Can Cats Eat BBQ Sauce? 3 Facts Explained

Whether you’re cooking for yourself or entertaining guests, nothing beats a meal cooked over an open flame. However, your cat may be intrigued by the smell of meat cooking on the grill.

Cats can safely consume most types of meat, especially when they are not seasoned, but what if your pet sneaks away with a chicken leg that has been doused in BBQ sauce?

Can cats safely consume BBQ sauce? No, to put it briefly. Keep your cat away from the BBQ sauce because it contains ingredients that are harmful to them. It depends on the sauce and its ingredients as to whether or not it is toxic.

What could happen if your cat ingests barbecue sauce is explored in greater depth here.

Can Cats Eat BBQ Sauce?

There’s no need to freak out if your rowdy beast eats some BBQ by accident (or on purpose). Small amounts of this tasty sauce should not cause any unwanted reactions.

Does that mean you need to incorporate it into your cat’s regular diet on a daily basis? No way, no how!

There are a number of ingredients in BBQ sauce that could be harmful to your cat. It’s possible to find vinegar, tomato paste, onion powder, liquid smoke, salt, spices (mustard or black pepper), and sweeteners (sugar or molasses) on the ingredients list.

The sauce’s ingredients will change depending on the brand, origin, or whether it was purchased or made at home. It’s obvious that cats shouldn’t eat BBQ sauce because most of the ingredients are harmful to your beloved pet in some way.

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Can Cats Eat BBQ Sauce? Is It Healthy for Them? - Excited Cats

A Little About BBQ Sauce

There’s a good reason why we don’t feed our pets barbecue sauce. The key is in the mix. The following ingredients make up the bulk of your average BBQ sauce:

  • Tomatillo relish
  • Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Sugar brown
  • Molasses
  • Smoldering vapor
  • Ground onions
  • Seasonings and spices
  • Salt

Most BBQ sauces include some combination of the following ingredients and seasonings, though the specifics will vary by region, brand, and preparation method. The ingredients of the sauce will determine how dangerous it is for your cat.

Let’s take a look at the harmful ingredients and the effects of overfeeding them to a cat.

Ripe tomatoes on a table

Cats and BBQ Sauce

Here are some of the more common, and potentially dangerous, ingredients in BBQ sauce.

Onions and Garlic

Both of these components are harmful to canine, canine, and equine species. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warns that cats should not be fed onions, garlic, or any member of the allium family. Never give your cat anything that even remotely contains the aforementioned herbs and spices.

Anemia can develop after a cat consumes onions or garlic due to oxidative damage to the red blood cells.

Some possible symptoms are:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Physically Impotent
  • Pale gums
  • a sped-up heartbeat
  • faster heartbeat and breathing
  • Collapse

In addition to triggering gastroenteritis, foods like garlic and onions may also cause:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Ache in the guts
  • Itching in the mouth
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Symptoms may take a few days to appear after your cat eats something containing onions or garlic, so don’t wait to call your vet if you suspect an ingestion. Your cat may appear fine after consuming something containing these ingredients, but this does not prove that it is safe.

onion bulb-pixabay


Because ingesting too much salt can cause poisoning, the Pet Poison Helpline classifies salt as toxic to cats. Symptoms of salt overload include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Defeat of equilibrium
  • An increase in thirst and urination
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Cats have a much lower salt tolerance than humans do, so even a small amount of salt can have serious consequences.


Most barbecue sauces have some sort of sweetener, like sugar or molasses. Cats should avoid eating too much sugar to prevent them from gaining unnecessary weight. Sugary treats are permissible on occasion, but should be enjoyed sparingly. It’s not worth the potential health problems if cats eat anything sweet.

When it comes to artificial sweeteners, the widely used sweetener Xylitol is toxic to dogs but apparently less so to cats. Keep your cat away from the candy and cookies just in case.

sugar cubes

Spicy Seasonings

Cats may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal tract irritation if they consume anything spicy.

Even though ripe tomatoes are not toxic, they still may cause mild stomach upset and are the main ingredient in most barbecue sauces’ bases.

Vinegar isn’t poisonous on its own, but it can cause serious injury to your cat’s stomach lining if ingested undiluted.

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Barbecue Safety

There are risks around barbecues beyond the sauce being toxic to cats. First, cooked meat bones tend to splinter, so if your cat eats a bone, it can cause internal punctures. Small bones can cause serious problems if they become lodged between teeth or in the mouth and throat.

The other danger is undercooked food; cats, like humans, can get sick from eating bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and listeria.

Keeping an eye on sharp objects, cooking fluids (if any), and paraphernalia like aluminum foil is important if you let your cat join you in the backyard while you grill. The risk of burns should also be considered.

If your cat ever gets hurt or eats something they shouldn’t, you should take them to the emergency clinic or vet immediately.


Long-term, it’s best if you can keep your cat away from grills. Your cat probably won’t be harmed if it accidentally consumes a small amount of BBQ sauce, but you shouldn’t make this a regular occurrence because the sauce has no nutritional value for cats.

BBQ foods typically do not provide the balanced, nutrient-rich diet that cats need. Additionally, most BBQ sauces contain far too many ingredients that could make your cat sick.

Talk to your vet if you have any concerns or questions about your cat’s diet, and you’ll get expert recommendations for what to feed your cat. Our feline friends are deserving of occasional nourishing treats, after all.

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