As you may know, cats are carnivores by nature, which means they depend on meat as their primary source of food, and it will be unlikely for them to receive enough nutrition by just consuming foods rich in fat, like nuts and seeds. Besides this, it comes into question whether it is okay for them to eat nuts and which ones are safe?
To simply answer this question, cats can eat nuts only if they consume them in smaller portions and less frequently due to the potential health problems it can cause. For example, macadamia and pistachios, which contain many toxins that can harm your pet. On the contrary, hazelnuts are considered safer for kitties.
This article will review the nutritional properties of nuts, which ones are safe for them to eat and which aren’t. In addition to this, there will be a list of some potential health problems, along with the benefits and downfalls of feeding them to your cat.
Nutritional Properties of Nuts
Generally speaking, nuts are rich in fat and saturated fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids, which might lead your feline friend to gain some weight. They are also high in protein, calories, minerals, and healthy fats for us human beings compared to cats, which might be challenging to digest.
Even though they are delicious and highly nutritious for humans, using them as a primary food source for cats shouldn’t be an option. This is because, as explained earlier in the article, felines are naturally carnivores that require a meat-based diet that can not be replaced by just consuming nuts.
Some health benefits that can be found on nuts are the following:
- Excellent source of many nutrients like carbs, fibers, calories, vitamin E, phosphorus, and magnesium. Some nuts have higher nutrients than others, such as the brazil nut, which provides more than 100% of the Reference Daily Intake of Selenium.
- Nuts are high in antioxidants that reduce oxidative damage, such as LDL cholesterol which is a significant factor in heart disease.
- Lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, especially pistachios.
- Nuts also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to defend themselves from bacterias or injuries.
- It is also rich in fiber which has incredible benefits on improving gut health and reducing chances of obesity.
However, some nuts can’t be adequately digested, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios which may provoke diarrhea and vomiting on your cat. This is why it is necessary to understand which nuts are safe for them to eat and their effects on the kitty.
Here are some possible health concerns that your cat might face if they digest certain types of nuts:
- Diarrhea and vomiting: Nuts are high in fat content, especially walnuts, almonds, and brazil nuts. This significant percentage of fat may cause severe side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea and affecting your cat’s digestive tract since their stomach isn’t equipped to handle them.
- Pancreatitis: If nuts are consumed often, it may lead to pancreatitis, which is a swelling or inflammation of the pancreas and may cause kidney failure in cats.
- Weight gain: there is extensive research that proves that nuts can lead to weight gain on felines.
- Potential Sodium ion poisoning: according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or ASPCA, they state that too much salt can result in sodium poisoning on cats, and many nuts are topped with salt.
- Lethargy and tremors: nuts like macadamia can cause lethargy and tremors in cats, making them toxic and harmful along with walnuts.
Types of Nuts and their effects on cats
There is an ample variety of nuts out there in the market, and some can be safely ingested by cats if given in smaller quantities and as an occasional treat.
Here is a brief list of which nuts are safe and which ones are poisonous for cats, along with their potential side effects:
- Macadamia nuts: there isn’t enough research that proves that cats can digest macadamia nuts safely. However, regardless of this, it is essential to note that these nuts are significantly toxic and can affect their nervous system. Some potential side effects are vomiting, tremors, weight gain, pancreatitis, and hyperthermia which is recommended just to avoid these nuts altogether and always consult the vet.
- Walnuts: it is ordinary for cats to experience stomach discomfort since they are high in fat which they can’t tolerate due to their sensitive digestive tract. Some potential side effects are vomiting, diarrhea, kidney inflammation, and in severe cases, it can cause kidney failure. What can be even more alarming is moldy walnuts which can be incredibly dangerous and harmful for cats. This is because the fungi that produce tremorgenic mycotoxins, which are highly poisonous to felines.
- Almonds: according to ASPCA, almonds are not toxic for cats but can cause potential health problems, so it is not advised to feed your kitty with these nuts. Since cats rely on low-fat foods, almonds can cause digestive issues like vomiting and stomach upset. You are allowed to give one or two almonds to your cat, but if given constantly, it may cause these health concerns.
- Peanuts: they aren’t considered poisonous nuts for felines since they contain high amounts of protein, biotin, carbs, and vitamin E, which can contribute to cat’s skin health. However, they do contain high amounts of fat, which makes it harder for cats to digest in large quantities, and some may be allergic to these nuts. Aside from this, it is necessary to remove the outer shells since they may cause intestinal obstruction and choke. It is best not to include them on your cat’s diet since there are many other alternative sources of these nutrients found in cat food.
- Cashew Nuts: regardless of them not being toxic for kitties, it is best not to incorporate them into your cat’s diet since they won’t benefit much and contain high-fat levels, which may affect their GI tract. Overall, they are safe, but they can cause digestion issues and possible pancreatitis if given in more significant amounts. In this case, it is best to offer cashews as an occasional treat.
- Chestnuts: it is safe for cats to consume chestnuts, but they should never be primary nutrition on their diet since they offer little nutritional value and are high in carbs. In contrast with other types of nuts, they are significantly lower in fat and calories, which is considered a better snack or treat than cashews, walnuts, or macadamia. They also contain magnesium and potassium, which may aid with cardiovascular issues in your cats. It is important to remember only to offer this nut in moderation.
- Hazelnuts: this is also a safer option to give to felines. However, it fails to satisfy the cat’s nutritional needs. This is why it should be considered more of a treat rather than a substitute to their regular balanced meal. In addition to this, it contains high fat, which can be associated with digestion problems.
- Pecans: they are also proven to be safe for cats to eat but only in moderation due to their high-fat content.
- Pine Nuts: even though there isn’t any study that proves that pine nuts are toxic to cats, some digestion problems may happen due to its 68 grams of high fat, and if eaten frequently, it can cause obesity and pancreatitis.
- Pistachios: this one is considered incredibly harmful for your pet since it is usually packed with salt, artificial flavors, and high flavor content. It is best to make sure it comes without the shell if you want to feed them since these can cause an intestinal blockage which might require immediate veterinary intervention.
- Brazil nuts: these contain monounsaturated fat, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins C, E, B6, and A. If eaten occasionally, it won’t cause any visible harm to your cat, but if consumed in more considerable amounts, it can have health problems relating to digestion.
It can be concluded that cats can eat certain types of nuts which may be safe for them to consume in moderation. Some great examples are pine nuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. However, some toxic nuts like macadamia, walnuts, and pecans can cause severe health problems like diarrhea, vomiting, obesity, and pancreatitis.
It is best to ask the cat’s vet whether you can provide these nuts as an occasional treat or avoid them altogether if the feline is allergic.
Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.