We know that dogs love lapping up the delicious creamy treat, yet, many cat owners are uncertain whether or not their feline could also enjoy spoonfuls of peanut butter. Is it safe? Should peanut butter be apart of your feline's diet? Are there any health benefits to know about? What about potential consequences?
We all want to be able to treat our pets to the very best that life has to offer. However, before doing so it is imperative that we all do our research. What's considered safe for one animal may be quite harmful to another.
In this article, we'll cover all there is to know about whether or not cats should eat peanut butter. The answer may surprise you...
Can Cats Eat Peanut Butter...
The answer to this common question isn't as simple as it may seem. Technically, peanut butter is not listed as being a food that is poisonous for cats. However, experts agree that it shouldn't be a treat that cat owners give their feline.
Some veterinarians have made the comparison of Twinkies not being poisonous for people, however, we shouldn't be snacking on them on any sort of regular basis. Peanut butter is not toxic to cats, but should still be avoided for overall health reasons. Therefore, "yes," cats can eat peanut butter, but that definitely doesn't mean that they should.
Let's get more specific as to why we feel that peanut butter is a no-go for your feline.
No Nutritional Value
Peanut butter ultimately has no nutritional value for cats. Cats are carnivores and their diet should consist of a well-balanced variety of meats and fish. Feeding them peanut butter, in any amount, proves to have no benefit for their health as it doesn't contain the vitamins and minerals that their body needs. In fact, peanut butter can have the exact opposite effect.
Because of the fact that peanut butter is so thick and sticky, it can get caught in the cat's throat. Even a small amount of peanut butter can create a potential choking hazard for your feline friend. If you do choose to give your kitty a lick or two of peanut butter every so often, it is important that you closely monitor them while they are snacking. Cats should never be left alone with a spoonful of the sticky treat. Additionally, it is important for cat owners to make sure that their cat has plenty of fresh, clean water in case they need help washing the peanut butter down.
Peanut Butter Allergies
It is also possible for your cat to have an unknown peanut allergy which can quickly prove to be a life-threatening situation that you wish you had avoided. In general, cats are known to have food allergies, either one that they were born with or those that develop over time. When it comes to peanut allergies, adverse reactions can be extremely severe. It is important for cat owners to be able to recognize the clinical signs of allergies in order to act quickly in reversing an allergic reaction.
Common symptoms of allergies include:
- Skin Irritations
- Chronic ear infections
- Hair loss
- Lack of appetite
- Weight Loss
If for any reason you feel that your cat may be suffering from an allergic reaction to peanut butter (or anything for that matter), it is imperative that you seek veterinary help. In some cases, an allergic reaction may be something as simple as itchy skin. However, in other cases, an allergic reaction can quickly escalate to a severe medical emergency.
Additionally, peanut butter is manufactured in a way that allows it to have a long shelf-life. Unfortunately, this process leads to an incredibly toxic food substance known as trans fatty acids. A small amount of these fats can be seen in peanut butter made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Trust us when we say you want to avoid these harmful fats as much as you can.
Peanut butter is by no means considered a low-calorie food. If your cat is struggling with weight issues you'll definitely want to pass on any peanut butter treats. As much as we think pudgy kitties are adorable, it is no secret that weight issues can lead to severe health consequences such as diabetes and heart conditions.
Additionally, like in many humans, peanut butter can lead to gastrointestinal upset in cats resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pains, and gas. Yes, your feline may enjoy the taste of peanut butter, but is it really worth the drawbacks? We don't think so.
Aflatoxins in Peanut Butter
Peanuts are full of naturally occurring aflatoxins, which area type of mycotoxin. The mold that colonizes peanuts under the ground produce these toxins. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but mycotoxins are known to be one of the most cancer-causing matters found on the planet. They are also known to be incredibly toxic for the liver and even lead to liver cancer. The USDA is in charge of monitoring our food that may contain aflatoxins to make sure they are below the recommended limit.
Finally, because of the fact that so many animals do love the taste of peanut butter, it is an "ingredient" found in many insect and rodent poisons. In other words, people will mix a bit of peanut butter in with rat poison to attract the pests and... yes, kill them.
This is an incredibly important concept for pet owners to be aware of, particularly if your cat spends time outside. If your cat is given peanut butter every now and then as a treat and then comes across what they think is a "treat" in the neighborhood it could have deadly consequences.
When Can Cats Eat Peanut Butter
While many veterinary experts advise to never give your cat peanut butter, some feel there is a specific case where it is deemed acceptable. When administering pills and medication, some pet owners find that the only way their cat will swallow the medicine is with a bit of peanut butter moving it along. In these cases, it is important to coat the pill the smallest amount of peanut butter possible and make sure that your cat has an ample amount of clean water to wash it down with.
What Peanut Butter to Buy
If you choose to purchase peanut butter for your cat, there are a few important factors to be aware of. Again, we don't recommend this, but we recognize that some of our readers may still want to test out the treat and we want to make sure they understand the additional risks involved.
BEWARE OF XYLITOL
With the recent anti-sugar health craze over the last few decades, many food companies removed sugar from their products and replaced it with a sugar substitute called xylitol. Several peanut butter brands also jumped on the sugar-free bandwagon and substituted the sugar in their product with xylitol. That's when tragedy struck. You see, xylitol is extremely toxic to animals, but pet owners had no idea. They also had no idea that so many companies were replacing sugar on such a regular basis. Countless deaths resulted during this horrible time.
If you do decide to purchase peanut butter for your dog or cat, please ensure that it does not contain xylitol.
The following brands are those which DO CONTAIN the dangerous ingredient:
- Go Nuts, Co.
- Krush Nutrition
- Nuts 'N More
- P28 Foods
- Protein Plus PB
With that being said, it is always important to triple check the label* as ingredients may change without you even realizing.
*We encourage our readers to do this with all of their pet's food and treats, as well as their own. Many companies do not openly state when an ingredient has changed or when more fillers have been added in. For instance, sometimes when a small company quickly expands, the quality of food doesn't necessarily grow in conjunction with the growing demand for the product. It is imperative to recognize that it is up to us to ensure that we are feeding our pets the very best products that we can find. An easy way to do this is by always checking the labels.
No Xylitol = A Lot of Sugar
Unfortunately, for many peanut butter brands, no xylitol means a whole lot of sugar, which is also not healthy for your feline. What do conditions like yeast infections, parasites, bacterial infections, and cancer all have in common? They all feed off sugar. The more sugar your feline consumes, the more these conditions grow and thrive. Sugar is also responsible for health issues including premature aging, diabetes, and inflammatory changes in the body. Avoiding excess sugar intake is something that we all should strive for.
Additionally, pet owners should make sure that the peanut butter they purchase does not contain any additives such as salt. High sodium levels can present big issues for our furry friends and must be avoided when it comes to their diet. It is possible to find unsalted peanut butter, but you'll likely have to dig a little.
Peanut Butter Alternatives
Luckily, there are countless peanut butter alternatives that are not only healthier options but are actually highly beneficial for your feline friend.
Pumpkin for Cats
We can't get enough of pumpkin for cats. The tasty treat is a wonderful substitute for a peanut butter snack and can provide your cat with a wide range of benefits.
Easing Cat Diarrhea with Pumpkin
While peanut butter for cats often leads to diarrhea, pumpkin for cats does the exact opposite: it relieves gastrointestinal issues. The combination of vitamins and minerals found in pumpkin work together to bulk up the cat's stool by absorbing excess water in the digestive tract.
Pumpkin for Constipation
Surprisingly, pumpkin is also effectively used to ease cat constipation. Pumpkin is an excellent source of soluble fiber which promotes healthy movement in the digestive tract. If your feline is suffering from constipation, your veterinarian may recommend an over-the-counter laxative solution. However, these medications can prove to be extremely harsh on your cat's body and cause diarrhea. Pumpkin, on the other hand, is all-natural and works with the digestive tract to gently ease constipation.
Weight Loss & Management
Unlike the high amount of calories found in peanut butter that can lead to obesity, pumpkin has the exact opposite effect. In fact, pumpkin proves to be incredibly effective at promoting weight loss by keeping your kitty full and satisfied longer. Pumpkin also helps manage weight by being a low-calorie, yet nutritionally dense substitution.
Vitamins and Minerals
Pumpkin is also full of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and iron. While your cat's diet of meat and fish is designed to provide all of the nutrients they need, adding pumpkin treats can give them an extra boost of goodness while satisfying their sweet tooth all at the same time.
*One Important Pumpkin Detail*
Before we get back to the peanut butter conversation, we want to make sure pet owners know an important detail about purchasing pumpkin for cats. Always make sure to buy canned pumpkin that is all natural and has no additives. This means no added sugar, salt, nothing! Canned pumpkin for cats should contain one ingredient: pumpkin.
Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter
Many pet owners have both cats and dogs and find themselves wondering about the dietary differences involved. We likely don't have you to convince you that dogs and cats are incredibly different species in more ways than one. The same goes for the ways in which their bodies can tolerate and digest different foods.
In terms of peanut butter for dogs, experts feel that a bit of peanut butter here and there is a perfectly fine addition to your dog's diet. In fact, peanut butter can have some great benefits for your canine, ones it definitely doesn't have for your feline.
Protein for Dogs
For instance, peanut butter is known to be a great source of protein, something that is imperative to have in your dog's diet. Without the necessary amounts of protein, your dog's body won't function at the level that it should. Keeping that in mind, the protein in your dog's diet should never solely come from peanut butter but rather lean meats and fish.
Xylitol and Dogs... A Deadly Combination
Again, we want to stress that xylitol, an ingredient found in many peanut butter brands, is EXTREMELY toxic to dogs. Pet owners must make sure that any peanut butter products they purchase does not contain this deadly ingredient.
Dogs Allergic to Peanuts
Like cats, some dogs may be allergic to peanuts. Unfortunately, the only real way to find out if your dog has a peanut allergy is by letting them have a taste and waiting to see if a reaction occurs. For many pet owners, the possibility of an allergic reaction simply isn't worth the risk.
Peanut Butter for Dogs: A Special Treat, Not a Meal
When it comes to your dog's health and wellbeing, peanut butter should merely be an occasional treat. Peanut butter should never, ever be a meal replacement or even a partial substitute. Just like in cats, too much peanut butter can lead to obesity and associated problems.
Jennifer Dempsey, DVM
Dr. Jennifer Dempsey is a small animal veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida (Go Gators!)
She has resided in the Orlando area since graduation and has gained years of experience helping cats and dogs live happier and longer lives. As a general practitioner, she has found client education to be one of the most important aspects of day to day life in veterinary medicine.
Medical writing has helped her to connect with a larger audience and make sure that pet owners are fully aware of their loved one’s medical condition. She currently shares her home with two rescued mixed breed dogs named Primo and Morgan.