If you’ve ever thought about sharing a handful of peanuts with your feline friend, you can rest easy knowing that peanuts are safe for cats to eat. Of course, as with all other “people food,” there are some guidelines to follow to ensure your kitty’s safety.
Are Peanuts Good for Cats?
Kitties thrive on a high protein diet. They use this protein for energy, muscle building, and maintenance. In the wild, a cat’s diet consists almost entirely of meat for this reason.
As it turns out, peanuts are also high in protein. While this type of plant protein may not be as digestible for cats as protein from an animal source, it can still be valuable to your cat.
Peanuts also contain omega fatty acids that are beneficial for healthy skin and a shiny hair coat. Omega fatty acids can also decrease inflammation, something that comes in handy with kitties getting into their golden years or for cats with long-term health conditions.
Finally, peanuts provide a satisfying crunch. While this might not be something your cat is necessarily looking for in their food choices, eating peanuts may help mechanically clean their teeth. Biting down on a few firm peanuts can help scrape away stuck-on plaque and tartar while stimulating blood flow to those the gums and periodontal tissues.
Can Peanuts Be Bad for Cats?
It seems that there’s always a downside for every human food that’s considered safe for our furry felines. Peanuts are no exception.
Peanuts contain all of those fatty acids because they are high in fat. Even fat that’s considered healthy can cause problems if given in excess. This is especially true for cats have difficulty digesting it.
A high-fat diet can lead to obesity (of course!), digestive upset, and pancreatitis. While pancreatitis is most commonly seen in pups, cats can be affected as well, and can increase the likelihood of diabetes. Vomiting and diarrhea may also accompany a large dose of fat, so it’s essential to give peanuts very sparingly. For most kitties, this means one or two peanuts at a time.
There’s also the risk that your kitty will be allergic to peanuts – just look at the number of people that are. Peanut allergies can present itself as digestive issues – again, the vomiting and diarrhea – or skin irritation and itchiness. If your cat has a bad reaction after eating peanuts, it’s best to stop giving them any and try other options.
There is also a small possibility that your cat can choke while eating peanuts. Some larger peanuts may be difficult for your cat to chew properly and can become lodged in their throat. Consider chopping the peanuts first before offering them to your kitty.
Can Cats Have Peanut Butter?
What kitty wouldn’t love a little dollop of peanut butter on their tongue? It’s tasty and entertaining!
Peanut butter possesses all of the same risks as eating whole peanuts (minus the choking hazard) with an additional risk you need to be aware of.
Peanut butter typically contains sugar or some other kind of sweetener and possibly some additional salt. None of these ingredients are good for your cat. Where you can get into real trouble is if your peanut butter contains the sweetener xylitol. This sweetener is more commonly used in low sugar peanut butter formulations and is extremely toxic to kitties. If you must share your peanut butter, stick with a low sugar, low sodium, no xylitol version.
What Kind of Peanuts Can I Give to My Cat?
You should feed your cats raw, shelled peanuts. The fibrous shell that peanuts come in make them a fun toy, but ingesting that shell could wreak havoc on their digestive system. A peanut shell is very high in fiber, which can lead to constipation or diarrhea, depending on how many they consume.
Cat’s also don’t need the extra salt, sugar, or other coatings that we enjoy on our peanuts. Toffee or chocolate coated ones are definitely out.
Provided that your cat isn’t allergic to peanuts, take comfort in knowing that the occasional peanut isn’t going to hurt them and may even give them a bit of a protein and omega fatty acid boost for the day. Just don’t get into the habit of feeding them large amounts or often, and always monitor their reactions to avoid an upset.
Dr. Chyrle Bonk has been practicing veterinary medicine since 2010. She lives in Idaho with her husband and two sons, where they spend their free time exploring the great outdoors that is right in their backyard.