Can Cats Eat Tamales?

As a cat lover, I’m often asked about the dietary habits of our feline friends. One question that has come up recently is, “Can cats eat tamales?” To answer this question, we need to delve into the world of feline nutrition and understand the ingredients typically found in tamales.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their bodies are designed to consume and process meat. Their dietary needs are distinct from ours, and certain foods we enjoy can be harmful or even toxic to them. Let’s explore the suitability of tamales for cats, using scientific facts, numerical values, and statistics.

Tamales: A Brief Overview

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made from masa (a dough made from corn), which is filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, or other ingredients, and then wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. While this dish is a favorite among many people, it’s important to consider if it’s safe for our feline companions.

The Nutritional Needs of Cats

Cats require a diet high in protein, with essential nutrients like taurine, arachidonic acid, and vitamin A, which are typically found in meat. According to the National Research Council, adult cats require at least 12.5 grams of protein per day, and kittens need at least 20 grams.

Can Cats Eat Tamales?


The primary ingredient in tamales, masa, is made from corn. While corn is not toxic to cats, it’s also not part of their natural diet. Cats lack the necessary enzymes to digest plant-based foods efficiently, and a 2017 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that high-carbohydrate diets can lead to obesity and diabetes in cats.


The fillings in tamales can vary widely, and some may be harmful to cats. Onions and garlic, common ingredients in tamales, are toxic to cats and can cause anemia. Spices like chili and salt can also be harmful. According to the ASPCA, ingestion of large amounts of salt can lead to sodium ion poisoning in cats.

Corn Husks

The corn husks used to wrap tamales are indigestible for cats and can pose a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage.

The Verdict

Given the potential risks and the lack of nutritional benefits, it’s best to avoid feeding tamales to cats. The American Veterinary Medical Association states that treats should make up no more than 10% of a cat’s daily caloric intake, and these treats should be nutritionally balanced for cats.

Alternatives to Tamales for Cats

If you want to share a special treat with your cat, consider options that are safe and healthy for them. Cooked chicken, turkey, or fish can be a great treat. Commercially available cat treats that are low in carbohydrates and high in protein can also be a good choice.


While we love sharing our lives and sometimes our food with our feline friends, it’s essential to remember that their dietary needs are different from ours. Tamales, while delicious for humans, are not suitable for cats due to their high carbohydrate content and potential toxic ingredients. Always prioritize your cat’s health and consult with a vet if you’re unsure about feeding them certain foods.

Remember, the key to a healthy cat is a balanced diet tailored to their specific needs. Keep the tamales for yourself, and give your cat the high-quality, protein-rich food they require and deserve.

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Amelia Kteylor

Amelia Kteylor, DVM, attended the University of Georgia. She is a cat expert with 20 years of experiences in field. She has a passion as a writer and editor for pet publishing industry too. Amelia contributes to numerous pet magazines in the areas of pet health and groom. Further, she volunteered in cat rescue centers in her leisure time.

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