Cats should not eat cashews, as they’re a plant based protein, are high in fat, and high in carbohydrates; not suitable for a cat’s diet. Cashews are not considered toxic to cats, however, they may contain ingredients that can be toxic to cats in larger amounts. Cashews may also cause mild to severe health issues if a cat has an allergic reaction to the nut.
Although you may have read several articles stating that your cat can eat cashews, and maybe it’s okay to give them cashews as a treat once and a while, this article outlines why it’s best to never give your cat cashews. Better to be safe than sorry when it comes to our cats and their health.
Cats, in the wild, eat a low carbohydrate diets. It’s been speculated that the higher carb diets many house cats tend to be on by consuming dry cat foods full of high-carb fillers (like grains, potatoes, legumes, etc.; food cats wouldn’t naturally eat), are the cause of common health issues such as obesity and feline diabetes. Cashews are higher in carbohydrates than the prey cats would normally eat. Feeding a cat cashews frequently as a treat isn’t ideal for their nutritional needs and may lead to health issues down the road.
Cashews are also high in fat, another component that can lead to obesity and other health complications if they’re consistently eating high-fat foods. Just as high-fat diets aren’t healthy for humans, they can also make your cat unhealthy and can even lead to diabetes, liver failure, pancreatitis, and several other issues that lower the quality of your cat’s life.
Cats can be allergic to nuts, and that includes cashews. Mild symptoms may be uncomfortable for your cat while severe symptoms can cause anaphylaxis, which lead to death. Your cat may have a subtle allergic reaction the first time they eat cashews, which can easily go unnoticed by you. However, if they’re allergic to cashews and are continually given them to eat, the severity of the allergic reaction can increase with exposure.
Some cashews are flavored and may contain ingredients that are toxic or not ideal for your cat to consum. Salt can be toxic to a cat if ingested in larger amounts. Alliums (i.e. onions, garlic, leeks, etc.) are toxic to cats, and when they’re in powdered form (e.g. onion powder, garlic powder), they’re even more potent. Hot spices made with chilli peppers will have capsaicin, which should not be ingested by a cat, nor should nutmeg, due to a toxin called myristicin. Although it’s unlikely your cat will eat enough flavored cashews to cause toxicity, it’s best not to give them even the smallest amount of an ingredient that can be toxic to them.
Cashews can be contaminated with aflatoxins, a toxin that is produced by mold. This toxin is harmful to humans, so of course it can also be toxic to a cat. It can cause illness, liver damage, and even death (source).
ARE CASHEWS TOXIC TO MY CAT?
Cashews on their own are not toxic for a cat to eat. However, they may contain small amounts of toxins, such as:
Aflatoxins are produced by fungi/mold and are often found in high concentrations in nuts, such as cashews. The toxin can cause illness, liver damage, and death in cats (source).
Some salt is needed in a cat’s diet because sodium is an essential chemical compound in the body. However, too much salt can be toxic to cats. Your cat would need to eat a fair amount of salted cashews to cause toxicity, however, if they get to the bottom of a bag, where all the salt has settled, they could easily consume close to a teaspoon of salt, which is enough to be harmful to a cat.
Alliums are toxic to cats and may be found in powdered form on cashews. Onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives are alliums and some nuts may have onion powder and/or garlic powder listed in their ingredients.
CAN MY CAT EAT CASHEWS AS A TREAT?
Although plain cashews aren’t considered toxic to a cat, there are no benefits to feeding them to your cat, even as a treat. They offer no nutritional value so there are no positive effects of your cat eating cashews, but there is the potential for negative impacts, so why risk it?
Go with a treat that is 100% safe for your cat to eat and even provides vitamins and minerals your cat’s body can actually digest and benefit from.
WHY DOES MY CAT EAT CASHEWS IF THEY’RE NOT GOOD FOR THEM?
Just like humans eat several foods that aren’t good for us, simply because they taste good, cats will do so too. It’s most likely your cat is attracted to cashews because of their salty coating.
In some cases, cats will eat non-food items, or items they wouldn’t normally eat if they were out in wild, due to an eating disorder called pica. It may be because they’re bored or stressed, or because they have a deficiency in their diet or an underlying disease. If you notice your cat is constantly trying to eat items they shouldn’t, contact your veterinarian to be sure there isn’t a larger issue at hand.
CAN CATS HAVE CASHEW MILK?
At best, cashew milk is made by combining ground up cashews and water, and straining the fine nut particles out. However, if you purchase cashew milk from the grocery store, it may have all kinds of additives; thickeners, preservatives, additional plant proteins, etc. ingredients that are questionable for humans to consume, let alone cats.
Either way, cashew milk is still high in fat, which isn’t ideal for your cat’s diet, and you still run the risk of your cat having an allergic reaction to cashews.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CAT EATS CASHEWS?
There’s likely no need for alarm if your cat has eaten a small number of cashews. Watch for the following symptoms and contact your vet if you notice any of them.
You’ll want to keep a close eye on them for the first couple of hours to be sure they aren’t having an allergic reaction to the cashews (here is an hourly guide to caring for a cat you believe is having an allergic reaction). The symptoms will be similar to human allergy and may include:
- Irritated eyes
- Swollen paws
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian. Do NOT give them human allergy medications in an attempt to relieve their symptoms; talk to your veterinarian first. More severe anaphylaxis reactions will require an immediate vet visit, such as:
- Struggling to breath
- Acting lethargic
- Having a seizure
If your cat eats several cashews, they may experience indigestion. Although the symptoms will mostly be uncomfortable to your cat, it’s still a good idea to contact your vet and explain the situation so they can let you know what to watch for and if/when to bring them in. Symptoms of indigestion may be:
- Stomach pains
If your cat has ingested enough of a toxin, 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
You may also be interested in reading: