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Can Cats Eat Almonds?

Can I Give My Cat Almonds?

Second only to the two kings of micronutrients (fruits and vegetables), nuts are some of the healthiest foods we can incorporate into our diets. One of the most popular nuts is the delicious, nutritious almond. We love to eat almonds roasted, salted, mixed with chocolate and raisins, or sliced atop salads and smoothies. In recent years, almond flour, almond milk, and almond butter have surged in popularity. Put simply: almonds are delicious, and we love to eat them because we know that they are as good for our bodies as they are for our souls.

That’s all very well for us and our other human family members, but what about our four-legged family members? Many pet owners have heard horror stories about people who have learned the hard way that the foods that are good for us are not always good for our furry friends. So, are almonds a feline-friendly food? Can cats have almonds?

While giving your cat the rare almond is not expressly forbidden by most experts, there are some health risks associated with this food. This means that feeding your kitty nuts with any regularity is not recommended, and almonds should be treated with caution. If your cat accidentally eats an almond or two off the floor, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. If they manage to eat more than that, however, you should monitor them carefully and contact a veterinarian if you notice any behavioral changes.

Health Benefits?

But are there any potential benefits to giving your cat almonds as an infrequent supplement? After all, aren’t they supposed to be health-boosting superfoods?

Though adding almonds to our own diets can work wonders on our health, we can’t really say the same for our cats. Unfortunately, many of the vitamins and minerals in nuts are not available to felines. This is because housecats, just like their wild cat cousins, are obligate (or “true”) carnivores. Lions, tigers, bobcats, leopards, and yes, even your sweet little Scottish Fold, have evolved to meet all of their nutritional needs by eating one thing: whole prey animals.

Your bacon-loving uncle may refer to himself as a hardcore carnivore, but cats are the ultimate meat-eaters. Being a true carnivore is about far more than a simple taste for flesh—it’s biology. Cats are biologically ‘designed’ to run on nutrition extracted from the muscle, blood, and organs of their prey. After millions of years of eating meat, our feline friends have largely lost the ability to get nutrition from plant sources. Cats can’t synthesize many of the amino acids that we can. They also must get Vitamin A in its pre-formed state because they lack the equipment to make it out of beta-carotene.

Their food of choice is reflected in the makeup of their digestive system, too. They have very short digestive tracts, which means that their bodies do not have much time to properly process plant foods like almonds. Since they lack the biological equipment necessary to pull nutrition from nuts, there is nothing to be gained from eating them.

There are, however, plenty of downsides to giving your cat almonds regularly. The most worrying is the risk of cyanide poisoning. Almonds naturally contain small amounts of cyanide—and it takes far fewer almonds to poison your cat than it would to poison you. If your cat consumes too many almonds, they may develop cyanide poisoning. Symptoms include dilated pupils, breathing problems, and shock. Left untreated, cyanide poisoning can be fatal.

Things to Keep in Mind

On a slightly less terrifying level, almonds are bad for your cat because they are extremely high in calories and fat, yet extremely low in the nutrients that they need for health. Though your cat will not be able to get many vitamins or minerals from almonds, they will definitely be able to absorb some calories, and the calories in nuts add up fast. Eating too many high-fat foods like almonds can cause weight gain that can eventually lead to obesity. Feline obesity, of course, contributes to a wide range of other problems—diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and several types of cancer, to name a few.

In addition, eating high-fat, difficult-to-digest foods like almonds often results in digestive problems. This can include bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If the almonds in question are flavored with chocolate or salt, your cat should not eat even one. Chocolate is extremely poisonous to cats, and cats have a very low tolerance for added salt.

Final Thoughts

Where almonds (or any other nuts) are concerned, the best policy for your cat is one of abstinence. Your feline friend is an obligate carnivore who has little to gain from eating a high-fat, hard-to-digest food like almonds. Add in the fact that almonds contain cyanide (which is toxic) and a ton of calories (which can contribute to obesity) and there is no good reason to share this food with your cat. Opt for something lower in calories and easier to digest!


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