Peanuts make an excellent, readily available snack for people around the world. They are sold in many varieties and are seasoned with different spices depending on where one lives.
But can cats partake in these treats? Cats are true carnivores, so the bulk of their nutrition will be sourced from animal proteins and fats. And as pet owners, we love to share fun treats with our cats. But it is important to remember that your cat's digestive system is very different from yours, and the snacks and treats we enjoy are not always ideal for cats.
So can cats have peanuts safely? Let's find out.
Can Cats Eat Peanuts?
Yes, cats can eat peanuts. There is nothing toxic in shelled, unsalted peanuts for your cat. Still, you should not feed peanuts to cats because they are many health risks involved, including obesity, diarrhea, and peanut allergy– you should read more about the potential risks before your cat eats peanuts.
It should also be noted that peanuts are not a viable source of nutrients for cats or kittens, plus they have a large amount of monounsaturated fat, which cats are not equipped to digest. This poses a health risk (but we will discuss those at length a bit later).
The answer to the question "should cats eat peanuts" is NO but the answer to the question "can cats eat peanuts" is YES.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Contrary to popular belief, peanuts are not nuts – they are legumes. And since legumes are plants, it is easy to understand why peanuts should not be part of the cat's natural diet. Cats are carnivores, and to keep them healthy, you need to offer them a balanced diet of high-protein cat food. Other foods should only be served as treats, making up about 5-10% of their daily food intake.
As you can see, it's not just a matter of yes or no. The peanut itself is in no way toxic, but there are health concerns in feeding them to your kitty. And, of course, there are many types of peanuts available –are they all a health risk?
When it comes to cats and peanuts, you will be glad to know that unsalted, plain peanuts you buy at the grocery store are not toxic to cats. It will not hurt your cat if a plain peanut is dropped on the floor, and they come over and eat it.
If a kitten were to come over and eat such an item, it would not harm them, either. It just may be hard for them to chew and digest as they are not as developed as adult cats.
The variety of peanut served matters
The variety of peanut served matters, though. Only unsalted, roasted peanuts are OK. This is because a small bit of salt on a single peanut won't hurt, but salt in large amounts is toxic and should not be voluntarily served to your pet. This makes an unsalted peanut a far better choice if you want your cat to have a taste of peanuts.
But when it comes to other varieties of peanuts, such as boiled peanuts or candied peanuts, things get a bit dicey. Boiled peanuts are OK; after all, a single boiled peanut is soft and won't harm your cat. But peanuts with honey roast, chocolate or yogurt coating, or spices are not a good idea.
For starters, sugar is not favored by cats as they lack the receptors to taste the sweetness. Chocolate is toxic to cats, and peanuts with seasonings contain additives (such as salt) that are not healthy for your cat.
Now, onto shelled peanuts. NEVER give your cat a shelled peanut. The shell is hard for cats to digest if swallowed and could lead to digestive system damage. Remove and discard all shells before offering your cat a peanut. Furthermore, the shells are often coated with salt, which can cause dehydration, poisoning, or extreme thirst in your cat.
Lastly, do cats really even like peanuts? It depends on the cat. Some owners report their cats are right there to snap up the peanut, while others say their cat sniffs it and moves on, totally uninterested.
In any case, when it comes to many human foods, the quantity served, the type you offer, and how often you allow your cat to consume it matters just as much. Continue reading to explore all the health risks and caveats associated with cats eating peanuts.
Health Benefits: Are Peanuts Good for Cats?
There are no benefits of giving your cat a peanut/peanuts. Cats are carnivores and require protein and animal fats from quality pet foods in order to maintain their health.
Cats should not eat peanuts because this otherwise delicious and crunchy nut has no nutritional benefits for an obligate carnivore such as your cat
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Peanuts simply cannot provide this type of nutrition. Even the fats they offer, monounsaturated fats, are hard on the feline digestive system to handle.
For these reasons, we don't recommend feeding peanuts to your cat. Although they are not toxic to your kitty, they do come with a few health risks. Let's have a look.
Health Risks: Are Peanuts Bad for Cats?
There are absolutely risks that you should be aware of before thinking of peanuts to your cat. Let's discuss them now.
Although peanuts are not toxic to cats (and peanuts are actually a legume), they may cause nut allergies, which are not uncommon in cats.
If you serve your kitty a peanut for the first time and she experiences diarrhea or vomiting as a result, chances are it is only due to the feline's inability to digest the nut properly.
It takes time and repeated exposure for a food allergy to show itself, so if your cat has eaten peanuts in the past, but you begin to notice sneezing, vomiting, or swelling, it's likely she has an allergy. In addition to these symptoms, cats with a nut allergy often have itching, which may lead to bald spots.
Food allergies in cats can be overlooked because the symptoms are similar to other less worrying things like scratching because of dry skin or vomiting hairballs. Actually, since nut allergy is one of the most common reasons for itching in cats, if you witness any excessive scratching, you should always contact a vet to assess the need for more tests.
Diarrhea and vomiting can also come about as a result of the fat contained in peanuts. The feline digestive system is not equipped to handle such large amounts of fat, which can result in your cat experiencing these unpleasant side effects.
The fat of these nuts brings about another risk: that of obesity. Cats, especially those who are indoor felines, run the risk of not getting enough exercise and eating too much food. This leads to obesity, which can cause diabetes in your cat.
The symptoms of feline diabetes include:
- increased urination
- weight loss
- increased appetite.
Sometimes these symptoms go unnoticed, although diabetes needs to be treated properly to ensure a good long life. If you're worried about any signs your cat may be showing, contact a vet to evaluate the symptoms.
Shells Are Dangerous
Shells are another hazard we've briefly touched on. Peanut shells are hard for your cat to chew. As a result, your cat could try to swallow a particularly large chunk and end up choking on it.
It is not impossible for a cat to try to swallow an entire peanut.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
And not just the shell, the peanut itself also poses a choking hazard. Although cats are rarely voracious eaters, it is not impossible for a cat to try to swallow an entire peanut.
Also, the shells are very sharp when broken into pieces or chewed. It can result in your cat tearing their stomach lining or their throat. It's also important to be careful if you drop a shelled peanut on the floor. It might be funny to watch your cat bat it around, but if they decide to bite, the consequences could be dire.
Lastly, peanuts do nothing for cats as far as nutrients go. They don't offer your pet any animal fats or proteins cats need to thrive. It's like candy for humans: harmless if eaten in small quantities but offers no nutritional benefits whatsoever.
Even though a cat's body needs salt (sodium) to function, too much salt is very harmful and may cause salt poisoning (hypernatremia). When there is too much salt in the body, it causes an imbalance in the electrolytes and prevents the body from functioning normally.
Vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, urination, and excessive thirst can be signs of salt poisoning. In severe cases, it may lead to tremors, seizures, coma, kidney damage, or even death.
One or two salted peanuts will not harm your kitty, but keep in mind that cats are small creatures, and even a small amount of salty foods may affect their health. If you're worried your cat might be getting too much sodium in its diet, you can contact a vet for peace of mind.
Also, never feed your cat chocolate-covered peanuts as chocolate is poisonous to cats too.
What Number of Peanuts Can I Give My Cat?
If you feel the need to give your cat a peanut, one or two peanuts per week is appropriate. It's best to purchase unsalted peanuts for this purpose. This is because even if the amount of salt found on peanuts sold in stores is relatively small, cats don't need more salt than what is provided in the high-quality pet food you feed them each day.
Too much salt can cause poisoning in cats. Also, peanuts offer no nutritional benefits to cats, so keep it to a minimum. Ultimately, it's best to give your cat a treat that's designed for kitties instead of "human food."
How Often Can I Treat My Cat to Peanuts?
We suggest you offer your feline actual cat treats, but if your pet must have a peanut, keep it to just once per week. One or two peanuts is more than enough for your cat to enjoy.
Remember, you don't want to give your cat peanuts too often. They have zero benefits for cats nutritionally and can also lead to obesity, diabetes, and your cat could also develop a peanut allergy.
What About Peanut Butter?
Cats generally do not care for peanut butter-like dogs do. Peanut butter is often produced with added sugar, making them a poor choice nutritionally for cats. Given that cats aren't interested in it and it offers no nutritional benefits, it's best to avoid giving it to your cat.
Preparing Peanuts for Cats Safely
If you're going to be offering your cat peanuts, purchase ones that have been shelled. Also, avoid salted or seasoned peanuts.
You can give your cat one or two of these peanuts without any preparations, but supervise your cat while they eat, and if they are not interested in the peanut, discard it immediately.
According to the USDA, here are the nutrition facts for 100g of peanuts:
- Calories: 567
- Protein: 26g
- Carbs: 16g
- Sugar: 4g
- Fiber: 9g
- Fat: 49g
Peanuts also contain vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamin B-6
As you can see, peanuts are a fatty, high-protein food. They are very rich in calories, which may cause weight gain.
Peanuts have very little nutritional value since cats can not metabolize plant-based fats and protein well.
For cats, peanuts have very little nutritional value since cats can not metabolize plant-based fats and protein well. Actually, the cons outweigh the pros since the high-fat content may cause obesity and diarrhea in cats.
So, should cats eat peanuts? We don't advise it. Cats and peanuts don't mix- peanuts just don't offer felines any nutritional benefits and actually present more risks than rewards.
Stick with providing your cat quality food that meets AAFCO guidelines, and provide them with plenty of clean, fresh water to drink. And if your want to give them a treat, there are far healthier options available than peanuts.
Also, the shells and added salt of commercially produced peanuts- as well as their fat content- can cause your cat to become ill or injure themselves.
The bottom line? If you are going to offer your cat a peanut, do so with care- only unsalted and shelled peanuts are OK. However, actual cat treats are best.
The answer to the question "should cats eat peanuts" is NO but the answer to the question "can cats eat peanuts" is YES. What does this mean?
Well, cats should not eat peanuts because this otherwise delicious and crunchy nut has no nutritional benefits for an obligate carnivore such as your cat. However, if your cat happens to find a long lost peanut under the couch or steals one from your jar, there is nothing to be worried about as peanuts are not toxic to cats.
Finally, if considering peanuts when searching for the perfect cat treat, keep searching – when it comes to cats, there are far healthier treat alternatives than peanuts.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Ivana Crnec is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialized in domestic carnivores. She graduated from the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. Ivana is a certified canine nutritionist and also certified in HAACP food safety system implementation. She currently works as a veterinarian while completing her postgraduate studies. Her research has been published in international journals.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your cat's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.