nutrients of taurine, niacin, and arginine, which they obtain from a carnivorous diet. Their bodies cannot obtain nutrients the way that omnivores and herbivores can; cats truly do require high protein diets.
Cats have shorter digestive tracts than animals who are omnivores or herbivores. This means that snacks like gingerbread will impact them more than you may anticipate. Even a tiny taste of the wrong snack can negatively impact their digestive system for a few days.
Gingerbread not only fails to fulfill a cat’s dietary requirements, but it can also cause digestive upset. If a cat does not feel good, they will not want to eat their meals, and they may drink less water.
The impact of feeding cats unhealthy foods
Your cat may beg for lots of human foods that simply are not appropriate for them to eat. Even though it is difficult to say no to their cute faces, it is best if you stay strong when they beg.
Many cats are picky eaters. If they get a taste for something that is not healthy and they like it, they may become even more picky, refusing to eat the nutritious meals that they need.
Another consideration is the size of most commercial cat treats and cat foods. Cat treats are tiny, and canned cat foods are usually quite small as well.
Considering how minuscule the serving sizes of cat food and treats are, even a small taste of unhealthy food can be a huge indulgence of extra calories.
If your cat is regularly getting samples of unhealthy foods, even tiny samples, this can contribute to them having difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.
If your cat is not a picky eater, feeding them human food from the table or from the kitchen counter can have other ramifications.
Feeding cats something tasty like gingerbread will encourage bad behavior; they will learn to beg incessantly until you concede and share your snacks.
No does not always mean no to a pushy cat. Cats have an upper paw to begging and food theft that most dogs do not; they can jump up onto the kitchen counter or the kitchen table to steal snacks.
Food does not equal love
Many people have emotional investments in certain holiday foods, as they have happy memories of eating these foods while celebrating holidays with family. Many people also feel that feeding their cat is a way to show them that they are loved.
While your cat may disagree, feeding a cat table scraps is not the best way to show them, love. Here is a list of festive ways that you can show your cat they are loved during the holidays:
- Sew a Catnip Mouse Toy in festive holiday fabric.
- Crochet a custom Christmas Stocking and stuff it with fun kitty toys.
- Make a cat toy out an “up-cycled” holiday t-shirt.
- “Up-cycle” a holiday t-shirt into a T-shirt Cat Tent.
- Make your cat a fun kitty teepee to hide from holiday guests in.
- Make your cat their very own game of “whack-a-mouse“.
- Create a cardboard cat castle.
- Make catnip yarn balls for your cat to play with using festive colored yarn.
- Bake cat treats for your cat.
- Snuggle your cat.
Baking for your Cat
Even though your cat cannot enjoy human baked goods with their families, there are ways to include them in the family feast. Cats may enjoy special homemade treats baked with love just for them.
If food is your love language, here is a way to include your cat in your next baking session. Here are some recipes designed especially for kitty cat consumption:
- Kitty Croutons by the ASPCA
- Make treats out of wet cat food by following the steps in this article from Hills Pet food.
- Chewy Cat Treats by Joy the Baker
- This recipe for High Protein Cat treats can be customized to your cat’s personal taste.
- 2 ingredient Grain-Free Tuna Cat Treats by The Supakit Blog
Cats cannot eat gingerbread or other human baked goods. If you want to bake for your cat, there are many cat safe recipes available online.
If you want to give your cat a special holiday treat, ask your veterinarian at their next examination what human treats they may enjoy on special occasions. For a list of foods that are toxic to cats, read this article by Hills Pet Food.