Should You Give Your Pet Any People Food?

It’s been a fairly common belief that our pets should not be allowed to eat our food. A lot of people do it anyway, often feeding the dog under the table, or just tossing him the leftovers in his dish or in the yard. Cats are “treated” similarly, although they may have a shorter list of items they enjoy. Many nutritional authorities have preached against this practice for years, noting that it causes an imbalance in the pet’s dietary requirements.

But is it a myth, or is it OK to feed them what we eat?

While studies are still minimal in this area, modern thought has reached an area of compromise, perhaps, in that some foods are probably OK.

Certainly, it’s not likely to ever be acceptable to feed our pets anything spicy, high in fat, sugar, or too highly refined. It’s probably safe to say that humans shouldn’t be eating those things either. But we can make educated choices. Pets are not equipped to evaluate these things, so it’s up to us to protect them from potentially harmful foods.

In a natural setting, if they were in the wild, they would eat prey, according to instinct. We have changed all that, and now we must take the responsibility to provide correct nutrition. They’re never going to be able, or allowed, to hunt rabbits and grouse in the house, for example.

They have shorter lifespans, shorter digestive tracts, and are thus more likely to suffer dire consequences more quickly from improper nutrition, such as diabetes, thyroid problems, cancer, and digestive maladies, including obstructive bowel disease.

What, then, can we safely feed them that’s normally on our own menu?

Meat, of course, is a staple of cat and dog nutrition, so there is nothing wrong with sharing our steak or chicken leftovers with them. Or give them the whole thing, if you want to, as a meal. Just be sure to remove any small bones; however, most bones are better if left raw, as the calcium is rendered inorganic and less usable if cooked.

It’s also acceptable to let a dog have vegetables, raw or lightly cooked, and some fruits, such as cantaloupe. Many cats like cantaloupe, but vegetables aren’t usually on their list. Cats are “obligate” carnivores, meaning they must have meat, and primarily meat. A small amount of vegetable matter is all right if cooked, as cats do not produce the correct enzymes to digest them raw. If your cats are on a commercial dry kibble diet, which usually has a high grain content, digestive enzymes are especially important to give as a supplement so they can absorb the nutrition in the dry food.

Probably the biggest concern with giving our pets our food, though, is that we tend to give them too much. This can lead not only to excess weight gain, but to a growing imbalance in their nutrient needs. Most pet nutritionists now say that table scraps, or people food in general, even if not given as leftovers, should not exceed ten percent of their diet.

Providing high quality human grade foods in the proper proportions and portions can be just as nutritious as commercially prepared foods if done right.

Here is a list of things you should not let your pets consume:

Corn cobs
Fruit pits
Liver in excess, esp. if raw
Leaves from potato, tomato or rhubarb plants
Raw fish
Spoiled foods
Wild mushrooms
Yeast dough