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Artificial ingredients and heaps of sugar mean that soda is best kept as a sometime treat. For cats, it’s best to keep soft drinks off the menu altogether. The qualities that make soda indulgent and potentially dangerous in large quantities for people are the same that make them dangerous (and even deadly) in much smaller quantities for pets. It’s unlikely that your cat will develop a taste for soda, but be ready to intervene if they appear interested in stealing some sips.
Soda and Cats: The Risky Ingredients
Why shouldn’t cats drink soda? Even small quantities of certain ingredients could lead to negative consequences in the short term and repeated consumption can result in more serious health concerns.
- Caffeine: The caffeine in a can of soda can provide a quick pick-me-up to pet parents struggling through mid-day doldrums. Anyone who has overindulged, however, can attest that there’s such a thing as too much caffeine. Heavy consumption over a short period of time often leads to unwanted symptoms like anxiety and elevated heart rates. For cats, even relatively small amounts of caffeine can produce these side effects and potentially lead to toxicity.
- Sugar: Regular excessive sugar consumption is anathema to a healthy diet in both pets and pet parents. A cat who regularly consumes sugary drinks like soda may gain weight and eventually suffer from a slew of weight-related conditions. Keep in mind that even sugar-free sodas include other problematic ingredients like the ones listed here.
- Acids: Sugar isn’t the only reason your dentist may recommend skipping the soda or trying to cut back. Ingredients like citric and phosphoric acids wear away at tooth enamel over time. In large quantities, they can also lead to a temporarily upset stomach and, in severe cases, chronic digestive concerns. Your cat’s vulnerable gastrointestinal tract may be especially susceptible to such symptoms.
More Unsafe Drinks for Cats
- Coffee and Tea: The caffeine found in Coke, Pepsi, and other soft drinks makes them a no-go for cats and dogs. Caffeinated teas and coffees tend to include even more of the energy-boosting ingredient, posing a greater risk for thirsty pets. What may sound like a miniscule quantity of caffeine to a person could lead to abnormal heart rates, vomiting, and even death in pets.
- Milk: We’ve all seen the ubiquitous image of kittens lapping from saucers of milk. It’s more than a little misleading. While many felines have a taste for dairy, veterinarians generally do not recommend serving it to them. Cats often lack the ability to break down enzymes in milk, leading them to suffer many of the same symptoms as lactose intolerant humans when they consume it. These include diarrhea, bloating, and an upset stomach. What’s more, cats don’t reap any of the same benefits from cow’s milk that a person might. The dose of protein and calcium provided by milk is far outweighed by the considerable fat content. According to the UK-based People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a cat drinking a saucer of milk is roughly equivalent to a person eating an entire pizza. Lactose-free milks may be safe for feline consumption, but even these should only constitute an occasional indulgence.
- Juice: Though they may provide vitamins and minerals, most fruit juices also pack a hefty dose of sugar. An occasional sip may not spell trouble, but regular juice consumption could cause your cat to gain weight and even develop chronic health conditions related to weight gain, including diabetes.
- Alcohol: Like caffeine, alcohol affects pets more quickly and more severely than it does their owners. Keep cats away from beer, wine, and liquor and watch out for signs of alcohol poisoning like vomiting and lethargy if you know they’ve imbibed.
Keeping Cats Hydrated
Good old fashioned H20 should make up the bulk of your cat’s liquid intake and they should have access to clean water throughout the day. PetMD advises owners to ensure their pets get between 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per five pounds of body weight each day.
Make sure to watch for symptoms of dehydration, especially during hot weather and periods of high activity. These include:
- Dry, sticky gums
- Excessive panting
- Loss of appetite
- Sunken eyes
It’s easy to test your cat’s hydration. Gently pinch their skin between your thumb and forefinger and watch how it returns to its original position. A hydrated cat’s flesh will quickly snap back into place. The skin of more dehydrated cats, on the other hand, will either retract slowly or remain in a tented position. In these instances, seek immediate veterinary attention.
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