Skip to main content

Is peanut butter safe for cats? What you need to know

It’s no secret that dogs love peanut butter, and if you have multiple pets in your home, you might be wondering if you can feed peanut butter to your cats, too. Peanut butter is tasty and delicious, so it makes sense that cats would enjoy it as a treat. But before you get the jar out, it’s important to realize that cats and dogs process foods differently, and peanut butter does have some drawbacks and dangers for cats. That doesn’t mean you can never feed it at all, but you’ll need to understand the risks so you can weigh the pros and cons of feeding peanut butter to your cat.

Peanut butter spread on bread, a spoon and a knife
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Is peanut butter bad for cats?

From a nutritional standpoint, peanut butter isn’t a great choice for cats. It’s full of trans-fatty acids to keep it shelf stable, but those fatty acids aren’t great for your cat’s health. Many peanut butters also feature lots of additional salt for flavor, which also isn’t great for your cat. Peanut butter is a high-calorie food,  and even just a little will pack plenty of calories. If your cat is prone to weight gain, then this could contribute to an unhealthy weight.

While it’s full of calories, peanut butter lacks any significant nutritional value when fed to cats. It lacks any vitamins or minerals to support your cat’s health, and because of the risks it carries, peanut butter could actually harm your cat’s health.

Is peanut butter safe for cats?

In addition to little nutritional value, peanut butter can contain several hazards for cats.

  • Some peanut butters are highly sticky, and it’s possible that your cat could have difficulty swallowing it. In some cases, peanut butter might even pose a choking hazard to your cat.
  • Many peanut butters contain xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute, and it’s also in foods like gum. Xylitol is highly toxic to cats and other animals, including dogs. When ingested, it can lead to vomiting, seizures, and liver failure. If you feed peanut butter to any of your pets, always make sure that the product you’re feeding is free of xylitol.
  • Just like some humans are allergic to peanuts, cats can also have food allergies, and peanut butter might be one of them. You might notice symptoms like excessive itching, hair loss, and diarrhea after feeding your cat peanut butter. Peanut butter also can contribute to digestive upset in cats, potentially leading to diarrhea and vomiting.
A cat eating out of a food dish

Tasty cat treat alternatives

Feeding peanut butter to your cat as a treat isn’t a great idea since the risks and downsides outweigh the potential benefits. Some vets will recommend using a little peanut butter to coat pills, making it easier to give them to your cat. If you do this, make sure that you choose a peanut butter without xylitol, and use a minimal amount. Never leave your cat alone with the peanut butter, and watch to make sure he can swallow it fully.

If you’re looking for a tasty treat to give your cat, you’ve got plenty of alternatives to peanut butter:

  • Canned pumpkin — just the pure, canned pumpkin and not the pumpkin pie filling — is nutritious and can help ease both constipation and diarrhea.
  • Chicken is also a great treat for cats since it’s nutritious and supports your cat’s need for meat. Be sure that the chicken is well cooked and avoid feeding the skin.
  • A little bit of salmon is another great treat for cats, as long as it’s cooked or freeze-dried. Salmon has lots of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, so it can support your cat’s health while being tasty, too.

Whether or not you decide to give your cat peanut butter, remember that any significant dietary changes can upset your cat’s digestive system. If you’re introducing a new treat, feed just a little bit each day to make the transition a gradual one. Be sure to monitor your cat for signs of an upset tummy, and if you see them, then stop feeding the new treats for a few days to give your cat’s stomach time to settle down. While the treats mentioned in this piece are generally safe to give to cats, it’s important to watch for indications of food allergies and to make sure that your cat tolerates the foods well.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
What you need to know about crating a cat at night
Tips to make introducing your cat to a crate easier for you both
Kitten in a crate

In most cases, your cat probably roams around the house at night. They might visit you in bed, hunt for any bugs that have gotten into your home, or try to start a game of tag with your dog or other cat. But sometimes it's necessary to restrict your cat's movement.
Crating a cat at night can help with injury recovery, can aid in litter box training, and might even be necessary to help keep your cat safe. If you're considering crating your cat, you'll need to be prepared with the right type of crate and introduce it carefully to help your cat learn to accept it. Crating a cat isn't always easy, but these tips can better your chances of success.

Reasons for crating a cat
There are a number of situations where it can be helpful to crate your cat. Some are temporary, while others may be long-term solutions, such as when your cat disrupts your sleep.

Read more
This video of a confused kitty discovering a cat water fountain is adorable
Your feline might actually prefer a cat water fountain if you can teach her how to use it
A tiny gray kitten drinks from a ceramic plate

Humans see water fountains just about every day, but that doesn't mean our pets understand them. In the wild, most animals probably drink running water but are unlikely to approach a waterfall for their liquid needs (and let's not forget, many of our pets' undomesticated counterparts get most of their hydration needs from food). But what happens when a kitten does discover a cat water fountain and wants to take a sip? This baby cat shows us in a video entitled "She can play for a day."

It opens with a tiny gray kitten putting her little paws up to an equally tiny water fountain. She spends some seconds examining it before diving in to attempt a drink only to be surprised by the splashiness. So kitten takes a different approach: standing up on the edges of the fountain to get at the water from the top. Kitty gets in a few licks until her paw winds up in the water — needless to say, the little fuzzball does not like that. The video ends with the gray cat shaking off her now slightly damp paws and giving up (we suspect she has a real water dish somewhere else).

Read more
Why doesn’t my cat meow? Here are 5 reasons why your feline friend is silent
Physical and mental reasons why a cat suddenly stops meowing
Bengal cat lying down, looking at the camera

It's not exactly news that cats communicate with humans by meowing, In fact, you may have already learned to recognize what each of your cat's meows means. If your cat stops meowing, though, you might have a problem.
Some causes of this odd change are normal and harmless -- and some will even resolve quickly -- but there are also potential causes that can be much more serious. This is why it's important to get your vet involved early on. If you're wondering "why doesn't my cat meow?" you'll want to get to the bottom of the issue to determine whether your cat needs additional help.

Why doesn't my cat meow? Emotional upset could be the cause
If you think that "my cat doesn't meow," it might be because they're stressed or upset. If your cat is experiencing significant change, like having just moved into a new home, they may be staying quiet out of fear. The same is true if you've recently brought a new pet home. Your cat may be trying to avoid the new pet and any resulting fights that could occur if they meow and make noise. Alternatively, something like the loss of a companion or a recent illness could cause a kitty to feel shut down and quiet.

Read more