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Dogs go nuts for this treat, but can cats eat peanut butter? Like some human foods, peanut butter can be eaten safely in moderation, but the answer to the question, "Can cats have peanut butter?" is a little more complicated than "yes" or "no."
Can Cats Eat Peanut Butter?
Although many cats love the taste of this salty and sweet spread, cat parents should avoid giving their feline friends peanut butter. It provides no nutritional value and, more importantly, certain ingredients, like fat and added artificial sweeteners, can be harmful or even toxic to cats.
If you choose to feed your cat peanut butter, carefully read labels and familiarize yourself with problematic ingredients.
- Xylitol: When natural peanuts are processed into peanut butter, there are added ingredients that can be hazardous to your cat's health. One such ingredient is xylitol, an artificial sweetener that's toxic to animals. You shouldn't feed your cat products that contain xylitol. Signs of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, drooling, lethargy, balance issues and even seizures, says CatHealth.com. Xylitol pops up in other human foods, like baked goods and chewing gum, which is why reading labels is extremely important.
- Oil and Fat: Peanuts, despite their name, aren't nuts at all; they're legumes, which are edible seeds grown in pods, like green peas (their above-ground cousin), lentils and other beans. Nutritionally, however, peanuts are considered a nut and contain high amounts of oil and fat. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), nuts are near the top of the list of people foods to avoid feeding your pet. Although they can be beneficial for humans, these ingredients aren't pet-friendly and can lead to gastrointestinal issues.
- Sodium: Natural peanuts don't contain any sodium, but roasted peanuts, found in many peanut butters, are high in sodium (and oil). Avoid feeding your cat salty foods, explains the ASPCA, because when ingested in large amounts, your cat could experience vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and/or urination and even depression, seizures and other serious health problems. Much like cats eating cheese, the sodium in human foods can also contribute to heart issues.
When Can Cats Eat Peanut Butter?
Ideally, you should avoid feeding your cat peanut butter and foods containing it because it poses more health risks than health benefits. Peanut butter tends to be a fan favorite for dog parents for hiding medication or providing a fun snack, but it shouldn't be considered a go-to treat for your cat.
If peanut butter is the only way your cat will ingest their medicine, serve them a very small portion of all-natural peanut butter that doesn't contain xylitol. Portion size matters: A small portion of human food can equal an entire meal for a cat. A tablespoon of peanut butter, for example, would exceed your cat's daily caloric intake, so "stick to a lick" when feeding it to your cat.
Healthy Cat Snacking
Can cats have peanut butter? Yes, but, instead, it's a good idea to give your furry friend alternative treats like cat food with ingredients that provide balanced nutrition. You can hide pills, tablets or even liquid medicine in a ball of wet cat food, and it won't stick to the roof of your cat's mouth like peanut butter.
Sticking to food formulated specifically for your cat can ensure that they meet their proper caloric intake and stay happy and healthy for a long time.
Christine Brovelli-O'Brien, Ph.D., is an award-winning writer, long-time cat mom to four felines, and a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA). Find and follow her on Instagram @brovelliobrien or at brovelliobrien.com