Can Cats Eat Meatballs? (Not All Meatballs Are Made Equal)

meatballs cooking in a pan

I am a fan of meatballs for many reasons. They are inexpensive, easy to make, taste great and can be eaten for a couple of days as leftovers. What’s not to like?

Whenever it’s meatball night which is too often for my family’s liking, the two most common visitors that I will have in my kitchen are my dog and cat. And my ears will be accosted with non-stop meowing and yelping for scraps.

Can cats eat meatballs safely? Cats can eat meatballs that made are purely from meat. Meatballs that contain additional sauces and ingredients that might be toxic to cats should not be given to your cat. The best kind of meatballs are those that are specially made for your cat where you can control the type of ingredients used.

In this article, we will take a closer look at what goes into the making of meatballs and just how safe it can be for our feline friend.

What Is A Meatball?

Meatballs are basically minced or ground raw meat that is rolled into small or big spheres.

You can use any kind of meat to make meatballs but the more commonly used meats are ground beef and pork.

But it isn’t unusual to have meatballs made out of turkey, chicken, rabbit, fish, prawn and squid.

Meatballs can be cooked by simply boiling or panfrying them.

My favorite way of making it is by first panfrying the meatballs till the outside is nicely crisped and letter them simmer in a tomato-based sauce for some time.

Once done, I will grate a generous serving of parmesan cheese on top which my cat loves to eat.

There are other types of ingredients that can be used in making meatballs.

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Paprika
  • Seasoning (salt and pepper)
  • Herbs

The sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can add to your meatballs but I will address the more commonly used ingredients that can be toxic to cats.


garlic and onion

Onions are widely used when making meatballs. Not only do cooked onions taste great but they also contain a lot of health benefits.

But only for humans.

Onions are part of the allium family of plants which includes chives, shallots, leeks, scallions, etc. A lot of the above vegetables are used as an ingredient or garnish.

Onions are known to be highly toxic to cats and when cats eat onions, they can suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea

The reason why onions are so toxic to cats is that onions can cause severe damage to your cat’s red blood cells.

These cells in your cat’s body are responsible for transporting oxygen to all parts of its body.

If there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen, it can have a great impact on your cat’s health and make your cat anemic.

Studies have shown that as little as 5g of onion per kg of body weight is enough to cause toxicity.

Even if your cat eats less than that, the onion content can gradually build up in its body until it becomes toxic.

Do not feed your cat meatballs that contain any traces of onions.


a clove of garlic

Similar to onions, garlic is harmful to cats as it belongs to the allium plant family too.

The Pet Poison Helpline states that garlic is actually 5 times more toxic to cats than onions.

This means that your cat only needs to consume 1g of garlic per kg of body weight to suffer from severe food poisoning.

If your cat eats a meatball that has garlic in it, there is a very strong risk of garlic toxicity. Since garlic is also part of the allium family, the symptoms shown will be similar to onion toxicity.

You need to be careful of seasonings like garlic and onion powder/salt and the concentration levels of garlic and onion are a lot higher than their raw or cooked counterparts.

Most cats won’t go near garlic to its pungent odor but when mixed with food but it is still best to keep anything garlic away from your cat.


Paprika is one ingredient that I enjoy putting a lot of in my meatballs. It gives the dish a spicy and sweet finish which I really like.

Paprika and cats don’t go well together given that paprika is actually made from dried peppers.

Most cats won’t eat paprika straight up due to its strong spicy smell which they will find repulsive.

But when paprika is mixed in food, its spicy smell can be masked by other ingredients.

And cats are not able to taste spiciness which means that they can eat a lot of paprika without realizing it.

When cats eat anything spicy, it can cause irritation to their mouths, noses and throats.

Once the spice settles in their stomachs, it can cause problems with their digestive system like diarrhea and nausea.


salt shaker on table

I’m not someone that puts a lot of salt when I season my meatballs as I prefer to have the natural taste of the meat. Plus I add parmesan cheese to my dish which is salty enough.

But if you are someone that adds a lot of salt to your meatballs, you might want to take note of salt poisoning which can make your cat sick.

Cats roughly need about 20-40mg of salt daily in their diet. If you are already feeding your cat a high-quality diet, it already has all the sodium that it needs.

Too much salt in your cat’s diet can cause:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Kidney problems

It isn’t just meatballs that you need to be careful about. There are pet parents that feed their domestic cats a lot of human food as treats without realizing how much sodium it contains.

You might want to think thrice before giving your cat a few pieces of your salt and vinegar chips. Stick to cat food and the occasional non-toxic cat treat so as to not overdose your cat on salt.

Can Cats Eat Meatballs In Tomato Sauce?

Most people I know would cook their meatballs in tomato sauce as it gives the meatballs some acidity.

Tomatoes are very safe for humans but can be toxic to cats. This is due to the chemical compound called solanine which can cause lethargy, stomach upset and a lower heart rate.

Solanine is usually found in unripe tomatoes and the green parts of the tomato plant. Even though tomato sauces are made with ripe tomatoes, it is best to not take the risk.

Furthermore, a lot of commercial tomato sauces contain a lot of salt which isn’t healthy for our cats.

Can Cats Have Spaghetti And Meatballs?

Spaghetti and meatballs usually come heavily doused in tomato sauce.

And as mentioned above, tomatoes are good for cats and tomato sauces have a lot of salt and sugar added to them.

What Meatballs Are Safe For My Cat?

plain meatballs

The safest type of meatballs are those that you make at home for your cat.

The best way to do it is to use the kind of meat that your cat likes. What I like to do is mix the ground meat together which for an even better culinary experience for my cat.

Don’t add any other ingredients to the meat and roll them up into small balls. You can boil or bake the meatballs in the oven.

You can feed your cat a couple of meatballs since cats love meat.

To really add a delicious touch to it, you can pour some tuna water over it and watch your cat gobble it all up in a jiffy.

What Meats Should A Cat Not Eat?

Most types of meats are fine but do not let your cat eat raw fish as it contains a type of enzyme that interferes with the absorption of vitamin B in cats.

This also includes all types of seafood. Stick to the usual meats like chicken, turkey, beef, duck, lamb, etc and your cat will be fine.

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