Can I Give My Cat Peanut Butter?
But what about your cat? Pop culture has paired dogs and peanut butter for years, but we never hear about the feline opinion of nut butter. Can cats have peanut butter?
The answer: in an ideal world, your cat should not eat peanut butter. While peanuts are in no way poisonous to cats, they’re far from feline health food. While giving your cat a small amount of peanut butter is not going to necessitate a rush to the vet’s office, making a habit of feeding them this gooey, fatty food will do more harm than good. And, to make matters worse, most cats do not even like peanut butter. While your dog will fall over herself trying to get her tongue into the jar, your cat likely won’t be interested.
Are there any potential benefits to feeding your cat peanut butter? Well, not really. The only possible benefit is its high amounts of Vitamin E and biotin, which are good for skin and coat health. Peanut butter also contains some Vitamin A, which protects eye health and boosts your cat’s immune system. These small benefits are, however, outweighed by the pure caloric density of peanut butter—there are much more calorically efficient ways to feed your cat biotin, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A.
But the elephant in the room is a macro-nutrient: protein. After all, peanut butter is a favorite protein source among vegetarians. While it is true that peanut butter is high in protein, the amino acid profile of peanut protein does not meet your cat’s nutritional needs. This is because cats, unlike dogs and people, are obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivores have evolved to meet all of their dietary needs by eating meat, which has a very different mix of amino acids. Plant proteins alone cannot meet your cat’s needs.
Peanut butter is also extremely high in fat. While these fats help keep human bodies healthy, they will do little more for your cat than contribute to obesity. Obesity in cats can turn into a dangerous health problem—obese cats are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, pancreatitis, cancer, and joint problems. Illnesses such as pancreatitis often progress very quickly when it comes to cats, which makes them difficult to treat. This means that, in addition to suffering from a reduced quality of life, fat cats may also suffer a significantly reduced lifespan. High fat, nutritionally empty foods are one of the easiest ways for your cat to pack on the pounds. As it pertains to feline nutrition, there is nothing in peanut butter to justify its high fat content!
Things to Keep in Mind
Eating peanut butter can cause some more immediate health problems, too. Cats’ bodies are not set up to handle large amounts of fat all at once, so cats who eat a sizable glob of peanut butter may suffer from stomach upset and diarrhea. If they eat a large enough serving, many cats will vomit it right back up, which is bad for their stomach and for your carpet. Peanut butter also poses a choking risk for cats—because of its gooey, sticky quality, it is more likely to stick in the back of your cat’s throat, resulting in coughing or choking. This risk is even higher in chunky peanut butter brands, so if you make the decision to feed your cat peanut butter, avoid any brand that contains large chunks of peanuts.
In sum, peanut butter is not recommended for your cat. It poses a choking hazard, it offers little nutritional value, and it packs in a lot of calories and fat that can contribute to weight gain and other health problems. That being said, peanuts are not poisonous to cats, so there is no need to panic if your cat licks a glob of peanut butter off the floor. If you must give your cat peanut butter, keep the portion sizes very small, watch them for allergy symptoms, and opt for brands without added fat, sugar, or artificial sweeteners.