Can I Give My Cat Bananas?
Since they are so widely and consistently available, we have discovered a long list of uses for bananas. We use them as a pillow for ice cream sundaes. We freeze them and add them to smoothies. We smear peanut butter on them, we bake them into bread, we use them as egg replacers (try it!), and occasionally, we feed them to our dogs, who will eat anything.
For pet owners, the next question is this: what about our cats? While dogs can stomach just about anything, cats (and their bodies) are pickier. Can cats have bananas? Is it safe to feed your cat a couple slices of banana from time to time?
The answer: YES, cats can eat bananas. Unlike grapes or chocolate, bananas are not in any way poisonous to cats—there is no risk of Heinz body anemia, liver failure, or kidney problems associated with eating them. This is one simple sweet treat that both your canine and feline friends can enjoy from time to time.
Do not be surprised, however, if your cat fails to ‘go bananas’ for bananas the way that your dog does. While our omnivorous canine companions love fruit, and can reap some health benefits from them, cats are obligate carnivores. This means that their taste buds—and the rest of their bodies—are calibrated for meat foods, and bananas hold little appeal to their tongues or their stomachs. So, though your dog can extract some nutrition from bananas, your cat really can’t. When it comes to feeding your cat, bananas are almost completely nutritionally empty.
So, are there ANY potential health benefits of bananas for your cat? This question largely depends on your basis of comparison, but even when considering bananas on their own, there is one small benefit: fiber. Though your cat does not need plant fiber the way that people and dogs do, there is some idea that supplementing their diet with a small amount of indigestible fiber may aid in regulating your cat’s digestive system.
But wait, you wonder, why would my carnivorous cat need to eat fiber, if they wouldn’t eat plant matter in the wild? This is largely due to the nature of the processed kibble that many people feed their cats. In the wild, cats would eat whole prey, including tendons, ligaments, cartilage, fur, and other indigestible animal parts. These bits and pieces would serve the same purpose in their digestion that dietary fiber serves in ours. If your cat is not regularly munching on mouse bones, a small amount of plant fiber may be an acceptable substitute.
When it comes to cats, fiber is usually thought to have two possible benefits: firstly, it can help prevent and treat diarrhea, and second, it can help your overweight or obese cat lose weight. Fiber helps stop diarrhea by soaking up the excess water in the intestinal tract and adding indigestible bulk to stool, effectively slowing things down.
Things to Keep in Mind
In sum, bananas are a safe, non-toxic treat option for cats who like them, but they offer almost no nutritional benefits. If you feed your cat a couple of banana slices, it should be primarily for emotional enjoyment—not for physical health reasons. Feeding your cat too much fruit can result in stomach upset and diarrhea, so keep the serving sizes small and infrequent. If your cat responds negatively, consult a veterinarian.