Cats should not eat peanut butter. Although peanut butter isn’t toxic to cats, it can cause healthy issues, especially if ingested in large amounts or frequently.
Some of the reasons you don’t want to feed your cat peanut butter are:
Cats can have allergic reactions to peanut butter/peanuts, just as humans do. And if the reaction is severe enough, or they’ve been repeatedly exposed to peanut butter/peanuts and their allergy becomes more severe, it can be deadly. Later in this article, I cover peanut allergies in cats, as well as what signs to look for if you think your cat may be having an allergic reaction to peanut butter.
Cats are carnivores, and although they may be able to digest plant proteins and higher levels of fats, it can still cause indigestion. Indigestion in cats is very similar to indigestion in humans. When you eat something your body has a hard time digesting (such as dairy if you’re lactose intolerant, or greasy food), you may be bloated, gassy, experience stomach pain, diarrhea, or even vomiting.
And just like we continue to eat food we know we shouldn’t because it tastes good, your cat will do the same if they like the taste of peanut butter. So it’s best not to put peanut butter in front of them; you don’t want them experiencing indigestion. At least we can reach for Pepto Bismol; your cat just has to suffer through it.
3) HIGH FAT & HIGH SUGAR
Peanuts are naturally high in fat and some brands of peanut butter also contain vegetable oils and trans fat. Most peanut butter also contains a lot of sugar. High fat and high sugar diets are not healthy for cats and can lead to weight gain and obesity. Just as obesity in humans causes a lot of health complications, it’s the same with cats.
Obese cats have a higher risk of getting diabetes, which is an expensive disease to treat and requires you to give them a shot of insulin, typically every 12 hours. This can put a strain on your schedule and limit how much time you spend away from home. Your cat’s immune system may also be compromised if they’re obese, there’s the risk of liver failure, and several other health risks. You don’t want your cat to become overweight due to (or partially due to) eating peanut butter.
4) TOXIC INGREDIENTS
Although peanuts may not be considered toxic to cats, peanut butter may contain small doses of ingredients that can be toxic. You don’t want to run the risk of your cat eating enough peanut butter to cause toxicity or consuming small amounts of peanut butter over time, that leads to bigger health issues down the road.
Some of the more dangerous ingredients in peanut butter are:
Sodium is needed in your cat’s diet, but not at the same levels humans can consume. Too much salt can be harmful to cats with kidney, liver, or heart disease and a diet that’s really high in salt can also cause sodium poisoning in healthy cats.
- SUGAR OR SUGAR SUBSTITUTES
Peanut butter often has a lot of sugar, or sugar substitutes such as xylitol. Although these ingredients may not “poison” your cat (there’s a bit of a grey area with xylitol, which I cover further into this article), they’re not good for your cat and just as sugar causes health issues in humans, it can wreak havoc on your cat’s body too. Sugar ingredients can also be very harmful if your cat is diabetic.
Peanuts, and thus, peanut butter, can also contain aflatoxins, a toxin produced from mold, and is known to cause serious health issues in cats.
Another situation to be aware of is peanut butter being used as mouse or rat bait, and that peanut butter being mixed with actual poison to kill the rodents. Although you may not be putting out peanut butter for your cat, inside or outside of your house, your cat (or a neighborhood cat if the trap is outside) will likely be attracted to it and eat the poisoned peanut butter meant for the rodents.
If you eat peanut butter then you know how sticky it can be in your mouth. Your cat has a much smaller mouth than you do and a spoonful of peanut butter could pose a choking hazard to a cat. Cats aren’t familiar with different consistencies of food like we are. So they may love the taste of peanut butter and “bite off more than they can chew”.
IS PEANUT BUTTER TOXIC TO MY CAT?
The main ingredient in peanut butter, peanuts, are not toxic for a cat to eat. However, peanut butter can contain other ingredients that can be harmful and even toxic to a cat.
Salt can be toxic to cats. Although it’s unlikely your cat will eat enough peanut butter to consume a deadly amount of salt, high levels of sodium can be toxic to cats, so you don’t want your cat to over-indulge in peanut butter.
Xylitol is commonly used as a sugar substitute in human food. It’s a known toxin to dogs, but whether or not it’s toxic to cats is a grey area.
This study did find that xylitol did NOT induce toxic effects on cats, however, the study was only conducted with 6 cats, so all breeds of cats with varying health conditions were not tested. Although xylitol is not well known to be toxic to cats, it’s certainly not natural for a cat to ingest the ingredient and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It would be especially important for cats with diabetes to avoid this ingredient, or any other type of sugar. Although sugar substitutes, such as xylitol don’t spike blood sugar levels, the worry behind xylitol is due to it being known to cause a dramatic drop in blood sugar in dogs. As mentioned, a study did find that xylitol didn’t have the same effect on cats, but the study isn’t conclusive enough to rule it out as being dangerous to all cats. Just as it’s dangerous for a diabetic cat’s blood sugar to get too high, it’s also dangerous for it to get too low.
Cats don’t taste sweetness anyways, so there’s no purpose for it in their diet in any dose.
CAN A CAT EAT NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER?
Even the most natural peanut butters, that only contain peanuts, aren’t ideal for your cat, for the following reasons.
PEANUTS ARE HIGH IN FAT
Peanuts are high in fat, which make them harder for your cat to digest, and may cause gas and bloating. If your cat is given natural peanut butter frequently, as a treat, this excess fat in their diet can lead to obesity, which has several health implications.
Peanut allergies are common in humans, but a cat can also be allergic to peanuts. Why are cats more likely to be allergic to peanuts than other nuts? It’s hard to say, but it could have something to do with the way peanuts are grown. According to this article, peanuts are often grown in crops that are rotated with cotton. This leads to the crops having to be sprayed with insecticides and fungicides, which obviously aren’t good for a human’s body, or a cat’s and may be a factor in allergic reactions when ingesting peanuts.
PEANUTS MAY HAVE MOLD
Peanuts are often grown in warmer and more humid climates, which can contribute to the growth of fungus. That fungus can produce aflatoxin, which is a toxin. Aflatoxins at higher levels can cause illness, liver damage, and death in cats (source).
CAN CATS HAVE PEANUT BUTTER AS A TREAT?
For the risks outlined in this article, it’s best not to give your cat peanut butter, even as a treat once and a while.
There are so many other treats on the market, that are actually intended for cats, and are much better options than peanut butter. You can even find more natural and wholistic cat treats that won’t contain any “grey area” ingredients or be full of fillers.
If your cat loves peanut butter and you use it to give them medication, be sure to talk to your vet. If you must frequently give your cat pills and/or your cat is overweight, your vet may suggest another tool for getting those pills down. Or they may be okay with your cat having peanut butter once and a while. But if they’re aware you’re feeding it to your cat, they can keep an eye on their health and watch for any complications commonly associated with the food.
HOW MUCH PEANUT BUTTER CAN CATS HAVE?
Cats should not be given any peanut butter. Although a small amount of peanut butter isn’t likely to cause your cat any harm, small amounts over time can be harmful.
You also won’t know if your cat is allergic to peanuts/peanut butter until you feed it to them, so why run the risk?
You may not even notice an allergic reaction at first, but just like humans, repeated exposure to an allergen can increase the severity of the reaction.
Small doses of high-fat, high-sugar, and higher-sodium foods over time will cause health issues that can require expensive vet visits, lower the quality of your cat’s life, shorten their life, and even cause death.
CAN CATS EAT PEANUT BUTTER ICE CREAM?
A cat should not eat peanut butter ice cream. Although peanut butter ice cream may simply use artificial peanut butter flavor and not contain real peanuts, ice cream has several other ingredients that aren’t suitable for your cat to ingest.
Ice cream typically includes heavy cream and sugar, ingredients your cat shouldn’t eat. Adult cats are generally lactose intolerant. Some cats can tolerate milk in small doses, but most won’t be able to digest it, which can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting.
As mentioned, cats shouldn’t eat sugar as it can lead to weight gain and can be particularly dangerous to cats who have diabetes.
Even if the ice cream is made from coconut milk/cream, it will be hard for your cat to digest. Cats are carnivores, so their digestive systems have a harder time digesting plant proteins.
CAN KITTENS EAT PEANUT BUTTER?
Kittens should absolutely not eat peanut butter. For all the reasons an adult cat should not eat peanut butter, plus, a kitten’s digestive system is not fully developed.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CAT EATS PEANUT BUTTER?
If your cat has eaten a small amount of peanut butter, there’s likely nothing to worry about.
It will be immediately important to ensure they’re not choking on the peanut butter’s sticky texture; keep an eye out for that and ensure they have water nearby to help wash it down if they appear to be struggling.
Just like humans, cats can have fatal reactions to allergens. So you’ll want to look for signs of an allergic reaction in the first couple of hours after consuming the peanut butter. Those symptoms will be very similar to how allergic reactions appear in humans and may be:
- Irritated eyes
- Swollen paws
Call your veterinarian if you’re noticing any of those symptoms. Do NOT give them human allergy medications in an attempt to relieve their symptoms; talk to your veterinarian first.
And rush them to a vet clinic immediately if you see signs of anaphylaxis:
- Struggling to breath
- Acting lethargic
- Having a seizure
If your cat seems fine in the hours following ingesting peanut butter, it’s important to continue keeping an eye on them in the following days.
Watch for any vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in their litter box behaviour, or overall behaviour.
Health issues can be expressed in a variety of ways and expressed differently in each cat. So, in general, watch for any behavioral changes that are out of the ordinary for your cat and contact a veterinarian if you see any.
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