Can I Give My Cat Lima Beans?
Beans are popular staple foods throughout the world, and, while soy beans, black beans, and pinto beans are probably the most commonly consumed, lima beans are not uncommon options. These starchy, somewhat buttery beans have a delicate yet distinctive taste that serves well in many summer and fall recipes, and many of us cook using canned or dried lima beans during the cold winter months. These soft green beans often show up in soup, succotash, salad, or cooked on their own and lightly seasoned. For many health-conscious people who love the creamy texture of butter, lima beans are a godsend—they are a healthy way to enjoy a texture we love without raising our risk of heart disease.
But what are we supposed to do when our cats leap onto our laps and try to stick their paws into our bowl of succotash? In theory, our feline friends are not nearly as obnoxious in their begging as our canine companions, but some cats are quite insistent that we share our dinners with them. We know that lima beans are great for us, but we are understandably afraid of giving our cats new ‘people foods’—after all, we’ve all heard scary things about foods like garlic and onions. So, can cats have lima beans?
Well, yes. As long as your lima beans are fully cooked and free of poisonous additives (like garlic and onions!), your cat can eat a couple of them without worrying about toxicity. If you have already given your pet a couple of these buttery beans, you can rest easy knowing that there probably is not a massive vet bill in your future. Be that as it may, lima beans still are not considered health foods for cats, so it would not be a good idea to give them lima beans in large quantities. If you want to include this food in your cat’s diet, use it as a treat.
Even if they are not ideal foods for cats, lima beans are not totally without health benefits. Beans of all kinds are high in protein, which cats need in order to maintain health. Inside the gut, proteins are broken down into individual amino acids that can then be used for building and repair work throughout the body. The protein your cat eats supplies the raw materials needed to maintain many structures in their body, including muscles (including the heart muscle!), skin, nails, and hair. Though beans are not adequate sources of all amino acids—cats who rely on beans to meet their protein needs will develop a taurine deficiency—they may be able to provide a little boost in the diets of healthy, active adult cats.
Lima beans are also a good source of dietary fiber, which may benefit feline health in small amounts. As obligate carnivores, cats have not adapted to eating foods that are extremely high in dietary fiber—they have short intestinal tracts and a lack of starch-digesting enzymes—but small amounts may help regulate digestion.
In the wild, cats would eat indigestible animal parts, such as bones, connective tissues, and hair, which may serve the same purpose that indigestible plant fiber serves in our diets. Since our cats do not eat whole prey animals, giving them supplementary foods containing plant fibers may help to add bulk to stool and stimulate digestion. Because of its ability to absorb water, fiber can help alleviate symptoms of both constipation and diarrhea. If your cat regularly struggles with mild constipation, adding small amounts of fiber-containing foods like beans may help get things going again. Just remember to make sure your cat gets enough fluid—eating a lot of fiber can worsen constipation if your cat is dehydrated!
All that fiber does have some setbacks: lima beans are hard for cats to digest, so they may cause upset stomach, gas, and bloating. If your cat has never had beans before, or if they are especially prone to gas, make sure to give them a very small amount of lima beans to see how they handle it. If they develop gas and bloating, it’s probably a good idea to look for more easy-to-digest plant foods.
Things to Consider
Do not give your cat raw lima beans. Undercooked beans contain toxic proteins that can cause toxicity in cats and in humans. If you have any doubt as to whether your lima beans are fully cooked, do not give them to your cat!
Finally, avoid giving your cat canned lima beans—they often contain large amounts of salt that can cause dehydration and other health problems. If you must give your cat canned lima beans, rinse them thoroughly first.
In conclusion, cooked lima beans are safe for cats in moderation, but there are not any real nutritional reasons for including them in your pet’s diet.