Can my cat eat onions?
NO. This is a big problem with feeding your cat "people food." Cats should not be eating anything that has been prepared with onions, because it can cause a kind of feline anemia, which is a blood disease that affects the red blood cells in the cat. Onions are toxic to cats, and they damage the cat's red blood cells and cause abnormalities in them.
I just fed my cat food made with onions! Should I start panicking and running around in terror?
Probably not just yet. This is a problem that happens over time, and your cat isn't going to get sick immediately if you let it eat people food a few times. Unless your cat got into some pure onion for some reason, I wouldn't worry. If you've been feeding your cat human food with onions for a long period, I would go look at the symptoms on our feline anemia page just to be sure. Most of the serious problems have happened with cats whose primary diet has included onions - baby foods used to be a recommended way to get finicky cats to eat, but this caused anemia in some cases because the cats were regularly eating onions in that food and is now seen as bad for cats.
What are the symptoms of onion poisoning in cats?
The cat will have digestive problems, which means vomiting or diarrhea probably. The cat will lose its appetite, and it will get lethargic and weak. The urine may appear red. Watch for any of these symptoms - if you see them, then your cat should go to the vet.
How much onion does a cat have to eat to get sick?
If it's just food prepared using onion to flavor it, then it has to happen regularly and over time. If the cat has gotten into food with pure onions the onion poisoning could happen within a few days of eating it (your cat finding uneaten pizza or Chinese food is the most common way, but they will sometimes eat cooked onions as well, and surprisingly some cats will even eat them raw).
Generally it would take several hundred grams to hit the danger level, but that isn't that much. Cats will generally recover once you make sure they don't eat any more onions. It is not permanent damage to the body - it kills a bunch of cells, but they will be replaced over time. However, the cat can get very sick from this and should be checked out by a vet if it is showing symptoms.
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