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Can Cats Eat Garlic – Is It Safe?

When it comes to your beloved pets, it’s easy to want to give them the best in everything, especially their food. Naturally, that might mean you want to share some of your meal with your feline companion from time to time. That leads many pet owners, especially new cat owners, to ask, can cats eat garlic?

Cats cannot eat garlic. Garlic is toxic to cats and can cause serious medical problems even in relatively small concentrations. Garlic seasonings like dried powdered garlic or garlic salt are also dangerous, as is any source of garlic flavoring. 

Of course, before you give your cat a bite, you should make sure everything in your meal is safe and healthy for your cat to eat. We’ll talk more about garlic toxicity in cats, what it looks like, and how much (or how little) can be harmful to your cat’s health, so keep reading if you want to learn more.

Is Garlic Poisonous For Cats

Yes. In this case, poisonous and toxic can be used interchangeably, which means that garlic is poisonous to your cats if the dose is high enough. Unfortunately, because garlic is a relatively potent toxin for cats, the dangerous dose is relatively low.

Garlic is poisonous to cats because their bodies aren’t designed to process alliums; the plant family garlic belongs. Most if not all alliums are poisonous to cats. Garlic is particularly potent and can be up to 5x more toxic than the same dose of onions, another common allium.

Unfortunately, the effects of garlic on your cat can be pretty wide-ranging and difficult to treat.

Severe cases of garlic poisoning can be fatal if your cat doesn’t get proper treatment quickly. It’s essential to call your vet immediately if you suspect that your cat might have gotten into some garlic, no matter how little.

How Much Garlic Is Toxic To Cats

It’s hard to quantify how much garlic is poisonous to cats since there are usually effects from even minimal amounts of garlic. As little as a single clove of fresh garlic can cause organ failure in cats, but we don’t know a minimum problematic dose.

Dried garlic can be a problem in even smaller amounts since, without the liquid, the dangerous compounds are concentrated in dried products. That means that garlic powder, granulated garlic, garlic salt, and all variations on dried garlic are dangerous to your cat.

As a side note, garlic is dangerous for most pet animals, including dogs. If any of your pets are exposed to garlic, and especially if you know they’ve eaten it, it’s essential to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Most cats won’t show a lot of interest in garlic on their own (though some cats will go after raw garlic as a toy, and a rare few will still think it smells like something good to eat.), but garlic as a seasoning in meals isn’t always enough to keep them away.

Especially meals that feature a lot of meat, your cat might try to sample a bite or two even with a lot of garlic and onion in the food.

Since the poisonous dose is relatively low, that makes it incredibly important to keep any foods you have that contain garlic in a place it will be safe from your cat.

What Happens If A Cat Licks Garlic

If your cat licks a garlic bulb or clove, chances are there will be minimal effects as long as they don’t bite the clove. It’s still important to consult with your veterinarian since your cat will probably get a little garlic, thanks to the barbs on their tongue.

Your cat may show some minor garlic toxicity symptoms, like vomiting or seeming tired. If your cat has symptoms, it may have gotten more garlic and need more urgent medical attention.

It’s relatively likely that your vet will recommend coming in so they can make your cat vomit if they lick or play with garlic, to be on the safe side.

If your cat licks dried garlic, that’s likely a much bigger problem. Dried garlic is highly concentrated, and your cat can get a relatively large quantity in a single lick.

Dried garlic can be more of a risk when it’s mixed with other spices, added as a seasoning to meat dishes, or anywhere it’s combined with something your cat might find appealing.

Licking dried garlic can have more serious medical consequences. Your cat will likely try to vomit and might vomit several times shortly after licking the dried garlic. Your cat might start to seem lethargic, dizzy, or just generally unwell not too long after that.

That lethargy and seeming sick is not a good sign, and you should get your cat to a vet hospital as soon as possible if you haven’t already gotten them to a vet.

That’s because garlic can cause damage to your cat’s red blood cells, ultimately causing a severe form of anemia and then organ failure from toxicity and lack of oxygen.

Remember that cats are prone to masking their symptoms when they feel sick or injured, so even relatively mild symptoms can be a red flag if you suspect your cat has been exposed to garlic.

Can You Give Cats Garlic For Fleas

Garlic is a well-known way to control insects around people. Plenty of people swear by eating garlic to keep mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, so it makes sense that you might want to use the same trick for your cats.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems with trying to use garlic on your cats for fleas. For one thing, most people who use garlic to help keep pests away eat the garlic, which your cat absolutely cannot do.

But even spraying your cat with garlic tea or using a little garlic on their collar can be a big problem as well. That’s because even a tiny amount of garlic can cause medical issues in your cat. Even tiny doses over time can become more toxic and cause the same medical issues as a single large dose of garlic.

That means that by getting a little garlic in their fur, your cat will likely swallow a lot of that garlic when they groom themselves later. Even if your cat doesn’t have a severe reaction at its first exposure, using garlic for fleas will almost certainly have severe consequences for your cat over time.

Collars are similarly an issue for a few reasons, but the main one is that some of the garlic will probably get into their fur. That means that they’ll still eat some of the garlic from their collar when they groom, just like if you put it directly on their fur.

Since garlic is such a potent toxin for cats, it’s not even safe to use as part of a flea bath or other applications that are washed off your cat right away. That’s because even a very small amount of exposure can have consequences, especially if it is repeated over time.

Since flea treatments are rarely a one-time thing, it’s a good idea to avoid any homemade flea care recipes that include garlic in the recipe.

Some people recommend using a small amount of garlic as a natural flea treatment (because garlic is an effective way to get rid of fleas). We don’t see the potential health risks to your cat as a reasonable trade-off for getting rid of fleas.

Instead, it’s a good idea to get a flea comb and other flea and tick treatments that have been tested and approved. Or, if you don’t want to use a store-bought flea remedy, you can talk to your vet about all-natural or homemade flea treatments to see if they have any recommendations.

Can Cats Eat Food With Garlic In It

Nope. Cats should not eat any food with garlic included in the recipe. This includes everything from your meaty-marinara and pasta to homemade cat foods with garlic in them.

Unfortunately, pet food companies still aren’t highly regulated, so it’s not impossible to find garlic and related vegetables and spices in the ingredients list on your cats’ food. Just because some pet food companies include garlic in their recipes, that doesn’t mean that garlic is safe for cats.

More importantly, since garlic is a very potent toxin, even in small doses, it doesn’t matter how little is in the food; it can still be dangerous to your cat.

Don’t give your cat tastes of human food with garlic, even if you occasionally share safe treats with your cat. Your cat also shouldn’t have cat foods or treats that include garlic in the ingredient list.

Why Does My Cat Want To Eat Garlic

Most cats are pretty good about avoiding foods that are potentially toxic to them. Most animals (including humans) have some indicators of dangerous foods for them to eat.

In people, that’s the taste of bitterness, and while we don’t know precisely what tells cats which foods are a great idea and which foods are dangerous, it does seem like they have some indicator.

That doesn’t mean that every cat is going to avoid dangerous foods to the same extent. Some people like bitter-tasting foods, so it makes sense that some cats would find the scent and taste of garlic appealing.

But, it’s just as likely that something else is attracting your cat to the garlic. For one thing, a clove of garlic might look like a toy to your cat.

Also, cats tend to be attracted to anything they see their owners paying attention to and like to use mirroring behavior (trying to do the same thing as their owner) to show affection. So your cat might try to play with or eat garlic because they see you doing things with the garlic.

There are a lot of reasons your cat might be interested in garlic, so your best bet is to keep garlic in a safe place where your cat doesn’t have an opportunity to eat it.

How Much Garlic Can Kill A Cat

It’s hard to say how much garlic can kill a cat in part because the dose gets a lot lower if you don’t take your cat to a vet quickly. A lot higher if you get good veterinary care (though even the best vet care isn’t a guarantee if your cat has a severe case of garlic poisoning).

We know that about a clove worth of garlic can cause organ failure and is likely to be fatal in cats. But half a clove of garlic might cause the same problem, especially in smaller cats or cats with any other medical issues.

Small amounts of garlic exposure over time can also ultimately be fatal in cats, so a seemingly tiny dose could cause problems if your cat has had previous exposures.

Ultimately, no garlic is safe, and even minimal doses can cause severe problems and even death.  

Things To Consider

We’ve mentioned earlier in this article that garlic is an allium and that other alliums are also dangerous to cats. It’s worth bringing up again, though. Alliums include onions, shallots, leeks, and chives, as well as garlic. All of these foods are potentially dangerous for your cat.

It’s also important to know that allium plants can create gorgeous flowers, which means that some ornamental plants can also be alliums and, therefore, dangerous for your cats.

Avoid keeping allium flowers inside your home, and you might want to avoid them in your garden if you have an indoor/outdoor cat.

We also mentioned that pet foods still aren’t very heavily regulated, which means that garlic and other potentially harmful foods can sometimes make it into commercial pet food recipes.

That doesn’t mean that commercial pet foods aren’t a good option for your cat. Instead, what we’d recommend is to do your research before choosing a food (or foods) for your cat. Read the ingredient lists and do your research before deciding which formulation is the best option.

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