Oh, there’s nothing like a winter wonderland with the smell of gingerbread spreading around the kitchen. Every year, you make an attempt to create the perfect, Pinterest-worthy gingerbread house. And every year, your furry friend knocks it down in a heartbeat. But wait, can cats eat gingerbread?
Your cat sure wants to. There’s pretty much nothing that can stop her from getting into the spirit of holidays (even more so, getting into the secret stash FOR the holidays). Move over candy canes and peppermint barks, there’s a new Christmas sheriff in town and she’s got her eyes set on gingerbread.
Anyway, you’re starting to wonder whether you should stop saying no every time she scrunches up her snout and gives you the “mommy, you promised” look. So, can cats eat ginger or gingerbread without any repercussions? Can cats even eat sweets?
According to our friends over at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), cats can eat ginger, but they can’t eat other ingredients found in gingerbread.
So, before you and your furry friend kick the season off with your favorite flavors, you might want to take a closer look at some of the reasons gingerbread might not be the best choice for her. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
So, can cats eat gingerbread?
First things first, you made the right call when you decided to look up whether cats can eat gingerbread. Most pet parents who find out that cats can eat ginger assume they’re free to feed their furry friend gingerbread cookies, gingerbread houses, and other gingerbread baked goods.
But, cats aren’t supposed to eat sweet things. They’re obligate carnivores. That means they require meat, animal protein, and animal-sourced nutrients to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. But even more so, they’re sweet-blind.
They don’t possess the sweetness receptors necessary to taste sweet things. They also don’t need sugar or other carbohydrates in their diet. So, they’re best off spending their life munching on keto-friendly snacks (or should we say cato-friendly).
And, as if we don’t feel sorry for the poor felines already, cats can’t eat the majority of gingerbread ingredients. As mentioned before, ginger itself shouldn’t send your feline running to the litter box. But cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove might even send her to the emergency animal clinic.
It’s safe to say that cats can’t eat gingerbread. So, you’ll have to withstand your cat’s tendency to meow your ears off to let her taste the holiday flavors, and take a look at why you’ll want to keep an eye out during the festive season.
Here’s the thing with cinnamon. This succulent spice shouldn’t harm your furry friend unless she scoffs down an entire cinnamon stick. You see, cinnamon contains coumarin (you know it’s serious when we start hauling out the tough-to-pronounce vocabulary).
Your cat’s digestive system doesn’t contain the enzymes necessary to break down and process coumarin. What does that mean for your cat in terms of gingerbread? Well, if she consumes too many gingerbread cookies, she might experience symptoms of cinnamon toxicity.
Some signs you’ll want to keep an eye out for are diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, liver disease, and even liver failure. And if she manages to get some of that cinnamon on her skin and fur, she might even experience irritation, redness, and rashes.
If you see any of these symptoms, contact your vet as soon as possible. You might be pleased to know that powdered cinnamon (the kind that’s typically used for gingerbread) contains the least amount of coumarin out of the bunch.
Your feline friend might need to cram down the entire gingerbread house to experience any of the more severe symptoms. But it’s still better to play on the safe side and avoid it.
1. Nutmeg toxicity
You can’t have a proper gingerbread experience without generous sprinklings of spices, and nutmeg surely takes the proverbial cake. But, to nobody’s surprise, nutmeg falls under the category of spices that aren’t safe for feline consumption. What a bummer for your feline!
In keeping with the same line of tough-to-pronounce words, let’s talk about myristicin. Believe it or not, this compound happens to be even worse than coumarin found in cinnamon. Even the tiniest amount of nutmeg can cause some pretty serious repercussions.
So, let’s say your curious creature decides to snack on some gingerbread cookies while you’re too busy staring at the screen and pining over the Viscount (as a true Bridgerton fan). Keep an eye out for the symptoms of nutmeg toxicity.
She might experience anything ranging from mild stomach upset to hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, or even tremors and seizures. These symptoms usually go away on their own in less than 48 hours. But, it’s best you contact your vet as soon as you notice any of them.
So no, cats can’t eat gingerbread unless you make some from scratch and avoid any of these harmful spices and seasonings. This might not be the answer to the “can cats eat gingerbread” question you’ve been hoping for. But, it’s the one you’re getting.
2. Clove toxicity
And of course, you can’t have that je ne sais quoi in your gingerbread without the addicting clove aroma. But, your furry friend might have a hard time trying to digest this spice. Her digestive system doesn’t contain the enzymes necessary to break down and process eugenol.
Yet another tricky word!? Yes, eugenol is another toxin responsible for gingerbread’s bad reputation in the feline world.
Diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, staggering gait, tremors, and seizures are what you can expect if your cat manages to consume a sufficient amount of eugenol. Don’t worry, gingerbread doesn’t typically contain that much, so your cat isn’t likely to experience severe repercussions.
But, presuming she does manage to get her paws on clove essential oil, she might even experience liver damage and liver failure. Let’s just say that this pungent spice isn’t worth the hype. Especially when you think about the consequences it can have on your furry friend.
Can kittens eat gingerbread?
You might have already guessed the answer to this one, but no, kittens can’t eat gingerbread. Their digestive system isn’t equipped with enzymes that are necessary to break down and process most foods. And don’t even get me started on cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove toxicity!
Kittens should only ever feed on their mother’s milk. When they grow up and become a bit more resilient, they can consume kitten food and the occasional carefully crafted kitten treats.
Granted, kittens won’t experience severe symptoms from just one bite of gingerbread. But there are other factors to consider here, too. Many commercially available gingerbread sweets contain artificial sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives which can cause serious harm to your little munchkin.
These additives aren’t recommended for feline consumption in general, but they’re even more dangerous for kittens because of their underdeveloped digestive systems. It’s safe to say that you should keep your gingerbread cookies safely stored away from your kitto’s reach.
Cats can’t eat gingerbread, but…
There’s no reason for a panic attack if your furry friend manages to pinch a bite of your gingerbread house while you’re getting into the holiday spirit. Don’t worry, such minuscule morsels don’t contain enough cinnamon, nutmeg, or clove to cause serious harm to your cat.
Just be sure to avoid feeding your cat sweet treats and foods packed with sugar, and consult with your vet before making any significant changes to your cat’s diet.
And as for the disappointed look on your cat’s face when you tell her she can’t have gingerbread, it’s as simple as offering a paw-licking cat treat instead. She’ll be none the wiser!