Cats should not eat almonds, for many reasons, which are outlined in this article. Sweet almonds are not toxic to a cat, but bitter almonds are toxic to cats and can cause serious health issues. Even when it comes to sweet almonds, there’s no reason to feed them to your cat.
The following 7 points are the main reasons cats shouldn’t eat almonds.
1) BITTER ALMONDS
The more commonly consumed almond is a sweet almond, which isn’t toxic to cats. Bitter almonds are not typically offered by retailers, but they are available, and are toxic to your cat. Bitter almonds contain cyanogenic glycosides, which is a natural toxin that can poison your cat. Symptoms may be as mild as an upset stomach, or as severe as death.
It’s speculated that high carb diets are the cause of common health issues in cats, such as obesity and feline diabetes. The prey cats would typically eat in the wild are low in carbohydrates, and nuts, including almonds, have more carbohydrates than a cat’s diet requires, so they’re not an ideal food for them.
Like most nuts, almonds are higher in fat than a cat’s diet requires. If a cat is given a high-fat food every day, even in smaller amounts, it can lead to obesity, which can then lead to several health complications, such as pancreatitis, diabetes, liver failure, etc.
It’s not as common in cats, but they can have nut allergies, just like humans. Also similar to humans, the symptoms of an allergic reaction can be mild to severe. You won’t know if your cat is allergic to almonds until you feed them one, and you don’t know how severe that reaction might be. Allergies can also become more severe with increased exposure to an allergen. So although you may not notice an allergic reaction at first, it can worsen over time if you feed your cat almonds frequently. It’s best not to risk it and keep almonds away from your cat.
Almonds are larger in size and a harder nut, making them more difficult for a cat to chew and break down into smaller pieces before swallowing them. If they ingest whole almonds, they can cause an intestinal blockage.
Almonds may be salted or covered in chocolate, both of which are ingredients that can be toxic to cats. Cat do need some salt in their diets, but too much can be toxic. All types of chocolate are toxic to cats due to the ingredient theobromine. Because it can’t be digested by cats, it leads to a toxic build up of it and can cause abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and death.
Aflatoxins are found in a variety of nuts, including almonds. It’s a toxin produced by mold often found in nuts and can lead to illness, liver damage, and even death (source).
ARE ALMONDS TOXIC TO MY CAT?
The commonly consumed sweet almond is not toxic to cats. The less common bitter almond, IS toxic to cats, due to the chemical compound cyanogenic glycosides.
Almonds may also contain ingredients that can be toxic to cats, such as:
Although cats digestive systems can handle, and cats require, some salt, too much salt can be toxic to cats.
If the almonds are flavoured/seasoned, they may contain onion powder or garlic powder, which are alliums and are toxic to cats.
All types of chocolate (white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, cocoa powder, etc.) contain theobromine, although it’s much more concentrated in dark chocolate. Cats metabolize theobromine much slower than humans and can easily be poisoned by a small amount of chocolate. If a cat ingests chocolate, they may experience a slowed heart rate, dehydration, and digestive issues. More severe reactions may cause seizures or even death.
All nuts, including almonds may contain mold, which can product aflatoxins. Aflatoxins can be deadly to cats and/or cause illness (source).
CAN MY CAT EAT ALMONDS AS A TREAT?
As mentioned, bitter almonds are toxic to cats and should never be given to a cat. However, even though sweet almonds aren’t toxic to your cat, they also should never be given as a treat, due to the health risks outlined in this article.
There are too many risks involved with giving a cat almonds to eat and there are several other options on the market that are more appropriate for your cat to eat as a treat. Cats will find cat treats just as appetizing, they’re typically safe for a cat to eat (watch for too many unnatural additives), and, unlike almonds, can provide nutritional value.
WHY DOES MY CAT EAT ALMONDS IF THEY’RE NOT GOOD FOR THEM?
Some cats will eat non-food or hard to digest items due to an eating disorder called feline pica. The cause may be behavioural; they’re bored or stressed. It may be due to a deficiency in their diet, or it may be a sign of a more serious health issue.
If your cat eats one almond off the floor, it’s likely out of curiosity and isn’t a cause for concern. But if your cat is constantly trying to eat food they shouldn’t, or non-food items, contact your veterinarian to be sure there isn’t a bigger underlying issue.
CAN CATS HAVE ALMOND MILK?
Most store bought nut milks, like almond milk, are full of questionable ingredients added to thicken the milk, make it more flavourful, and lengthen its shelf life. Almonds on their own are not an appropriate food for a cat to eat, so almond milk, whether natural (almonds and water) or full of additives, isn’t appropriate for a cat either.
CAN CATS EAT ALMOND BUTTER?
Almond butter is often full of salt, sugar, and other ingredients that aren’t appropriate for a cat to eat, and can even be toxic. To take a closer look at why you should never feed your cat a nut butter, check out why cat’s shouldn’t eat peanut butter.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CAT EATS ALMONDS?
If your cat has eaten one or two sweet almonds, you’ll want to be sure they’re not choking on the almond, first and foremost, and then watch for signs of an intestinal blockage, allergic reaction, indigestion, or poisoning. Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms or change in behaviour. They can advise you on what to watch for and if/when to bring them into the clinic.
If your cat has swallowed almonds whole, it may cause a blockage, which is a serious condition that needs to be addressed immediately and will likely require surgery to correct. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Vomiting (especially after eating)
- Weight loss
Watch for an allergic reaction if your cat ingests nuts, such as almonds (here is an hourly guide for dealing with an allergic reaction in your cat). The symptoms may include:
- Irritated eyes
- Swollen paws
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian. More severe anaphylaxis reactions will require an immediate vet visit. Symptoms may be:
- Struggling to breath
- Acting lethargic
- Having a seizure
Your cat may experience indigestion after consuming almonds, due to their high fat and being a plant protein, which are harder for cats to digest. Symptoms of indigestion may be:
- Stomach pains
If your cat has ingested enough of a toxin found in a bitter almond, aflatoxins found in regular almonds, or in the flavoured coating of an almond, they may show signs of a poisoning, at which point, you should immediately contact your vet or take them to the vet clinic. These symptoms may present themselves immediately, or within several hours or days.
- Decreased appetite
- Excessive thirst or urination
- Pale gums
- Blood in vomit, saliva or stools
- Difficulty breathing
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