A cat with an overbearing appetite (or even pica) may do anything to satisfy her hunger. Some cats will nibble on plant leaves, search for food remnants in the garbage pail, or quickly snatch up any scraps you happen to drop on the floor. Most non-kitty foods your cat chows down on are harmless or only cause mild symptoms like diarrhea — but raisins could be a different story.
You should be worried if your cat ate a raisin. Raisins are toxic to dogs and cats, causing symptoms like lethargy, dehydration, weakness, and anorexia. Within 24 hours, potentially fatal renal failure may result. Take your cat to the vet immediately if you suspect she’s eaten raisins or grapes.
Ever since learning that chocolate is toxic for dogs, you’ve been on a crusade to feed your cat nothing more than cat food—and maybe a few meaty table scraps. But is it worrisome if your cat happens to steal a raisin? Let’s find out.
Foods Cats Shouldn’t Eat
Many cats are what vets call “grazers.” In other words: You can leave out a pre-measured bowl of kibble, and your cat will snack on it as her hunger itch grows during the day.
Unlike humans, most cats are perfectly content with eating the same food all day long (though it’s not unusual for your cat to request a flavor change every few months). So when you catch your kitty chomping down on anything but her kibble and wet food, it’s normal to feel worried—but how do you know what she shouldn’t be eating?
Some common foods that can be toxic or dangerous to cats in any amount include:
- Milk and dairy (cats tend to be lactose intolerant)
- Raw dough (yeast will expand in the cat’s stomach, causing gas)
- Chocolate (theobromine can be toxic to cats)
- Onions and garlic (in excess, they can cause red blood cell damage and anemia)
- Raw meat (known to harbor Salmonella & E. Coli)
- Raisins and grapes (kidney damage is possible)
The good news here is this: If your cat has a normal carnivorous appetite, she likely won’t even see any of these food items as “food” anyway (aside from the raw meat). It’s more common that your cat will nibble on odd foods out of curiosity or confusion—such as thinking the raisin you dropped was a piece of beef.
Why Raisins are So Dangerous to Cats
Any veterinarian will tell you that raisins are toxic for both cats and dogs. Yet, the jury is still out on precisely what chemical or molecule in grapes and raisins makes them so harmful to our furry friends.
Here’s what we do know about cats and raisins (based on anecdotal evidence).
A few hours after eating raisins (or grapes), your cat may begin to feel the effects of her unusual snack. Within six to twelve hours, gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting will start to kick in. You may notice your cat is lethargic (low energy), shivering, lacking a healthy appetite, or feeling generally weak.
If left untreated for 24 to 72 hours, the risk of your cat suffering more severe consequences multiplies extraordinarily. By this point, your cat is likely developing anuric renal failure—a condition where urine production stops, the kidneys begin shutting down, and toxins start to build-up in the bloodstream.
Can Raisins Kill Cats?
Two things significantly increase your cat’s chances of dying after eating raisins: How many she eats and how long you hold off on taking her to the vet afterward.
In the case of an 18-pound dog (about the size of an overweight cat), 4-5 raisins proved to be fatal. If cats and dogs react to raisins similarly, and the average cat weighs up to ten pounds, three or fewer raisins can be deadly. So while your cat eating a single raisin may not be enough to warrant a vet trip, anything more than that is a serious cause for concern.
Acute renal failure in a cat is never a “good” diagnosis, but this condition tends to be reversible if you pursue treatment as soon as possible. In other words: If you wait until the 24-hour-mark when your cat is showing signs of lethargy and anorexia, it may be too late.
Here’s a video accurately describing the possible dangers of a cat eating raisins.
Are Raisins Poisonous to Animals?
Raisins, grapes, and currants (small berries that come from bushes) can be poisonous to several types of household pets. Cats, dogs, ferrets, and mice have reportedly shown signs of toxicity after eating something in the Vitis genus.
Keep in mind that the more raisins an animal eats, the more likely this mysterious toxin will build up in its bloodstream and impact kidney functioning. A healthy 80-pound dog snacking on a raisin likely won’t feel as severe an effect of this dried fruit as a 3-pound kitten may.
With potential kidney failure on the line, keeping your pets away from raisins and grapes should be a priority. That’s especially the case if your pets have a seemingly insatiable appetite.
Some tips for keeping raisins and grapes out of your cat’s diet include:
- Storing your grapes and raisins in the pantry, refrigerator, or a closed cabinet
- Discarding food remnants and not leaving dirty dishes in the sink (a glob of grape jelly or trail mix with raisins could be just as dangerous)
- Training your cat not to jump on countertops or tables (double-sided tape or aluminum foil on the edges)
- Keeping your cat on a consistent feeding schedule (every 8-10 hours) to avoid excess hunger
Most importantly, try not to give in to your cat’s demands to share whatever it is that you’re eating. While your cat may appreciate your generosity as she munches down on this new snack, the risk of kidney failure (or even death) is not worth it!
Your Cat Ate a Raisin. Now What?
If your cat eats a raisin (or a grape or currant), you should be worried.
Firstly, you don’t know how many raisins your cat honestly ate—it could be 1, 10, or 30. It’s also possible that your cat already has an underlying kidney condition that you know nothing about, elevating her risk for severe consequences even more. And if you find her neck-deep in a box of raisins, you have to wonder: How often does she eat raisins anyway?
So if you suspect that your cat has eaten a raisin or grapes, here’s what you need to do:
- Remove your cat from the source (don’t allow her to continue eating more raisins as you figure out what to do).
- Call your cat’s vet or the Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA) immediately at (888) 426-4435.
- Bring your cat to the vet directly if you’re 100% sure she swallowed at least one—if you don’t know which cat ate the raisins, bring them all to the vet.
- Don’t wait to see if your cat starts developing symptoms before deciding to act (every hour counts).
Your vet may give your cat a supplement to make her vomit, use activated charcoal to absorb any toxins remaining in her digestive system, and hook her up to an IV to replenish her fluids.
Getting your cat to the vet immediately after a raisin-eating incident is crucial. However, it could take weeks for your feline to get “back to normal” afterward, and there’s no guarantee she’ll avoid permanent kidney damage either.
The only thing better than immediate treatment is prevention. Avoid giving your cat table food altogether, reduce her access to harmful foods (like raisins, onions, and dough), and keep her on a regular eating schedule to avoid bouts of excessive hunger.
- Fetch by WebMD: Why Is My Cat Eating That?
- American Kennel Club: What to Do if Your Dog Eats Chocolate
- Frontiers in Pharmacology: The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption
- Merck Manual Veterinary Manual: Raisins and Grapes
- VCA Hospitals: Acute Kidney Failure in Cats
- The Spruce Eats: What Are Currants?
- American Kennel Club: Are Grapes Bad for Dogs?
- VCA Hospitals: Feeding Times and Frequency for Your Cat
- Animal Humane Society: Keeping your cat off the counter