Can cats eat bread? Dietary advice and feeding tips

A cat on a table looking at a slice of bread
(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Can cats eat bread?' might be a question you've asked yourself if you've ever caught kitty munching on a piece of sliced white. As you've doubtless experienced if you've been around cats for any amount of time, they can have weird little appetites that sometimes defy all logic.

One minute your cat might be turning its nose up at a portion of the best cat food that it found perfectly delicious the other day, and the next it could be chowing down on something utterly unexpected (and possibly bad for it) such as a piece of cheese, a cantaloupe or a banana. So, what if your cat suddenly develops an appetite for bread?

Here's where we explain everything you need to know about whether cats can eat bread, and what you need to be wary of if your cat starts showing an interest in tasty baked foodstuffs. 

And if you're bothered by a cat who's guzzling other off-menu items, we can help you out with that too. So if you're asking yourself, can cats eat cheese, can cats eat bananas, or can cats eat eggs, click through to find the answers you need.

Is bread good for cats?

While bread isn't usually bad for cats, it's not exactly good for them either. Bread has no nutritional value for cats; it's mostly complex carbohydrates, which is useful as far as people are concerned, but for a cat it's just empty calories, and a lot of them at that. 

A single slice of bread can deliver roughly a fifth of your cat's daily recommended calorie intake, and on top of that if your cat loads up on bread it might not have room for its more nutritionally balanced cat food.

However if your cat's acquired a taste for the odd bit of bread, a little piece here or there is unlikely to do it any real harm.

A cat licking its lips and looking at some bread

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When is bread bad for cats?

Not all bread is harmless to cats, and fancy artisanal breads in particular can be dangerous as a feline snack. 

Flavors and garnishes can be especially bad for cats, so if your loaf contains the likes of garlic, fruit, herbs or spices, keep your furball away well away from it unless you've checked that the ingredients are completely cat-safe.

If you've put anything on your bread, it's maybe best to keep your cat away from it; that PBJ is packed with fat and calories from the butter and peanut butter, while the sugar and fruit in the jelly is no good for cats either. 

And while a lovely pain au chocolat might be a delightful breakfast treat for you, on no account should kitty have a nibble; chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both toxic for cats, as well as other substances that could make it sick.

And although plain baked bread is fairly safe for cat consumption, whatever you do, don't let your cat eat raw dough. This can be particularly harmful to cats as it can expand in your cat's tummy, resulting in bloating and a distended stomach that will be uncomfortable and may be life-threatening in severe cases of bloat.

If that's not enough, the yeast in dough can produce carbon dioxide and ethanol when ingested; if ethanol's absorbed into your cat's bloodstream it can lead to respiratory failure and seizures. If you think your cat's eaten some dough and appears to be unwell, call your vet immediately.

A cat eating some bread off the ground

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tips on giving your cat bread

If your cat's not demanding bread, the safest thing to do is not give it any, and instead spoil it with the best cat treats, which are manufactured specifically with feline consumption in mind.

However if kitty has a hankering for bread and you're having to deal with the sight of a cat begging for food every time you enjoy a sandwich, you can feed it a bit of bread without doing it any real damage. 

Just make sure that you only give it plain baked bread, and only in little pieces; think of how big the average cat treat is, and tear off a piece about the same size; that should satisfy your cat's strange cravings.

Another advantage to having a cat that likes bread can be if you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to give your cat a pill or other oral medication. 

Wrapping it in a bit of bread may be the ideal way of getting it down kitty's neck at least once; of course they may get wise to your tricks the next time, but it's always worth a shot.

Summary

Can cats eat bread? Yes, they can. Should cats eat bread, though? Maybe not, but on the whole it's no great danger to them in moderation and, as we've seen, a taste for delicious, easily-molded bread can be turned to your advantage.

Just keep things nice and plain and avoid exotic flavors and you should be just fine, and whatever you do, keep kitty away from that dough!

Jim is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler based in Bath, who last year adopted a pair of sibling rescue cats who turned out to be effectively feral, and has spent a lot of time since then trying to get them accustomed to people (some success) and each other (ongoing project).