A source of protein, fiber, and other nutrients, cats can eat beans. However, moderation is key, as with all human foods, and beans shouldn’t make up a significant portion of their diet. So, what are some other benefits of beans, and are all beans the same when it comes to your cat’s tummy? Let’s find out.
The Benefits of Beans for Cats
With beans, the list of benefits is long. As already stated, beans are excellent sources of protein. Cats are obligate carnivores meaning that they need protein, and lots of it, in their diet as a source of energy and muscle maintenance and growth.
Add to that high protein a high fiber content, vitamins, minerals, and even antioxidants. Fiber is important for digestive regulation and function. It also helps keep a kitty feeling full for longer so that they aren’t constantly rubbing against your legs, begging for food. High fiber in the diet is a definite plus if you’re trying to convince your cat to lose a couple of pounds.
Vitamins and minerals are needed in nearly every bodily function, and antioxidants help protect and prevent oxidative damage to cells. This is something that can occur to any cell at any time and happens as your cat ages. A diet high in antioxidants can help deter diseases such as cognitive dysfunction and kidney disease.
Beans are also low in fat and calories, something that most of our housecats don’t need. They are even less expensive than their high-protein counterparts-meat, another great benefit if you’re on a budget or just looking for a less expensive snack for your feline friend.
Can Beans Be Bad For Cats?
Beans have been called a superfood, and they indeed are for humans. But for cats, they’re not so much a superfood as they are a super-snack. Beans are high in protein, but they are incomplete in their amino acid profile, like many other plant-based protein sources. This means that they don’t provide all of the essential amino acids that cats need from their protein. This makes mixing and matching of beans with other protein sources important. Meat is a complete protein and should make up the majority of a cat’s diet.
That high fiber that is touted as a savior for digestive health can be detrimental in high qualities. Fiber is undigestible, which helps bulk up bowel movements to get things moving in constipated kitties or solidify loose stools.
But on the flip side, it can also draw lots of water into the digestive tract, leading to diarrhea. It can even fill up the stomach, taking up room that more important and necessary nutrients need to inhabit.
Beans are by no means toxic to your cat. However, since your kitty’s digestive system is finely tuned to efficiently digest meat, adding a bunch of beans to their diet can lead to diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain.
How to Feed Beans to Your Cat
If you’re looking to add a bean bonus to your cat’s snack time, do so wisely. Steer clear of canned beans, refried, or baked beans as all can be high in sodium. Baked and refried beans usually contain lots of fat and sugars that negate the positive effects, or seasonings, like onion and garlic, that can be toxic.
Instead, feed your cat beans that have been washed, soaked, and cooked without seasonings. Raw beans aren’t very appetizing, and they can contain harmful bacteria on their skins and create obstructions in the gut.
Soak beans for a couple of hours and then boil for about 30 minutes or until tender. Serve without other seasonings. Keep the amounts low and infrequent so that these beans don’t replace too much of your cat’s regular diet.
For kitties on a diet, you can add beans to their regular meals to up the fiber content and decrease the number of calories consumed. Stick to below 10% of their total diet unless directed by your veterinarian.
Is There a Difference Between Different Beans For Cats?
Kidney, pinto, black, white, green…the list of types of beans are long, but are they are the same? As far as your cat’s concerned, most beans have a similar nutrient profile. This is because your kitty will only be eating a small amount, so that any differences will be minor.
That being said, darker colored beans tend to be higher in antioxidants, so if you have an older kitty or one with a chronic condition, darker beans, like black and kidney, may be more beneficial.
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are less digestible than other beans, so they should be avoided. Again, seasonings and extra add-ins, like sugar, should also not be a part of your cat’s bean snack.
If your kitty is curious about beans, feel free to give them some. Just make sure that you give them beans in their purest, cooked form in small amounts and only sporadically. These (infrequent) little treats can provide your cat with some additional protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, as well as a little antioxidant punch.
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.