Baby ate cat food

Is Pet Food Toxic? | Illinois Poison Center

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What to know: Pet Food

  • Pet food includes dog food, cat food, bird food, fish food and more.
  • Pet food can be a choking hazard. If your child is choking on a piece of pet food, call 911 immediately.

Toxicity Level

What are toxicity levels?

My child ate pet food. Is pet food toxic?

Pet food ingredients may be lower in quality than human food ingredients, but they’re still considered nontoxic.

Pet foods contain a variety of plant- and animal-based ingredients like corn, rice, wheat, beef, poultry and fish.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Eating a small amount of pet food usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. However, eating spoiled pet food or food that’s past its “good by” date could cause vomiting, diarrhea or other symptoms.

If your child develops symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, call IPC at 1-800-222-1222.

Eye Exposure

  • Pet food may cause irritation if exposed to eyes.

  • If your child got pet food in their eyes, rinse by pouring clean, lukewarm water across the affected eye(s) for 15 minutes.

For more instructions, please see our page on eye exposure information.

Have an urgent question or need more help?

Don't hesitate to call IPC at


This call is free and confidential.

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Help! My Baby Accidentally Ate Cat Food (Is She Going to Get Sick?)

Babies are natural explorers. They are learning and discovering new things every day. It’s exciting to watch your baby’s world open up as they become more mobile, but this phase presents new challenges. It’s important to create an environment that is safe for your baby. Most parents childproof their homes to protect their baby from dangers such as stairs and electrical outlets, but what about pet food? Can cat food be hazardous, and what do you do if your baby accidentally eats cat food?

Cat food does not contain ingredients that are inedible or toxic to humans; however, pathogens like Salmonella can contaminate cat food, which can cause your baby to become sick. It can also pose a choking hazard for babies or trigger an allergic reaction. If your baby gets sick after eating cat food, call Poison Control or contact your doctor.

Read on to learn more about what to do if your baby eats cat food and how to prevent it from happening. 

Table of Contents

What happens if my baby accidentally eats cat food?

Cat food does not contain ingredients that are poisonous or toxic to humans.If a baby ingests cat food, the primary concerns are the potential for choking, allergic reaction, and foodborne illness.   If your baby has eaten cat food, the most urgent concern is that they are at risk for choking. If your baby is having trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately. In emergency situations, first aid or infant CPR may be necessary. If your baby has, or potentially has, food allergies, their exposure to cat food can be dangerous. Depending on the severity of the allergy, your baby could experience an allergic reaction within minutes.

Another risk to be aware of is cat food’s susceptibility to foodborne illnesses. Pet food is not handled with the same safety measures and care as human food, so there is a greater risk of exposure to pathogens.  The likelihood of your baby becoming sick from eating cat food depends on the type of cat food and how it has been handled. Cat food containing raw meat or eggs poses the largest threat of illness. Cat food that has been stored improperly or has damaged packaging is also a greater risk.

Though there is potential for canned cat food to contain harmful bacteria, the canning process creates a sterile environment, making it much less of a problem if ingested. No matter what type of cat food your baby has eaten, you should monitor them for symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These may be indicative of a foodborne illness. 

Can eating cat food make baby sick?

Cat food is not intended for human consumption.

Though it does not contain ingredients that are harmful to humans, the standards and regulations involved in manufacturing and distributing pet food are not as strict as those for human food. Because of this, pet food is more prone to bacterial contamination.

If your baby eats cat food that contains pathogenic bacteria, your baby can become sick. 


Salmonella is a common foodborne illness associated with pet food.Salmonella is most prevalent in raw food varieties; however, any type of food can be susceptible to Salmonella contamination. 

Signs and symptoms of a salmonella infection

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of salmonella may arise 6 hours to 6 days after infection.

Salmonella symptoms include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headache

When to seek medical attention

Contact your pediatrician immediately if you suspect your baby has salmonella. Though the CDC recommends waiting to receive medical care until you have prolonged symptoms, babies are at a greater of serious complications and may be treated sooner. Antibiotics aren’t typically prescribed to the general population but may be prescribed to vulnerable individuals, such as young children, to prevent the spread of infection.


There is a wide variety of cat food available on the market.

The risk associated with ingesting cat food partially depends on the food’s ingredients and your child’s sensitivities. Most (86.9%) of dog and cat foods contain at least one major allergen and 43.9% contain at least two.

Here is a list of common food allergens found in pet foods from the same study in order of highest to lowest prevalence:

  • Wheat
  • Egg
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Milk
  • Shellfish
  • Peanut 


Potential allergens are not the only ingredients to avoid when purchasing cat food. Raw food diets are common for cats, but food that contains raw meat or eggs carries a much higher risk of being contaminated, and air-dried cat foods are a safer, still nutritious, alternative to raw cat food.  

Allergic reaction

If your baby has a known food allergy, do not purchase cat food that contains that allergen. Consult your pediatrician if your baby develops any of the following symptoms:

  • Rash or hives
  • Facial swelling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach pain or diarrhea  
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness 
  • Loss of consciousness 

Dirty bowls

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) has placed pet bowls as fourth on their top ten list of “germiest” home items.

Often neglected, cat food bowls can quickly become hotbeds for bacterial growth, including harmful pathogens such as Salmonella. Your baby can become sick from eating cat food out of or even playing with a contaminated food bowl.The NSF recommends cleaning and sanitizing your pets’ food bowls every day to prevent the accumulation of bacteria. 

Can baby choke on cat food

It is common for babies to want to explore everything with their mouths (an action appropriately called “mouthing”) and it’s partially due to the many sensory receptors located at the mouth.

This, combined with the fact that they are still learning to chew and swallow, makes babies at high risk of choking. While sometimes overlooked, cat food can be a major choking hazard for little ones since a small child’s trachea is only about the diameter of drinking straw. Cat food that is roughly this size has the potential to block your baby’s airway if swallowed. A choking incident can result in injury to the throat, brain damage, and even death. 

You can protect your baby from choking on cat food by making it inaccessible to them. You can also choose a cat food that is soft or made up of smaller pellets that do not clump.

What to do if baby eats cat food

Most babies who ingest cat food do not suffer any serious side effects; however, it is important to be aware of the risks.

If you find that your baby has eaten cat food, here are some actions to take:

Ensure that your baby’s airway is not obstructed and that they are not at risk of choking. Seek medical attention if they are having difficulty breathing.

Wipe out your child’s mouth, and give them a small amount of water to drink.

Monitor your baby for a potential allergic reaction, especially if your child has a history of food allergies. If necessary, call your pediatrician. 

Search the pet food recalls to determine whether the cat food that was ingested has been recalled due to contamination.

Keep an eye out for symptoms linked to foodborne illnesses such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Consult your pediatrician if you suspect your baby has become sick.

If your baby has eaten a large amount of cat food or if you have additional concerns, you can contact Poison Control 24 hours a day at 1-800-222-1222. 

Also, be sure that you aren’t letting your cat eat baby formula!

Keeping baby from eating cat food

As your baby becomes more mobile, it is important to assess your home for potential dangers and make adjustments to prevent accidents.

Here are some ideas to prevent your baby from eating cat food and limiting its risk:

Keep cat food in an area of your house that is not accessible to your baby, or create a safe place using baby gates. 

Consider purchasing a childproof pet bowl. This feeder by SureFeed can be programmed to open when it’s in contact with your pet’s microchip.

Store cat food in a childproof, air-tight container. This will keep your baby out and help prevent contamination. 

Clean and sanitize your cat’s food bowls every day to stave off foodborne illnesses. 

Do not purchase cat food that contains allergens that your baby is, or may be, sensitive to. 

Reduce the risk of choking by choosing soft cat food or small-pellet varieties. 

Switch to using cat food that has a low risk of causing illness, such as canned cat food or foods with human-grade ingredients. 

what to do and what consequences it can have, is it dangerous to eat food for animals

Last night my one and a half year old child got to the cat bowl and ate cat food. Since he felt great at the same time, my husband and I did not call the doctor or do anything about it. But in the morning I looked on the Internet and found out that there is too much toxic vitamin A in cat food, and there are dangerous microbes in it - and now I'm worried.

My question is: how dangerous is cat food for children and should I do something if the child has already eaten it? nine0003

Daniil Davydov

medical journalist

Author profile

One serving of cat food will not harm a child. If he has already eaten from the pet's bowl, nothing needs to be done. But in the future, just in case, it is worth putting it in a place inaccessible to the child.

Although manufacturers of dry cat food are required to ensure that no harmful bacteria enter it, the control of pet food is still not as strict as that of human food. And there is also less risk that the child will choke on dry granules. nine0003

How cat food differs from human food

Cats are carnivores, so they should eat mostly meat. The main ingredient in cat food is organ meats. These are, for example, the lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, blood, and bone meal. All this is taken from the carcasses of the same animals from which they prepare food for people. That is, the meat has passed veterinary control and is therefore as safe as human food.

Commercial and household diets for cats - Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery

In addition, small amounts of grains are added to food for overweight cats. This is necessary to reduce fat content, reduce calories and facilitate digestion due to dietary fiber. Therefore, in terms of basic composition, cat food almost does not differ from human food.

Some links in the article cannot be opened from Russian IP addresses. We hope you know what to do

There are only two ingredients that are more in dry food than in typical human food. Vitamin A is added to all cat food. Food for kittens and cats with certain diseases is also enriched with taurine. But this does not mean that the child will receive too much of these substances from one serving of food. nine0003

Nutrition Guidelines for Cats and Dogs - European Pet Food Federation, FEDIAFPDF, 1.3 MB

You did not write how old your cat is, what breed it is, how many times a day you feed it, and what kind of food she eat. Therefore, in the calculations, I assumed that this is an adult outbred animal weighing 5 kg, in the bowl of which there was a daily portion of cat food. According to the serving size recommendations from the Purina website, this pet needs 55g of dry food per day. nine0003

Cat food has more vitamin A. The Association of American Feed Control Officials, AAFCO, recommends that adult cat food contain a minimum of 1 mg and a maximum of 99 mg of vitamin A per kilogram of food. For these animals, it is very important to get a lot of vitamin A, since the health of their visual and cardiovascular systems depends on it.

Recommendations for the content of vitamin A in cat food - AAFCOPDF, 228 KB

Dry cat food, consumer tests - GOST R 702. 5.002-2020

At the same time, in foreign dry food, the content of vitamin A usually does not exceed 10 mg/kg, while in Russian it can range from 1.5 to 120 mg per kilogram of dry weight.

Suppose a child ate 55 g of dry food, which contained the maximum amount of vitamin A, i.e. 120 mg/kg. Under such conditions, the child will receive the maximum possible dose of the vitamin - 6.6 mg. This is about six times more than a child's daily allowance.

Vitamin A is necessary for the synthesis of the visual protein rhodopsin, but in high doses it is really toxic to the body. If you get too much of it, the symptoms will be similar to any other poisoning: nausea, vomiting, dizziness and blurred vision. nine0003


Vitamins: what foods contain and how to take supplements . Therefore, despite the excess of the norm, the shock dose of vitamin A will not affect the child's well-being. This will not lead to health problems in the future.

Cat food contains more taurine. Both humans and cats obtain taurine from food. But if in the human body it can be synthesized from the essential amino acid cysteine, then cats are incapable of this. And since taurine is needed to prevent blindness, heart problems, tooth decay and hair loss, food for fast-growing kittens, pregnant cats and animals with chronic diseases is enriched with it additionally. nine0003

Why cats need taurine - VCA Veterinary Hospital

An adult cat is estimated to need 35 to 56 mg of taurine per day. But most commercial feeds, including those fortified with taurine, contain about 500 mg of taurine per kilogram of dry feed weight. This means that with 55 g of dry food, the child will receive approximately 28 mg of taurine.

Taurine Requirements of Adult Cats - Journal of Small Animal Medicine

In very high doses, amino acids and chemically similar substances can be difficult to digest, and therefore sometimes cause digestive disorders: nausea, pain and heaviness in the abdomen. But there is too little taurine in the feed for this: according to the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, people of any age can eat up to 6 g of taurine per day without harm to health. nine0003

What to do if the child has already eaten cat food

One serving of cat food will not harm the child. If he has already eaten it, most likely there will be no health problems. But in the future, it makes sense to protect the child from encounters with cat food. And that's why.

Harmful bacteria can get into cat food. Dry food is usually free of harmful bacteria because it is made from microbiologically safe meat, cooked at a high temperature that microbes cannot withstand, and tested for safety before being packaged. nine0003

How dry cat food is made - Global Alliance of Pet Food Associations, GAPFAPDF, 441KB

However, the control of pet food is still not as strict as that of human food. Therefore, occasionally harmful microbes, such as salmonella, get into them already at the factory, the infection of which is especially dangerous for young children.

Salmonella Infantis Human Multi-State Dry Food Outbreak - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC

But more often, bacteria get into cat food through damaged packaging or improper storage, such as an open jar or food leftovers from an unwashed bowl. Cases are described when children became infected, even just by playing with dirty dishes from which animals ate.

The child may choke. Children under five have a very narrow trachea. Small, hard pellets of cat food that are difficult for a child to chew can get caught in the windpipe and cause suffocation. nine0003

Cat food is dangerous for children with allergies. Approximately 86% of pet foods contain at least one common allergen, and 43% contain at least two. These are, for example, wheat, fish and soybeans. In some children, the first allergy symptoms appear in the year, so contact with a potential source of allergens without parental supervision may be unsafe.

Frequency of food allergens in pet food - Journal of Allergology and Clinical Immunology

How to stop your child from eating cat food

Place the bowl out of the reach of the child. The easiest way is to put a cat bowl in one of the rooms and install a child safety gate on the door. Then the animal will be able to get to its food, but the child will not.

The width of the gate and the distance between the bars for devices of different designs may differ. Before buying them, it makes sense to make sure that the cat can squeeze between them. The price of such is 3500 R. Source: The cost of such gates is 3076 R. Source:
The width of the gate and the distance between the bars may differ for devices of different designs. Before buying them, it makes sense to make sure that the cat can squeeze between them. The price of such gates is 3500 R. Source: The cost of such gates is 3076 R. Source:

Buy an automatic bowl with a lid. Cat food bowls with lids that open only on the signal of an electronic chip or key fob on the collar help to protect cat food from encroachment when the animal comes to eat. nine0003

A conventional automatic feeder can also help, which dispenses food on time: the less food there is in the bowl, the lower the risk that the child will have time to get to it.

A bowl with an electronic chip only recognizes its owner. Price - 4303 R excluding delivery. Source:
The cost of automatic feeders that give out a portion of feed over time depends on the design and pricing policy of the manufacturer. The price is 4750 R. Source: The price of this feeder is 3350 R. All prices are valid at the time of publication. Source:
The cost of automatic feeders, which give out a portion of feed on time, depends on the design and pricing policy of the manufacturer. The price is 4750 R. Source: The price of this feeder is 3350 R. All prices are valid at the time of publication. Source:

What to do? Readers ask, experts answer

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What to do if the child ate cat food

Raising children

Anders Andersson / Moment / Getty Images

by a third: when the first child appears, the mother strokes the diapers and boils the toys. When the second is born - to hell with this iron, the main thing is that the diapers are clean. And with the advent of the third - if the child got to the cat's bowl, then this is the cat's problem. The doctor told us how dangerous such a situation could really be. nine0003

Therapist at ON CLINIC International Medical Center


One of the main dangers of food is not its nutritional properties, as many people think, but its shape: a child can choke and suffocate with dry balls. If the child is very young, wet food can also be dangerous, and not just dry food.

What to do:

First of all, parents should make sure that the child is breathing well and without any difficulty. nine0023 If there is difficulty in breathing, call an ambulance immediately.

Food ingredients that cause allergies

Cheap foods may contain flavors, colors and various flavors that cause allergies. You can compare them with what we eat: with chips, sweets - delicious, but there is little benefit in them. Of course, the worse the food, the harder the child will digest it, the stomach may get sick. But allergies can be caused not only by chemical additives, but also by bioadditives, various vitamins, protein components, and so on. nine0003

It is important to read the ingredients on the sachet to see if there is an ingredient that your child may be allergic to (eg fish, gluten). Small children, especially those under three years old, very often suffer from diathesis, allergies, dermatitis, etc.

It is important to prevent an allergic reaction - edema, urticaria.

First, check that there is no food in the baby's mouth. If there is nothing there, there is no reaction either, then everything is in order. Just let your child drink more water. You can also take smecta and crushed activated charcoal. nine0003

Onest Mistic / DigitalVision / Getty images

If the child begins to swell or redness of the skin appears, in this case, you should contact a pediatrician or an allergist-immunologist. If these symptoms increase rapidly, an ambulance should be called immediately.

As soon as the parents are convinced that the child does not choke on food, swallows calmly, breathes calmly, there is no acute allergic reaction, several actions must be taken . nine0182

1. Observe the child, and if vomiting, diarrhea suddenly appear later, then you need to see a doctor.

2. You need to make sure that the food of the cat or dog was fresh, that there is no non-specific smell, color and texture. Poisoning from food, in principle, does not occur if it is of high quality, not infected or spoiled by anything.


Feed may be contaminated with Salmonella (for example, if it was bought in bulk from an open pack in a pet store.

Symptoms: bloody diarrhea, fever, nausea, abdominal pain. In this case, you need to urgently contact an infectious disease doctor.

These are general recommendations, of course, everything must be considered individually.

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