Can Cats Eat Peanuts?

January 25, 2021

cats peanutsIs there any bar food more satisfying than a bowl of lightly salted and peppered peanuts? Their crunchy texture pairs wonderfully with their smooth, creamy taste that delivers a satisfying, filling snack with each handful (or handfuls, if you’re like us).

That’s not even mentioning peanuts’ high concentrations of protein and healthy fats! With these facts in mind, they almost seem like a superfood that should be eaten whenever we can. But what about for our cats? If you’ve just popped open a can of new peanuts and the kitty is staring right at you, is your best course of action to offer a nibble or two? Or are you better off shelving the peanuts and trying to find some Friskies?

Can Cats Have Peanuts?

Rest assured: if you spill some peanuts on the floor and your pointy-eared buddy scoops some up, they’re probably going to be just fine. But just because cats can have peanuts doesn’t mean they should.

Are Peanuts Healthy for Cats to Eat?

It can be easy to assume our pets are able to enjoy many of the same benefits of eating some of our favorite foods, like peanuts (Pad Thai, anyone?). But, unfortunately, this is a misconception borne out of ignorance to our pets’ digestive systems. When we think about giving our cats peanuts, for example, our minds might quickly jump to thinking of them as an easy, protein-dense snack.

peanuts and catsWhile the high protein content of peanuts is undeniable, peanuts unfortunately contain the wrong kinds of proteins for our cat’s bellies. Unlike omnivorous dogs and humans, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their digestive systems are built to break down proteins that are derived exclusively from animal sources. And while peanuts are certainly rich in certain nutrients and amino acids that are essential for a healthy life such as taurine, Vitamin E and biotin, these same nutrients can be gained in higher concentrations from meat.

Perhaps even more important to discuss is peanuts’ high fat content. While cat food tends to already contain lots of fats, it’s best not to complement this with high-fat snacks like peanuts. Gary Richter, DVM and owner of Montclair Veterinary Hospital, agrees with this opinion, stating: “Nuts and nut butter are high in fat so, even if cats will eat it, it’s best not to give a lot.” If you’re looking to supplement your cat’s diet with fat-rich foods, consider giving them treats that contain high concentrations of essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid.

It must also be stated that under no circumstances should you feed your cat peanuts which have been salted, seasoned, dipped, or flavored in any way. While certainly delicious, these accoutrements can seriously upset their tummy and cause a whole host of issues ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to lethargy, lack of appetite, and even disruption to the function of their kidneys, liver, and pancreas.

Are Peanuts Safe for Cats?

cats snugglingIt seems like a funny question to even ask. When you hold a bunch of peanuts in your hand, it’s easy to think that these little legumes (that’s right, not nuts) couldn’t hurt anything. And you’d be right, for the most part: peanuts do not contain any compounds that are inherently toxic to cats.

However, just because eating peanuts doesn’t pose a guaranteed risk to cats doesn’t mean that they’re all that good for them, either. For starters, due to their small size and easily breakable form, peanuts may pose a choking hazard to cats if not properly chewed. Additionally, some of our furry friends can suffer from serious allergies to some foods, including peanuts.

Can Cats be Allergic to Peanuts?

Like with any food that they’ve been exposed to, cats can develop mild to severe allergies to peanuts at every stage of life. And, while legumes and nuts are not innately harmful to them, nut allergies are not uncommon in cats, either. The process by which a cat becomes allergic to foods is a rather unfortunate one, too.

When a cat eats something that they’re allergic to, like peanuts, her immune system will mistakenly recognize that food as harmful. Once this identification has been made, the immune system releases the immunoglobulin-E antibody to neutralize the allergen. From this point on, your cat’s immune system will begin releasing a concoction of chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream every time it encounters that food to mount a defense against the supposed threat. The result? A whole lot of uncomfortable symptoms.

What are the symptoms of peanut allergies in cats?

peanuts catsUnfortunately, trying to discern a food allergy from symptoms alone is something of a fool’s errand. For some cats with peanut allergies, they’ll only display mild skin irritation. For others, eating a few peanuts will only cause some minor gastrointestinal distress (and an unseemly litter box). For some truly unlucky kitties, they may present with both skin and gastrointestinal discomfort. Though the list below is by no means an exhaustive list, the most reported symptoms of peanut allergies in cats include:

  • Itching and scratching at their heads and neck
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Irritated ears and eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Hot spots
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

However, there are also more than a dozen other reasons why your cat may be afflicted with these same symptoms. That’s part of what makes pinning down a food allergy in cats so frustrating: there’s just no easy way to test for it. If you suspect your cat has an allergy to peanuts, your best course of action is to take them to a veterinarian for an official diagnosis.

But, if you notice that your cat is developing skin infections, don’t fret! There’s a no-sting, no-odor, antibiotic product on the market that provides on-contact relief that lasts: Banixx Pet Care! Just liberally apply Banixx to the affected area two or three times every day and let it go to work. In no time at all your furball’s…skin should begin clearing up, allowing you the opportunity to get them to the vet for a proper diagnosis without having to see them in pain.

How are peanut allergies diagnosed in cats?

Currently, the most reliable test for uncovering and diagnosing food allergies in cats is a food trial. This test involves placing your cat on a special diet as prescribed by your veterinarian that contains very few ingredients. Depending on your cat’s medical history, this test may last from a few weeks to several months.

cute catsTypically, the prescribed diet will allow for a single protein, a single carbohydrate, and only necessary fats, vitamins and minerals. Your veterinarian will likely also recommend excluding all flavored medications and treats to ensure that the results are not affected. A food trial diet may take a variety of forms, with the two most common being a hydrolyzed-protein diet and a home-cooked novel protein diet.

A hydrolyzed-protein diet involves feeding your cat commercially available food with proteins that are so tiny that their immune system can’t recognize them and trigger an allergic reaction. A home-cooked novel protein diet, on the other hand, involves exclusively feeding your cat a form of protein which they’ve never encountered before.

If your cat’s symptoms drastically improve throughout the course of the trial diet, then it can be assumed that something in their old diet was to blame for their previous discomfort. However, the only way to be sure if that’s the case is to (you guessed it) slowly reintroduce old foods into their diet.

If Whiskers begins to feel like a million bucks after being on one of the above diets, but quickly suffers a relapse in symptoms after you let them crunch on some peanuts, then it’s safe to say that peanuts are a food they’re allergic to.

Can Cats Eat Peanut Butter?

In the same vein of thought that cats technically can eat peanuts but probably shouldn’t, the same is true for cats and peanut butter. While certainly delicious (who doesn’t love Reese’s?) and nutritionally incredible, peanut butter may actually pose more potential problems for cats than their crunchy counterparts.

peanut butterAs is the case with peanuts, it can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking that giving peanut butter to our kitties might pass on some of the health benefits that we love it for. However, this is a mistake. According to the University of Missouri Small Animal Clinical Nutrition Service: “The simplest and most convenient way to meet the nutrient requirements of a cat is to provide them with a complete and balanced commercial diet formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist or an individual with a PhD in animal nutrition.” This means that, so long as your cat is already eating a balanced diet, there are no nutritional benefits for peanut butter to bestow.

Additionally, like peanuts, peanut butter is high in fat. Specifically, trans-fatty acids. The addition of these trans-fatty acids help to give peanut butter its beloved long shelf-life. However, these same fats are harmful to cats’ hearts. Peanut butter is also rich in sodium which, if consumed in high enough quantities, can cause your cat to present with symptoms such as excessive thirst, weakness, behavioral changes, and even seizures.

Then there is the calorie question to consider. Part of the reason that peanut butter is so cherished by body-builders and moms alike is because of its high caloric density. While this makes it a great, filling mid-day snack for us, this also makes it potentially harmful to give to your feline friends. Indoor cats are already prone to weight-gain, and feeding them something as calorie-dense as peanut butter may only exacerbate this issue. If they’re giving you the ole kitty-cat eyes to try and get a treat from you, consider feeding them something with fewer calories like small amounts of cooked fish or bite-sized carrots instead.

Plus, some peanut butter manufacturers have chosen to eschew adding sugar to their formulas in response to growing demands for low-sugar products. Instead of sugar, they’ve opted for xylitol: an artificial sweetener that is extremely toxic to all domesticated animals. So, if you even think about giving your purry pal a lick of peanut butter, make sure it’s the xylitol-free stuff.

Of course, as responsible pet parents, we know that you’ll look at the product labels before giving your furball anything to eat. That’s why we hope you’ll visit our cat page to learn more about how to keep your cat happy and healthy.