Garlic is a popular food for humans to eat. Often found in a variety of foods, it has some pretty cool health benefits and can add flavor to just about anything, from meat to pickles. Since it is so widely used, people with cats may be wondering whether it is equally good for their feline friends. And is there a difference between the raw (or cooked) garlic bulb and garlic powder? Can cats eat garlic (in any form)?
Short answer: No. Garlic is very toxic to cats.
Part of the Allium family which includes onions and shallots, garlic cannot be digested by cats (or dogs for that matter). And while some foods that cannot be very well digested sails largely harmlessly through, garlic can wreak havoc on a cat’s body, namely through causing hemolytic anemia.
When red blood cells burst, it can cause your cat to become incredibly ill and can be fatal. At the least, garlic can cause gastroenteritis, which is a swelling of the stomach and intestines that is very painful.
If you are concerned that your cat got into some garlic, look for the following signs:
- Elevated heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
- Pale gums
Garlic poisoning can take up to four days to show up in a cat, so if you think that it got into garlic, watch your cat for signs for four days or even longer and if you see any, call your vet.
Do Cats Like Garlic?
Fortunately, cats probably won’t go after garlic. It’s not something they are disposed to eat at the best of times and while they may be curious about it, most of them would likely ignore it. The main issue comes up if you cook meat with a lot of garlic and then let your cat have it – that is where the poisoning can happen and is one reason to avoid giving your cat food from your plate unless it is completely unseasoned.
Do Cats Hate Garlic?
It’s doubtful cats hate garlic (though they will hate the results of eating it) since they wouldn’t bother with it anyway.
Can Garlic Kill Cats?
Yes, garlic can absolutely kill cats.
The main issue with garlic is that it enters the bloodstream and ruptures the red blood cells, leading to hemolytic anemia. In particular, the oxidant n-propyl disulfide which is found in garlic causes an oxidative effect on the red blood cells and in turn, causes hemolytic amenia.
Hemolytic amenia is a disorder wherein red blood cells are destroyed faster than they are made by the body. This in turn disrupts the body’s ability to send oxygen to the organs which, over the long run, can cause damage and organ failure.
Cats cannot handle much garlic at all, compared to other animals and humans. This is partly because they are smaller and partly because their spleen takes away the damaged cells, leading to thinning of the blood which is also bad for kitty. So, they get hit all around by garlic and the effects are cumulative and often sneaks up on both pets and owners.
How Much Garlic is Safe for Cats?
Because garlic is so toxic, it’s best to err on the side of caution and limit your cat’s intake of garlic to none at all. On top of the damage being cumulative, some cats may simply be more sensitive than others, worsening their reaction.
What about Garlic in Other Things?
Garlic is often found in other foods, including food that your cat would otherwise be able to eat such as beef. In this case, the garlic is cooked down so much that if your cat had a small amount of the meat, it will probably be ok. However, this is not something you want to keep doing as the damage can build up over time.
If you are going to give your cat some cooked meat, cook it without the garlic and extra seasonings and let your cat have it plain. That way, you don’t run the risk of accidentally poisoning your cat. Remember that not all cats have the same reaction threshold, and you won’t know whether it’s safe until it’s too late. Err on the side of caution and don’t let your cat have any garlic at all.
Another commonplace to find garlic? Flea remedies. Garlic is often found in treatments for getting rid of fleas because the flavor of it discourages pests. Garlic is sometimes used in oral treatments (sprinkling a bit on their food) or putting garlic powder on your cat’s skin or doing a garlic solution wash (and then rinsing your cat properly after).
While garlic has been shown to work well at repelling fleas, and some cat owners have sworn by it, we wouldn’t recommend it. If a cat washes itself after you do your treatments (and it probably will), it could easily ingest a toxic amount of garlic and end up quite ill.
Furthermore, most cats probably won’t want to go through bathing in a garlic solution and then being rinsed off several times, they won’t want garlic rubbed on their skin, and they may not even want to eat it on their food. So, you may just end up with either a sick or annoyed cat and still have fleas! Talk to your vet about other ways to get rid of those biting pests.
Can Cats Eat Garlic Powder?
Garlic powder is commonly used in cooking food as well, especially for people who don’t really want to be cutting up garlic cloves. One teaspoon of garlic powder is the equivalent of one clove of garlic, making it cost-effective, easy to use, and easy to store.
But it’s still garlic, just dried out, and thus still toxic to your cat. Cats shouldn’t have garlic powder either and if they get into it, look for the same signs of toxicity that you would if your cat had gotten into the cloves.
Garlic is absolutely toxic to cats and has no benefits to outweigh the risk. Even garlic’s ability to drive off fleas doesn’t outweigh just how ill your cat can become if they eat garlic. And since the damage is both slow and cumulative, you may not even realize how ill your cat is becoming until it’s too late. Garlic is one food that your cat should definitely steer far away from in all its forms.