Can I Give My Cat Hummus?
But what about those dinner guests who have fur and four paws? Can cats have hummus?
The answer: unfortunately, no, cats should not eat hummus. Most store bought hummus contains ingredients, like garlic and onions, that can be highly toxic, and even deadly, to your cat—even if they only eat a small amount. In addition, store bought hummus often contains more salt and fat than your cat would normally eat. To make matters worse, the key ingredient in hummus, chickpeas, may have adverse effects on feline health in the long run. In order to preserve your cat’s health, skip out on the hummus and find a more cat-friendly treat, like mashed peas, sliced apples, blueberries, or banana slices.
But maybe you, health food nut, make your own garlic-free, onion-free, oil-free hummus. Are there any potential benefits to hummus made solely from chickpeas? Well, chickpeas are quite high in nutrients, so a homemade, additive-free hummus could theoretically offer some small health benefits. Chickpea hummus is high in protein and healthy fats, which the body uses to perform maintenance tasks on muscles, skin, ligaments, and other connective tissues. The good fats found in chickpeas have also been found to decrease the risk of heart disease in humans—though, unless your cat is obese or their diet is horrific, their risk of heart disease is pretty low. Obligate carnivores typically do not have problems with high cholesterol, after all.
Chickpeas do pretty well in terms of micronutrients, too. Though small and unassuming in appearance, they do contain fair amounts of important substances like lecithin, magnesium, copper, several B vitamins, Vitamin A, folate, and even Vitamin C. These nutrients are important for preserving muscle, kidney and nerve health, as well as maintaining good eyesight and preventing both macular degeneration and cataracts. Chickpeas are also appealing thanks to their high fiber content, which may help treat both constipation and diarrhea.
That being said, cats will not get nearly the same health benefits of chickpeas that you or I would. Though they may be able to get a small boost of a couple vitamins and minerals, it is unlikely that they would be able to eat—or absorb—enough chickpea hummus for it to make much difference in their health. Cats are obligate carnivores, who have evolved to meet all of their nutritional needs almost exclusively through eating the flesh of prey animals. Since they are biologically accustomed to eating meat, they can’t digest plant foods like chickpeas as well as we can. This means that a lot of the nutritional potential of these little legumes goes to waste.
Things to Keep in Mind
To make matters worse, there is some thought that chickpeas may be linked to certain health problems in felines. There is some speculation that feeding cats foods like chickpeas can increase their risk of suffering from gout, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. In addition, chickpeas may contribute to kidney stones. This is a particularly dangerous risk for male cats, whose narrow urethra can easily become blocked by a large kidney stone. A completely obstructed urethra is considered a life-threatening medical emergency.
All things considered, your cat is probably going to be happier in the long run if you resist the urge to share your hummus with her. The hummus found at parties and on store shelves may contain garlic and onions (which can cause life-threatening anemia), plus high amounts of added salt and fat that can wreak havoc on their little bodies. Though the protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals found in homemade, oil-free hummus may provide a little nutritional boost for your cat, the risks associated with chickpea consumption greatly outweigh the potential benefits. If you’re looking for high-fiber, vitamin-rich foods, opt for apples, bananas, and cat-friendly vegetables.