Can Cats Have Biscuits?
Though the most popular breakfast quick breads are probably pancakes, muffins, and waffles, American biscuits can’t be far behind—these flaky, buttery breads provide the perfect base for a wide range of spreads, from margarine and jam to peanut butter and chocolate hazelnut spread. They are fluffy, comforting, carbohydrate-rich, and ridiculously easy to make, which makes them the perfect breakfast food to turn to when we want something sweet and savory. Fans of fast food often eat biscuits in the form of breakfast sandwiches. In some parts of the US, they also show up as sides for lunch and dinner, where they are consumed with savory options like gravy and butter.
Because biscuits are basically flaky breakfast bread, they are relatively mild foods—almost everyone we know (unless they are allergic to gluten) is able to eat them without any taste complaints or digestive problems. Biscuits are one of the few side dishes we can bring to any potluck that are sure to be an absolute hit. But what should we do when our pets start begging for a taste of our biscuit breakfast? Is this popular quick bread a treat for our pets, too, or is it harmful? Can you give your cat biscuits?
Technically, yes, cats can eat biscuits in moderation, but it is not recommended. Biscuits are very similar to many other bread products, which means that they are safe for cats, but they are also unhealthy. The vast majority of biscuits are not dangerous for your cat—they do not contain any ingredients that are known to cause toxicity in felines, so your furry friend will be perfectly fine if you drop a chunk of leftover biscuit into their food bowl every now and then.
Still, biscuits definitely are not suitable foods for cats, and any pet who eats them regularly will probably suffer some negative health effects in the long term. If you must give your cat biscuits, use them as rare treats. Don’t give any kind of bread to your cat on a regular basis.
If you grew up with an eye on the food pyramid (or, and this is more likely, if your parents and/or teachers liked to use the food pyramid to guilt you into eating vegetables), you probably learned that bread products and other grains are an important part of a balanced diet. While it is true that humans can eat biscuits and other bread products on a regular basis and still maintain health, the same can’t be said for our cats. This is because, while humans are omnivores who thrive on diets that include starchy foods (like bread, pasta, potatoes, and corn), cats are obligate carnivores who have evolved to eat meat almost exclusively.
In the wild, your housecat would follow a diet remarkably similar to a lion’s or a bobcat’s—they would meet all of their nutritional needs by eating the whole bodies of prey animals like mice, squirrels, and birds. Because their bodies are set up to get all of the nutrients available in meat, flesh and organ meats would supply all of the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that your cat needed in order to survive.
Biscuits are lacking in almost every key nutrient. Whereas some whole grain breads at least contain fiber, protein, and a handful of micronutrients, biscuits are usually made of refined flour, which has had all of the fiber and protein stripped out of it. Giving your cat a biscuit is pretty much the same as feeding them pure sugar and fat. It will not help them get any of the nutrition they need to thrive; it will only cause insulin spikes and weight gain.
Simply put: your cat does not need to eat biscuits or any other type of bread. There are no health benefits involved in feeding this food to your cat. Biscuits are empty calories for felines (and for humans, too, most of the time), so, if you feed biscuits to your pet regularly, they might develop nutrient deficiencies. If they don’t end up with some sort of deficiency, they will likely become overweight or obese—cats only need a few hundred calories per day in order to maintain their weight, so they don’t have a lot of room for empty calories!
Overfeeding is already a huge problem for domesticated animals. Today, roughly half of all American cats are overweight or obese, and these cats are much more likely to suffer from death, disease, and a decreased quality of life. In addition to losing their ability to exercise, cats who have too much excess body fat are much more likely to develop insulin resistance, type two diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and a range of other autoimmune diseases. Pets who are overweight can have their lifespan shortened by up to two and a half years, so this is definitely not something pet parents should ignore.
Things to Keep in Mind
Since your cat’s ancestors have been eating meat for so long, they do not have a lot of the biological equipment necessary to process starchy or sugary foods like biscuits. Wild cats hardly eat any carbohydrates at all—most of their calories come from protein and fat. Humans have special enzymes dedicated to helping us break down carbohydrates, but cats do not. This is why feeding your cat carbohydrate-rich foods, including biscuits, is so likely to cause stomach problems. Cats who eat breads and other sugary foods may suffer from upset stomach and diarrhea.
If you decide to give your cat a biscuit as an occasional treat, skip out on the sugary, salty toppings—cats can’t even taste sweetness, so there is no point in giving them foods like jam and sweetened peanut butter. Butter and margarine, too, are best avoided, because they are high in fat and calories that can contribute to weight gain. If your cat is already on the pudgy side, give them a different type of treat.
In conclusion, cats can eat the occasional biscuit without suffering any consequences, but it still isn’t healthy for them to do so. Biscuits are full of carbohydrates and empty calories that can contribute to obesity and nutritional imbalances in the long term.