Serving up the turkey feast with kitty in mind


Fall is such a lovely time.  Nature is awash with colors and the first family feast — Thanksgiving — is on the horizon.  I can already smell the fresh-baked bread and pies.  If you’re like me, when I plan for a family holiday, you like to include your pets.

Should I be sharing the turkey dinner with them?  Cats, unlike dogs, are obligate (strict) carnivores.  This means they thrive on a meat-protein-based diet and derive little nutritional value from plant-based proteins.

Simply put, cats must eat meat.  So a small serving of cooked turkey would certainly be pleasing.  However, anytime you introduce a new food to your pet, you do run the risk of causing some digestion issues (specifically, diarrhea).  I do caution that feeding your pet scraps from the table may reinforce begging and other undesirable behaviors.

Most of us cook our Thanksgiving turkeys with all sorts of spices and aromatic vegetables, such as onion and garlic to flavor the drippings for gravy.  Onions are particularly harmful for cats.  They contain N-propyl disulphide, which destroys red blood cells in cats, causing a form of anemia called Heinz body anemia.  Garlic contains a similar substance in lesser amounts —please talk to your veterinarian if you are concerned.  While a bite or two of unseasoned cooked turkey could be part of your cat’s Thanksgiving feast, an easier solution would be to pick up a small can of turkey cat food.

If you are wondering about the risks of your cat sneaking a lick of cranberry sauce, I did too.  I am a traditionalist (wink wink).  It must be jellied and fresh — directly from the can.  We never took the time to make our own when I was growing up, so this is what I am used to and love.

Research revealed references to the use of unsweetened cranberry juice as an alternative treatment for feline urinary issues.  Nothing about cranberry sauce being harmful.  I suspect the reason I adore canned cranberry sauce is because it is sweetened, which would make it an unwise treat for cats since “sugar decreases feline immune system function.”

If creating a way to include your cat in the family Thanksgiving treat is just too much to bear, don’t fret.  Your cat probably doesn’t even know it is a holiday.  From her perspective, it is a time when strange people invade her territory — where’s the holiday in that?