Peanut butter makes the go-to snack for lots of people across the world, but especially those in North America. But can cats eat peanut butter?
Does it even offer them any health benefits? Can peanut butter put a cat’s health in danger? Read on to find out all the answers!
Is peanut butter good for cats?
While that does not mean that peanut butter is deadly for cats or that they are likely to experience any severely unpleasant symptoms, it definitely does not make the best snack for this species.
In theory, if you were to make your peanut butter at home using only your own ingredients and process them in a high-power blender, the result would be safer for cats.
Unfortunately, store-bought varieties have a wide range of ingredients that can indeed cause health complications in cats.
Risks to feeding your cat peanut butter
Many peanuts can be contaminated with certain fungi, some of which can produce these toxins. But while people rarely develop health complications after being exposed to small amounts of aflatoxins, that is not the case with our feline friends.
Their little bodies do not have the same mechanisms to protect themselves from the abuse of these substances, especially in high quantities.
With peanut butter, it is practically impossible to tell whether the peanuts it was made from were contaminated or not.
An allergic reaction
As is the case with people, you have no way of telling that your cat is allergic to peanuts or any other nuts, for that matter, until you expose them to it.
However, since peanut butter really isn’t species-appropriate, why take the risk? Granted, very small amounts may not necessarily lead to an anaphylactic reaction, but that doesn’t mean that your cat may not experience other symptoms.
Hives, itchiness, or respiratory discomfort are some of the most common ones.
Not a lot of studies on how sensitive cats are to xylitol, sorbitol, or other artificial sweeteners have been performed. We know by now that these food ingredients are life-threatening for dogs, but it’s fairly safe to assume that while they are not lethal to cats, they are not good for them anyway.
Too much salt and sugar
Since cats are obligate carnivores, most of their diet and the essential nutrients they get from it should come from protein sources like meat. Added salt and sugar will not do your cat any good whatsoever, and they are also not flavors that cats can perceive.
Moreover, they can lead to hypertension or cardiovascular complications, or dangerous spikes in an animal’s blood sugar level. Commercial peanut butter is likely to contain both of these ingredients.
Lots of products you can find on the shelves of your local supermarket have additives, artificial colors, binders, as well as preservatives. As you can imagine, none of these ingredients are healthy for cats.
Moreover, some of them have been proven by many studies to be carcinogenic, meaning they can increase the risk of your pet developing cancer in their senior years.
Too much fat & too many calories
Peanut butter is a fat-rich product, and while fat may be good for cats in limited amounts, it’s not healthy if they have too much of it.
The same goes for calories – peanut butter is so incredibly calorie-dense that if your cat has a teaspoon of it, anything else they eat on that day will exceed the number of calories they should have.
Peanut butter isn’t something that cats would naturally have in the wild, so they can experience some type of gastrointestinal discomfort. Whether that is in the form of vomiting or diarrhea, abdominal pain, or constipation, you really can’t know until your cat has this type of food.
How much peanut butter can you give your cat?
Ideally, none. This is not a species-appropriate snack, so there are many healthier alternatives.
On the other hand, if your feline companion really is crazy about peanut butter, something like half a teaspoon per week may be safe for them.
Can you find cat-safe peanut butter?
It can be challenging, but if you take a close look at the label of several varieties at your local store, you may encounter one that doesn’t contain any of the ingredients we have already mentioned.
Once again, homemade peanut butter is much safer for cats (although not as safe as your cat’s normal treats) because, in its case, you have complete control over what you add to it.
Peanut butter alternatives for cats
Pretty much any cat snacks available for sale are better than peanut butter, at least for the reason that they are made for this species.
But even cat treats can have some risky ingredients. However, they are likely to cause less unpleasant symptoms, and such reactions are also much rarer.
In terms of foods you may have in your home, boiled eggs, cheese, berries, carrots, and pumpkin puree are a few examples of safe snacks for cats.
What should you do if your cat ate peanut butter?
It’s a good idea to take your cat to the animal hospital if you find that they’ve had peanut butter and significantly more than a teaspoon.
Some animals may have a higher chance of experiencing severe symptoms, especially kittens, seniors, pregnant cats, and those that are known to have chronic diseases.
Cats that have diabetes may also experience a spike in their blood sugar, so your vet may recommend an increase in the dosage of insulin, for example.
Veterinary assistance will definitely put your mind at ease, even if your cat doesn’t risk becoming sick.
Dog and Cat Exposures to Hazardous Substances Reported to the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory: 2009-2012, Ali Mahdi et al, J. Med. Toxicol. 2013 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3657027/