Let’s face it: We all know why dogs and cats congregate around certain members of the family during mealtime, and it’s not just to make sure you remembered to put your napkin on your lap.

While many pet owners are diligent in their pet food duties and never feed their cats and dogs anything outside of a strict veterinarian-approved diet, plenty of others see no harm in sneaking their pets a little people food once in a while. Hey, we get it — it can be difficult to ignore those puppy dog eyes or pleading purrs, especially if you know which human foods are OK for your pets (and which ones are dangerous)!

We polled Vetstreet readers and veterinary professionals[i] (such as veterinarians, veterinary technicians and office managers) to get the scoop on who’s feeding their pets human chow from the dinner table.

Illustration of dog sitting at a table

Whose Pets Are Getting the Grub?

Knowing about the prevalence of pet obesity and understanding how hard many vets are working to fight the epidemic, it might not surprise you to learn that overall, veterinary professionals were 10 percent less likely than readers to feed their pets people food from the table. Just over 51 percent of veterinary professionals stated that they never give either cats or dogs food from the table, while 41 percent of readers claimed the same.

As for which type of animal got table scraps, almost 9 percent of readers said they feed both their cat and dog from the table, compared to 15 percent of veterinary professionals. Readers were found to be over 12 percent more likely to feed only the dog from the table (34 percent of readers vs. 22 percent of veterinary professionals), but it appears that cats are a different story. Readers were actually about half a percent less likely than veterinary professionals to partake in feeding only the cat from the table (4.9 percent vs. 5.5 percent). The remaining respondents selected “Other.”

Illustration of dog being fed from table

Who’s Responsible for the Handouts?

Among those who said they do give table scraps, both groups responded similarly that everyone in the home was guilty of feeding pets from the table (46 percent of veterinary professionals and 42 percent of readers).

In a veterinary professional’s household where pets received people food from the table, 25 percent were fed by the vet professional and 23 percent were fed by someone else. In a reader’s home, 36 percent were fed by the respondent and just 12 percent by someone else, with the rest selecting “Other.”

A Regular or Rare Treat?

In the majority of homes where pets receive people food, it’s not infrequent: 35 percent of veterinary professionals and 34 percent of readers responded that they treated their pets in this way about once a week, and 26 percent of veterinary professionals and 31 percent of readers said it happened daily.

Among the remaining veterinary professionals who responded, 17 percent said once a month, 13 percent admitted to only special occasions like parties and holidays, and 9 percent said “Other.” With readers, 7 percent said monthly, 13 percent claimed special occasions only, and 15 percent said “Other.”

Any Repercussions?

The final (and perhaps most important) question on this topic is whether a pet had ever experienced a medical issue resulting from indulging in people food from the table, and for this question we also included the owners who stated they did not feed their pets from the table. After all, if they choose not to do so, perhaps past experience had given them a reason, right?

Veterinary professionals’ and readers’ negative responses were similar: 32 percent of the former and 28 percent of the latter said they simply did not give their pets food from the table, so this had not been an issue. Approximately 56 percent of veterinary professionals and 62 percent of readers answered that although their pets were given people food, they had not had any sort of medical issue whatsoever.

Just shy of 7 percent of veterinary professionals and a little over 5 percent of readers said their pets had experienced mild repercussions (like gas), and slightly under 3 percent of veterinary professionals and 2 percent of readers acknowledged serious issues had occurred, requiring a trip to the vet. The slight remainder of respondents selected “Other.”

[i]Results based on a survey completed in March 2014. Number of pet owner respondents: 2,347; number of veterinary professional respondents: 253.

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