Your cat hovers as you assemble a tuna salad sandwich, but what about that other lunchtime staple, peanut butter? Dogs are enthusiastic peanut butter fans, so it’s natural that multi-pet households may wonder if it belongs on feline menus too.
Nutritionally, peanut butter is a combo of protein and fat, as well as salt and some carbohydrates. Depending on the quality of peanut butter, it may also have added sugar for taste. Its distinctive, nutty aroma seems to tickle the fancy of dogs, but most cats exhibit polite boredom when presented with it. Our very unscientific survey of four cats resulted in two yawns, one cat fleeing the kitchen and the fourth sitting patiently to await a different treat choice, ignoring an open jar of Creamy Jif.
Is Peanut Butter Safe for Cats?
For cats who do express an interest in peanut butter, there’s good news: peanut butter is not on the ASPCA’s list of people foods toxic to cats. The bad news? It does not have any nutritional value for cats.
“Since cats are strict carnivores, their nutritional needs are met by eating a diet that consists of animal-based proteins (i.e. mice, birds). They do not process other types of food well,” says Dr. Dale Rubenstein of A Cat Clinic in Boyds, Maryland. She has specialized in treating cats for more than 25 years, and has a background in nutritional biochemistry. “As a plant protein source, peanut butter does not contain all the amino acids a cat requires the way that animal proteins do.”
How Much Peanut Butter Should a Cat Eat?
Overall, cats should not eat peanut butter, unless it is being used as a way to give your cat medication. “Since it contains a lot of fat, which could contribute to obesity, as well as some carbohydrates, which can lead to diabetes, if fed regularly it could have a negative impact on a cat’s health,” says Rubenstein.
If cats ingest too much peanut butter at once, it will result in vomiting and/or diarrhea. Because of its pasty consistency, even a bit of peanut butter can stick to your cat’s mouth and throat, and may cause them to choke. If you offer your cat a fingertip dipped in peanut butter, you may then see them frantically flicking his tongue to get a grip on this tacky tidbit.
Other Factors to Keep in Mind
Peanut butter is a well-known method for helping to medicate dogs, who eagerly scarf down a spoonful even with a pill hidden inside. But peanut butter is also used as a popular bait for rodents, either as a disguise for a dose of poison or a tempting invitation to step on a lethal trap. If your cat develops a liking for peanut butter and ventures around your neighborhood, be aware that their quest for a taste could have tragic results.
Cats and Peanut Butter: The Verdict
The bottom line? While peanut butter is not considered poisonous for cats, felines should not eat the sticky, nutty substance. “In the same way that Oreo cookies and potato chips are not toxic to humans, peanut butter is generally not toxic for cats,” says Rubenstein. “But it is certainly not good for them and should not be fed on a regular basis.”
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Kathy Blumenstock is owned by cats, loved by dogs, writes about both, and still longs for a horse.