Yes, simply put, cats can eat peanut butter. However, the exact and long answer to the “can cats eat peanut butter question”  is more complicated.

Namely, peanut butter makes an excellent snack for humans. It is convenient, healthy, and most importantly, delicious. Plus, it is rich in many nutrients including proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. 

This begs the question, do these benefits also extend to pets?  We know that dogs love peanut butter but what about our feline friends? Is it safe for cats to eat peanut butter?

In this article, we are going to look at the safety of peanut butter for cats, the risks involved, how much they can have, how to choose the best brands, and the best alternatives available.  

Is it Safe for Cats to Eat Peanut Butter? 

Yes, peanut butter is safe for dogs. However, safe doesn’t mean recommended. While peanut butter is safe for cats, it provides no nutritional value to them. Felines are carnivores which means that they should get most of their nutrition from animal foods like chicken and fish. 

For this reason, giving your kitty peanut butter is comparable to you eating candy. Yes, you can have it but it does you no good, and if eaten in excess, it can cause you problems. 

It is important to note that only 100% peanut butter is safe for cats. Some brands of peanut butter contain other additives like preservatives and sweeteners that could potentially be harmful to your cat.

Even seemingly safe ingredients like salt and sugar should be avoided as they can be harmful to cats in large amounts. For example, salt contains sodium which can put your cat at risk of developing heart disease. Too much sugar may cause your cat to gain weight.

The safety of peanut butter only applies to healthy cats. Cats with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and cancer should not eat peanut butter without consulting with a vet. 

Can Cats Eat Peanut Butter? The Potential Risks 

Giving your cat peanut butter comes with certain risks. Here are some of the potential risks you should consider before making peanut butter a regular treat for your cat: 

  • Choking hazard. Due to its thick and sticky texture, peanut butter can form a lump in your cat’s throat causing them to choke. 
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Some cats’ guts may not tolerate peanut butter well. Signs and symptoms of GI distress include stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and gassiness.  
  • Allergies. Just like humans, cats can also suffer from nut allergies. After giving your cat peanut butter, monitor for signs such as itching, hives, swelling, and GI distress. Get emergency care for your cat if you suspect allergies as they can be fatal. 
  • Xylitol poisoning. In the place of sugar, some brands use artificial sweeteners like xylitol to bring sweetness to their peanut butter. Xylitol is very poisonous to cats and most pets. You should seek immediate help if your cat ingests peanut butter that contains xylitol. Xylitol poisoning can range from mild to deadly based on the circumstances. 
  • Calorie density. Peanut butter is very calorie-dense with a tablespoon having almost 100 calories. That is half of the calorie needs of a 10-pound cat. Feeding your cat peanut butter every day puts her at risk of weight gain and related conditions like diabetes, obesity, and arthritis.
  • Accidental poisoning. Peanut butter is used as bait in traps to catch mice. You should, therefore, not encourage outdoor cats to eat peanut butter. 
  • Aflatoxins are a type of toxins produced by mold that grows on plant foods like maize and nuts. Regular consumption of foods with aflatoxins has been shown to increase the risk of liver disease and different types of cancer. Sadly, peanuts are often contaminated with these aflatoxins. 

How Much Peanut Butter Should a Cat Eat?

A cat should eat no more than half a tablespoon of peanut butter twice a week. 90% of calories for cats should come from specially formulated foods. That leaves only 10% of calories that can come from treats. 

If, for example, your cat needs 250 calories per day, only 25 calories should come from treats. The rest of the 225 calories should be from specially formulated food for cats. 25 calories are equal to only a quarter of a tablespoon of peanut butter. 

This means that treats like peanut butter should be limited and only given occasionally but not as a regular part of a cat’s diet. One of the few objectively acceptable situations of giving your cat peanut butter is when trying to hide a chunk of medication. If your cat doesn’t like to take her medication, place the pill inside a small serving of peanut butter and give it as a treat. 

Buying Peanut Butter for Cats

The key to choosing the best peanut butter for your cat is to always read the ingredient list before buying. Some of the ingredients you have to look out for are listed below:

  • Sugar. Manufacturers add sugar to peanut butter to improve its taste. Avoid peanut butter with sugar as it is higher in calories that do not come with any nutrition.
  • Salt. Avoid peanut butter with salt as it increases your cat’s sodium intake putting her at an increased risk for high blood pressure and other heart conditions. 
  • Preservatives. Certain chemicals in food like sodium benzoate may be safe for humans but not for cats resulting in potential poisoning. 
  • Other nuts. Peanuts are safe for cats but some nuts like macadamia are poisonous to cats. 
  • Xylitol. The popularity of low-carb diets has encouraged some brands to replace sugar with sweeteners like xylitol. This artificial sweetener is very dangerous around pets and can be fatal if ingested.
  • Trans fats. Always avoid all foods that have trans fats or list partially hydrogenated oils as an ingredient. Trans fats have been shown to increase the risk of chronic diseases like heart failure and type 2 diabetes. 

In addition to choosing the best peanut butter for your cat, consulting your vet on the subject will also lower the risk of any complications.

As you can see, peanut butter for humans is not the best option for cats. If your cat doesn’t like medications, you can opt for peanut butter-flavored cat treats or pill pockets instead of peanut butter. 

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Peanut Butter Alternatives for Cats

Even though peanut butter is not the ideal snack for cats, there are plenty of snack foods that work well for cats. These healthy snack alternatives for cats are listed below:

  • Carrots: Even though cats do not need a diet rich in vegetables like humans, cooked carrots are a tasty and healthy treat for them.   
  • Other vegetables: like celery, zucchini, and spinach are also okay in small quantities. 
  • Pumpkin: Plain-cooked pumpkin is a wonderful bite for cats. It provides many vitamins and minerals and can provide other benefits like improving bowel movement. You can either buy it canned or make some for your cat at home.
  • Fruits: like berries and cantaloupe. High sugar fruits like bananas should be limited. 
  • Eggs: are a good source of protein but you should ensure they are cooked as they may carry salmonella when raw.
  • Cheese: is a good source of calcium and protein for cats. 

So, can cats eat peanut butter? Yes, they can. However, you will have to limit the intake. In addition to lacking actual nutritional value, peanut butter can be risky for cats, especially if overfed. 

Also, when choosing peanut butter, opt for brands with only one ingredient – peanuts. Stay away from peanut butter brands with sugar, salt, preservatives, other nuts, and xylitol.

Or, instead of peanut butter, give your cat a healthier treat alternative like cat-friendly fruits, cooked vegetables, eggs, and low-sodium, low-fat cheese chunks.