Beans are a highly-nutritional and healthy crop that has been cultivated for well over 6000 years. Beans come in a variety of forms, shapes and sizes and we simply love all of them. In fact, we have even dedicated a special day for them – January the 6th is a national bean day.
But, what about our feline friends? Can cats eat beans?
Well, the simple answer is yes. Just like us, cats can enjoy the variety of tastes beans offer. From chickpeas, peas and lentils, to kidney beans, pinto beans and soy, cats can eat beans. In fact, when cooked and served in moderate amounts, as occasional treats, beans make healthy food choices for cats. However, not all bean-related products are suited for cats. The hummus is the perfect example. Although made from chickpeas, hummus is not a cat-friendly food as it contains too much fats and spices. A small lick or two will not cause problems but feeding it is never a smart idea.
This article will thoroughly review everything you need to know about cats and beans – from health benefits and potential risks to feeding guidelines and serving sizes.
From a botanical point of view, beans are classified as legumes. Legumes are flowering plants form the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family.
Members of this family produce seeds inside pods. The beans we eat and use are in fact those seeds.
Yes, when used adequately beans can be healthy for cats.
Commonly described as “pint-sized” and humble nutritional powerhouses, beans are considered one of the few modern “super-foods”.
These are some of the health benefits associated with beans.
Proteins are one of the six essential nutrients. They are building blocks for all living cells and fuel to a body. They are also crucial for many of the body’s vital functions. As carnivores, cats thrive on protein-rich foods.
Beans are low-calorie foods with minimal amounts of fats. The fats that can actually be found in beans are of the good kind (unsaturated). These features makes beans the ideal snack choice for obese cats and cats on weight-loss regimens.
Beans are rich in vitamins A, C and B-complex. They are loaded with essential minerals such as calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and magnesium.
The antioxidants are important since they protect the organism from the damaging effect of free radicals. The phytonutrients found in beans have many roles – from promoting healthy heart through weight loss to strong bones.
Beans contain both types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. We know that cats benefit from eating grass and grass contains solely insoluble fiber.
So imagine the benefits of eating plants that contain both fiber types – from smooth and regular bowel movement to pushing out unnecessary matter like fur, hairballs, bone splinters, and dirt.
The good news is beans are not toxic to cats. However, there are certain risks associated with feeding beans to cats. Some are linked with the beans themselves while others with the preparation method and serving frequency.
There are the risks worth considering.
The cat’s digestive system is not equipped for processing high amount of fiber. Therefore, overeating beans may cause gastrointestinal upset manifested with profuse diarrhea, excessive gassiness, stomach pain and lack of appetite.
Cats with irritable bowel syndrome, or other digestive issue, as well as cats with food sensitivities must never be fed anything beside their vet-prescribed diet.
Certain bean types (like lima beans, kidney beans) in their natural state contain a chemical compound known as phytohemagglutinin. This substance can cause poisoning manifested with signs of self-limiting digestive upset.
Just because the consequences of the phytohemagglutinin poisoning are temporary and not dangerous it does not mean you should take the risk. Adequate cooking inactivates the compound and makes the beans safe for cats.
When thinking about raw veggies and E.coli the first thing that comes to mind is lettuce. However, lettuce is not the only E.coli carrier. Raw beans are frequently contaminated with this dangerous bacteria and if consumed likely to cause E.coli poisoning.
In comparison to dogs, cats are less likely to choke on anything. However, it is worth mentioning that cats like to play with pebble-like objects such as beans and may accidentally choke on them. They can also choke while trying to eat a raw bean.
Many legumes are important allergens. Sadly there is no way of knowing whether your cat is allergic and to which legumes. For that reason, it is advisable to start offering legumes in small amounts and wait for a reaction on your cat’s behalf.
If the cat is allergic to the legume she ate, she will develop either skin issues or gastrointestinal irritation. In rare cases, legumes may cause the most severe form of allergy – anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is an emergency with potentially lethal consequences.
Unless buying organic beans, it is best advised to see if the version you purchased lists GMO or GMO-free on the package. Soybeans are the most frequently GMO produced bean. However, it is recommended to check all products, not just the soybeans.
GMO beans hold a great deal of dangers varying from decreased nutritional value and increased risk of allergic reactions to extremely severe issues, such as antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression, toxicity and even cancer.
Cats are delicate creatures and want their beans prepared in a specific manner. Plus, certain beans contain potentially risky chemical compounds that need to be deactivated through proper cooking.
These are the basic instruction on how to prepare beans for cats:
- Presoak the beans for couple of hours (preferably overnight)
- Boil for 30 minutes (cooking on low temperature for longer instead of deactivating, increases the amount of potentially risky compounds)
- Check if the beans’ flesh is tender
- Never add salt, spices, sauces or condiments
- Keep in mind that the water in which the beans boiled is also healthy as they release proteins and fiber during boiling.
In addition to the above-mentioned compound deactivation, cooking is important for two reasons:
- It increases the digestibility – most beans have rough textures that need to be smoothened through cooking.
- Promotes edibility – if offered raw beans, cats are more likely to play with them instead of actually eating.
As with any other new food, it is advisable to start small and gradually increase the portion size.
Simply put, when feeding beans for the first time, begin by offering a bean or two. Observe your cat for any signs of distress (diarrhea, vomiting, or skin issues).
If your cat tolerates the small bean amount well, you can increase the number of beans on the next feeding. Slowly over a few-week period, your cat can enjoy its whole portion of beans if there are no troubles.
Yes, cats can safely eat all three types of peas – regular, green or garden peas, snap peas and snow peas.
Peas are low in calories and high in proteins. They are rich in vitamins C, K and B1 and mineral like potassium, copper, manganese and iron.
Finally, peas have fiber which promote smooth bowel movements and are beneficial for cat with constipation issues.
However, too much fiber is not recommended as it can overly increase the bowel movement, thus resulting in diarrhea and digestive upset.
Peas are the only legume cats can eat raw. Canned peas are allowed only if they do not contain added salt and are free of additives.
Otherwise, canned versions are not recommended for cats. Cooked peas are perhaps the most cat-friendly way of serving this healthy legume.
Cats can eat around 10-15 peas per week, divided in two separate meals.
Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are a novel protein source used in high-quality, commercially available foods.
So the answer to the question is yes, cats can eat chickpeas, but there are some caveats – they need to be cooked and used on rare occasions as they are not a staple food.
Chickpeas are loaded with proteins, vitamins and minerals. The proteins serve as building blocks for the body while the vitamins and minerals found in chickpeas improve the carbohydrates metabolism.
Chickpeas are exceptionally rich in calcium and potassium. Calcium is vital for strong bones and potassium regulated the sodium levels in the organism.
As most legumes, chickpeas are high in fiber and since cats are not equipped to digest large fiber amounts, eating too much chickpeas can cause digestive upset.
What is more, chickpeas are high in oxalic acid. In skin sensitive cats, the oxalic acid my cause itchiness and irritations. If consumed in large amount, the oxalic acid can also impair the calcium metabolism.
Raw chickpeas are inedible and canned chickpeas are too salty and additives-rich which makes them a no-go for cats. Cooked chickpeas (boiled) and served plain are not only safe but also tasty and healthy.
The only case where a cat can eat flour is if it was incorporated in fresh, homemade cat-friendly treats. In such cases chickpea flour can be used as an alternative to conventional flour types.
No, there is no reason for a cat to eat hummus. Plus, most hummus versions are packed with added oils and spices which are not cat-friendly. Humus can wreak havoc on the cat’s digestive system. The oils and fats, can lead to pancreatitis – painful inflammation of the pancreas to which cats are already prone. The spices can cause erosions and ulcers in the stomach and lead to bloody diarrheas.
Cats can eat between five and eight chickpeas per week.
Yes, when fed moderately and occasionally lentils are a great legume for cats. What is more, contrary to popular belief, even picky cats like the lentil’s taste and soft texture.
Out of all the vegetables known to mankind, lentils have the highest protein concentration. Cats thrive on protein-rich diets which makes lentils healthy and nutritious to cats. Because of their protein content, lentils can be used as a meat replacement in cats prone to palate boredom and cats with allergies to more conventional meat proteins.
Another health benefit of lentils is the vitamin B content. Lentils are particularly rich in vitamin B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid and folate. Last but not least, lentils are loaded with iron, which is an essential mineral for cats.
However, lentils are also rich in carbohydrates and fiber. Cats do not require significant amounts of these nutrients. For that reason, if fed excessively or too frequently, lentils in cats can cause gastrointestinal upset.
Raw lentils are inedible for both humans and cats and even if your cat likes how they taste, they are likely to cause digestive upset.
Canned versions are usually packed with salt, spices and additives. Therefore, the best way of preparing lentils for cats is cooking – boiling until they become soft-textured.
Lentils contain two anti-nutrients factors (trypsin inhibitors and phytates) that reduce the organism’s ability to absorb proteins. The activity of these factors is decreased by cooking and it can be completely prevented by soaking the lentils overnight prior to cooking it.
Well, it depends. Homemade lentil soups prepared with cat-friendly ingredients and without added spices are suitable for cats.
However, store-bought, lentil soup powders are a no-go for cats, as they often contain potentially toxic ingredients (dried onions, garlic) and lots of additives.
Adult cats can safely enjoy the taste of lentils once or twice per week. The allowed portions size is one tablespoon. In the case of lentil soup the portion size is two to three tablespoons.
As long as cooked, served in small amounts and occasionally, these speckled beans are a safe, tasty and healthy addition to the feline menu.
Pinto beans are rich in proteins thus providing energy for the organism and fiber which promotes smooth and healthy digestion.
They are also packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which ensure heart health, control the blood sugar levels and protect from chronic conditions.
Pinto beans are still beans, meaning they are likely to cause digestive upset and profuse diarrhea if eaten substantially.
Raw pinto beans are inedible while canned pinto beans are tasty but not recommended for cats as they often contain added salt and additives. Some canned versions even contain sauces and condiments.
When preparing pinto beans for a cat it is best to boil them and serve plain.
Cats can eat two to three pinto beans, once or twice a week.
Many people suffer from a condition known as favism. Favism manifests with red blood cells breakage and it develops as a result of eating fava beans.
For that reason, for many years it was believed that fava beans can have the same effect on dogs and cats too.
However, today we know that not only cats do not suffer from favism but fava beans are more and more frequently used in commercially available cat kibble formulas.
The main advantage of fava beans is that they are grain-free. For that purpose they are frequently combined with a healthy protein source and mixed into a grain-free formula designed for cats with grain allergies and sensitivities.
As with any other member of the bean family, eating too much or too often will cause gastrointestinal upset and excessive gassiness.
Raw fava beans are inedible and very likely to cause digestive upsets. Canned versions are usually packed with salt, spices and additives. Therefore, the best way of preparing fava beans for cats is cooking – boiling until they become soft-textured.
Cats can eat fava beans once or twice per week in the amount of a bean or two per serving. When the fava beans are a part of the kibble, they can eat them on a daily basis.
Yes, cats can safely eat cooked lima beans. In fact when used rationally, lima beans are a healthy addition to the cat’s menu.
As most beans, lima beans are packed with proteins. They are also rich in fiber which is known to decrease the blood cholesterol levels. For that reason, lima beans are perfect for obese cats and cats with blood pressure issues.
You must not forget that lima beans are still beans, which makes them likely to trigger digestive upset when fed in large amounts and on a daily basis.
In addition to being inedible, raw lima beans contain a compound known as linamarin or phytohemagglutinin. This substance is toxic to cats.
On the bright side, 10 minutes of boiling are enough to deactivate this compound and make the lima beans perfectly safe to cats. Slow-cooking at lower temperatures is not recommended as it makes the fava beans release even more linamarin.
Canned lima beans are no-go if they are loaded with salt and additives. However, canned lima beans without salts and additives can be used straight from the can as they are usually pre-cooked prior to canning.
Cats can safely eat around two to three kidney beans per meal, once or twice per week.
Yes, when used moderately and prepared adequately, edamame is healthy, tasty and protein-packed human food for cats.
The edamame’ high protein concentration fuels the body and promotes healthy muscles, while the omega-3 fatty acids ensure healthy skin and coat.
Edamame beans are also loaded with phytonutrients, such as isoflavones – important for heart health and polyphenols – vital for maintaining a healthy body weight.
As is the case with all beans, eating too much edamame or on a daily basis will likely trigger an episode of gastrointestinal upset.
Raw edamame is inedible because of the rough structure and hard digestibility. Canned edamame versions, unless plain (salt and additives-free), are not recommended for cats. The best way to offer edamame beans to a cat is by cooking – boiling.
Cats can safely enjoy in edamame beans once or twice per week. The portion size is one to two beans.
Yes, when served cooked and in moderation, black beans are healthy and quite nutritious to cats.
In addition to being protein and vitamin C rich, black beans are packed with calcium, iron and phosphorus, thus promoting strong muscles and healthy bones.
They also contain two phytonutrients – saponins and quercetin which promote heart health and lower the blood pressure.
Black beans, as the rest of the bean cousins can trigger a bout of diarrhea if fed in substantial amounts or too frequently. Basically, when it comes to black beans, moderation is the key.
Raw black beans are inedible and canned black beans are packed with salt and additives so both versions are a no-go for cats.
Cooking (boiling) black beans is the cat-friendly way of serving this legume.
Cats can safely eat around two to three black beans per meal, once or twice per week.
Yes, cats can eat cooked kidney beans as occasional additions to healthy meals.
Kidney beans are loaded with healthy nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins from the B-complex, and minerals – magnesium, zinc, iron.
However, they are also high in sugars and fiber. Cats do not need too much sugars in their diet, and cats with diabetes should never eat sugary foods.
The fiber content is also high and when consumed excessively, kidney beans can have laxative effects in cats.
Raw kidney beans contain a compound known as phytohemagglutinin. This substance is toxic to cats but it can be deactivated after 30 minutes of boiling. Slow-cooking at lower temperatures is not recommended as it makes the kidney beans release more phytohemagglutinin.
Canned kidney beans can only be used if salt and additives-free. In such cases, they can be used directly from the can as they are already cooked.
Cats can safely eat around two to three kidney beans per meal, once or twice per week.
The use of soybeans for cats is a hot topic. While using soybeans as cheap fillers in commercially available kibble formulas is questionable, giving your cat a cooked soybean now and then can be actually beneficial.
Soybeans are loaded with proteins. Although cats are carnivores and thrive on animal-based proteins, a high-quality, plant-based protein adds diversity and prevents palate boredom.
Soybeans are also rich in isoflavones which promote hearty health and strong bones.
As with any other bean, overeating may result in digestive havoc. Plus, soy is a common allergen and must not be fed to sensitive cats. . Finally, as mentioned it is worth checking if the soybeans you purchased are GMO-free.
In addition to being inedible, raw soybeans contain a compound called trypsin inhibitor which triggers severe diarrhea.
Canned soybeans are a no-go as they are often enriched with salt, spices and sauces and loaded with additives.
The only safe way of adding soybeans on your cat’s menu is by boiling them.
Definitely no, soy sauce is too salty for cats. It is also very high in sodium. If a cat overeats on soy sauce it may end up with salt poisoning. Salt poisoning is a serious condition with potentially fatal consequences.
Cats can safely eat four to five soybeans, once or twice a week.
You might be wondering what your favorite snack is doing in this list. Well, as surprising as it may sound, peanuts are legumes. And the answer to the question is yes, since there is nothing toxic (if they are fungus and mold-free), cats can eat peanuts.
However, just because they can it does not mean they should.
There are no benefits of feeding peanuts to cats. Like all legumes, peanuts are rich in protein but they are also extremely high in fats, which is unsuitable for cats.
Eating too mush peanuts will cause digestive upset and eating them too frequently may lead to unnecessary weight gain and obesity. Plus, peanut allergy is a very common thing and in a sensitive cat even a small amount may trigger an allergic reaction.
Last not but least, peanuts are often affected by molds. The molds produce a group of toxins known as mycotoxins which can have detrimental effects on the overall health – from liver issues to kidney problems and even impaired heart functioning.
As mentioned, there is no cat-friendly way of preparing peanuts. However, the salted version is the worst as it can cause salt poisoning. Salt poisoning is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent veterinary attention.
If your cat steals a peanut or two from your snack bowl, there is nothing to worry about. However, you should not be sharing this legume with your cat. There are far healthier and safer, cat-friendly snack options.
As obligate carnivores, cats thrive on animal-sourced proteins. However, beans are a good occasional substitute to those animal-based protein sources.
If for any reason, your cat cannot properly digest beans, there is no need to substitute them – just completely leave them out of your cat’s menu.
Your cat needs a complete and well-balanced cat food. In fact, around 90% of its daily food intake should come from high-quality cat food. The rest is treats.
If the beans can be incorporated in the treats section – that is great. However, if they cannot, there are other treat options formulated specifically for cats.
It is not like cats have free access to beans and legumes. If these otherwise nutritious foods do not agree with your cat’s stomach, all you need to do is remove them from the menu.
If your cat likes how beans taste, but it is not supposed to feast on them, the solution is simple – just keep them out of your cat’s reach.
When prepared adequately and used moderately most legumes (with the exception of peanuts) are not just safe but also healthy and tasty for cats. Cats are classified as obligate carnivores and their digestive systems are not equipped for processing large amounts of legumes.
For that reason, the recommended legume portion sizes are small and may not be enough to achieve some significant health benefits. However, adding some diversity to the menu is healthy on itself and it prevents sophisticated cats from developing palate boredom.
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