Can I Give My Cat Chickpeas?
Anyone who has discovered the nutritional potential of a daily dinner salad has come to love and respect beans of all types. Just by adding beans to your otherwise vegetable-dominated salad, you can greatly increase the amount of protein, complex carbohydrates, and calories in an otherwise light meal. Beans are the secret to making many soups, salads, and other dishes both filling and delicious, and one of the more popular options in recent years is the same bean used to create hummus: chickpeas. Mild in flavor, loaded with protein, and blessed with a pleasant texture, many of us have started to incorporate chickpeas into our daily routines.
But what are we supposed to do when our furry friends try to stick their paws into our salad? Can we toss them a couple of garbanzo beans to satisfy their curiosity? Can cats have chickpeas?
To understand the answer, it’s important to emphasize the difference between ‘can’ and ‘should.’ Yes, cats technically can eat chickpeas—they do not contain any chemicals that are considered toxic to felines. However, nontoxic does not mean nutritious, and the general consensus is that your cat will be better off without eating beans regularly. If your feline friend as a strange love for garbanzo beans, feel free to toss them a couple as a treat, but do not allow it to become a habit.
Most experts agree that cats really should not be eating beans to maintain optimal health, but it is possible to argue that chickpeas can have a few health benefits, however minimal, even for cats.
The most obvious benefit would seem to be the same reason we add these beans to our salads: protein. Garbanzo beans have high amounts of the protein that we need to build and maintain strong, healthy muscles, skin, and hair. Unfortunately, the protein in chickpeas may not offer much benefit to our pet cats. Cats, unlike people and even dogs, are obligate carnivores. Unlike omnivorous or herbivorous animals, obligate carnivores have adapted to live exclusively on animal flesh. Meat is the food that supplies all of your cat’s nutritional needs—and that includes their protein requirements.
The proteins found in chickpeas do not contain the right amino acids for feline diets. Some of the amino acids that your cat needs to eat to survive, such as taurine, simply do not exist in plant foods. If you are trying to raise a vegetarian cat, giving them chickpeas in place of chicken is not a good idea. They will wind up nutritionally deficient. As a general rule, you should make sure to feed your cat specially formulated pet foods; it is often difficult for humans to construct diets out of whole foods that will meet their cats’ needs.
Things to Keep in Mind
Chickpeas also contain some dietary fiber, which may be helpful to cats in small amounts. Your cat would not eat much in the way of plant food in the wild, but the reality of the situation is that your cat does not live in the wild. Some cats who eat dry food diets suffer from digestive problems that can be alleviated by supplementing their diet with small amounts of plant fiber. The fiber in chickpeas may help to ease constipation in two ways: by adding bulk to stool, and by introducing fluid into the intestines. That is why small amounts of plant food may help your cat have fuller, healthier, more regular bowel movements.
However, if you are just looking to add fiber to your cat’s diet, there are far more efficient ways to fight constipation. Lower-calorie, lower-starch plant foods like cucumbers, carrots, and apples are better options for cats.
Because your cat’s body evolved to process primarily meat foods, giving them significant amounts of beans can cause serious digestive problems. Chickpeas are not easy for your cat to digest, so, if they eat too many, they may suffer from indigestion, bloating, or diarrhea. Since they offer little in the way of nutrition for your cat, they also contribute empty calories to their diet, which can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, weight gain, and other metabolic problems. If your cat is already overweight, they have no business eating starchy plant foods.
Chickpeas, which contain oxalic acid, can also cause skin problems in cats. If your cat is prone to allergies, itching, or other skin conditions, it’s a better idea to avoid any foods high in oxalic acid.
Overall, your cat would be better off avoiding chickpeas and other beans altogether. They are high in empty calories, low in the important amino acids, and full of difficult-to-digest starches. Cats who adore chickpeas can have a couple of them every so often as a treat, but they should not become a dietary staple. If you do decide to share chickpeas with your cat, opt for fresh or frozen—canned chickpeas are extremely high in salt, which can result in hypernatremia.