Cute puppy eyes looking at you during lunch, or a kitten snuggling in your lap when you open a bag of potato chips: pets know very well how to get their hands on their owner’s tasty leftovers. But how many “human” snacks can you serve? Are there foods you really should avoid? We asked the specialist Myriam Hesta (UGent) for advice. “Especially with smaller animals, quantities are often incorrectly estimated.”
Your dog or cat is begging for food at the table. It will undoubtedly be known to many people. But could it hurt if you were tempted by your pet’s cute looks and then ate the leftovers from your meal? “Well, first of all it is important to know that the usual staple food, that is, kibble, is ideal for your pet. It contains all the nutrients that a dog or cat needs,” says veterinarian and animal nutritionist Myriam Hesta.
So it’s best to only feed your pet this type of food from the start. Don’t spoil your pet with leftovers from the table. Instead, give them a gentle brushing, take a nice walk or play with your pet. Would you like to do something with the food? Then keep some of the regular food aside and hide it in the house as a toy. Or choose healthy treats specially designed for animals. Your pet will be really happy for a while.”
Your pet could get very sick or even die from a well-meaning treatment.
What if you give leftovers to your pet?
Unfortunately, getting rid of a pet is not as easy as teaching it. So many people are not inclined to suddenly stop giving leftovers. What do you do next? “It is entirely possible to give your pet some human food now and then. There are only two important factors to watch out for: the type and amount of leftovers.”
The type of leftovers makes a difference
“First and foremost, you need to look at exactly what you’re giving. Some foods can be toxic to dogs or cats. Well-known examples are chocolate, grapes, and raisins. But also consider onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, or products with sugar substitutes like xylitol.” “For example, we once had two kittens at the clinic who were severely anemic. What turned out? Their owner regularly served them spaghetti sauce with extra onions. Your pet could get seriously ill or even die out of good will.”
You obviously want to avoid that. “So it’s better to buy fruits and vegetables if you give leftovers,” Hesta says. They contain fewer calories and are not toxic to animals. A good example is cut apples, zucchini or carrots. Would you like to give something else? Then a small piece of meat or fish could also be OK. But try to avoid the edges of cheese or charcuterie that we don’t eat ourselves. These edges are very rich in fat.”
Want to feed leftovers to your dog or cat in a healthy way? Then give a little bit of its normal base food and make sure your pet gets no more than 10 percent of its energy from leftovers or additives.
Note the amount of leftovers
In addition to the type of leftovers, the amount also plays an important role. Want to feed leftovers to your dog or cat in a healthy way? Then pay attention to the following two things. Give your pet less of its normal staple food and make sure that your pet gets no more than 10 percent of its energy from leftovers or additives. Otherwise, there is a risk of thickening. Do you exceed 10 percent? Then you risk your pet not getting enough nutrients.”
“Concrete example: You have a 30kg dog and you want to serve gingerbread as an extra. Then, on the 10% rule, that might only be three pieces. Do you have a 3kg dog? Then that might be half a cookie.” Furthermore, this specific comparison only applies to healthy animals that eat a well-balanced basic diet. “If your pet has a specific condition and needs a special diet, the 10% rule doesn’t apply.”
Do you really want specific advice for your pet? Then visit the vet. They can tell you exactly how much you can give your pets as a reward. “Some specialists can give you recipes to cook for your pet yourself. This can also be an option for providing a balanced diet.”
Do you give your pet leftovers on the table?
- No, only food suitable for animals. (34%)
- Yes, this happens regularly. (66%)
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