Cats and almonds is a controversial issue. Some sources hold that any amount of almond in any form is toxic.
Other sources are less certain about the toxicity of almonds but maintain that they aren’t an ideal food or treat source for cats.
In this article, we sort through the rumors and get to the facts about whether cats can safely enjoy almonds.
Can Cats Eat Almonds?
The short answer to the question can cats eat almonds is “yes.” However, there are some caveats to keep in mind. Not all cats tolerate almonds well. Almonds in any form are not a natural food for cats. And kittens should not be offered almonds until they reach the age of one year.
Learn About Kittens and Almonds As Treats
In this YouTube video, you can watch a cat owner give kittens almonds to investigate.
Not surprisingly, neither kitten shows much interest in the almond – and neither kitten even gives it a taste, which is a good thing!
Understanding the Feline Digestive Tract
As DVM360 points out, cats are pure carnivores, which means their bodies require a diet of pure animal protein.
This is true of all felines, not just domestic pet cats.
The other thing that is true is that felines can digest a small amount of plant matter. This is because most of a cat’s natural prey species are primarily plant-eaters.
However, when a cat ingests a prey animal in a wild setting (or even when an outdoor cat eats a rodent), the plant matter is partially digested in the prey animal’s stomach.
This can make a difference in terms of how well the cat digests plant-based foods. A cat wouldn’t go eat almonds in the wild.
In other words, if a prey animal had eaten almonds and still had some in the stomach when the cat ate it, that cat might ingest some almonds.
Are Almonds Toxic to Cats?
There are some sources that state almonds are toxic to cats and other pets.
The ASPCA Pet Poison Control explains that there are two categories of almonds: sweet almonds and bitter almonds.
The type your cat eats will make a difference in how the nut affects them.
When you go to the store to buy almonds, you will nearly always be buying sweet almonds. It is rare to find bitter almonds in the United States.
Sweet almonds do not contain anything that has been proven to be poisonous or toxic to cats. However, almonds can be hard for cats to digest and may produce some uncomfortable and unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.
Bitter almonds contain a compound found in the poison cyanide and should never be fed to cats or any pets.
However, unless the almonds you are purchasing are clearly marked as bitter almonds, they are most likely sweet almonds.
If you suspect or know that your cat ate bitter almonds, proceed to the nearest veterinary urgent care clinic right away.
For the remainder of this article, we will discuss cats eating sweet almonds only.
Are Almonds Safe for Cats?
Earlier here we talked about how the feline digestive system has evolved to require a diet of pure animal protein for optimal digestion.
Almonds do contain protein, even though it is a plant-based protein. So does this mean almonds are safe for cats to eat?
The answer is “not necessarily.”
Most cats won’t experience any lasting negative impact from nibbling on an almond. However, some cats will experience some gastrointestinal symptoms.
As TexVet Pets explains, in some cats, almonds can produce these symptoms:
- Uncontrolled urination.
- Abdominal pain.
While one sweet almond won’t likely produce severe side effects like these, one bitter almond certainly could.
Whenever you are trying to decide whether to contact your feline veterinarian or rush to the nearest pet urgent care center, consider these factors:
- The number of almonds is eaten.
- The size and age of your cat.
- Any immediate health symptoms you are observing.
When in doubt, always head to the pet emergency room.
What Nutrients Are in Almonds?
So now let’s talk about the nutrient content in a one-ounce serving of sweet almonds (approximately 24 almonds).
According to Live Science, almonds offer all of these nutritional benefits.
- 164 calories.
- 14.2 grams of fat.
- 6.11 grams of carbohydrates.
- 3.54 grams of fiber.
- 1.23 grams of natural sugars.
- 76.3 mg of calcium.
- 1.05 mg of iron.
- 76.5 mg of magnesium.
- 208 mg of potassium.
- 7.27 mg of Vitamin E.
- 0.323 mg of riboflavin.
- Trace amounts of copper, phosphorus, and Vitamin B2.
Of course, you have to divide each of these nutrients 24 ways to get the quantity in a single almond. And if your cat is like most felines, it is unlikely that your cat will eat even one whole almond.
The most likely scenario is that your kitty might nibble on an almond just out of sheer curiosity or perhaps because you are eating it and your cat wants to share. So any nutritional benefit would be a fraction of what even a single almond might provide.
Can Cats Have Almond Milk?
Can cats have almond milk? This is an interesting question that is cropping up more frequently as alternatives to dairy milk become more popular.
As Vetstreet points out, most cats do not tolerate dairy milk well if at all. In fact, dairy can produce similar side effects to eating almonds.
Here again, this is because cats do not typically eat dairy or almonds – the feline digestive system is designed to digest animal protein meals.
The question of whether almond milk is okay for cats comes up more frequently when it comes to feeding kittens, especially when the mother cat is missing or is unable to nurse them naturally.
Almond milk is not a substitute for kitten formula. It is true almond milk does not contain lactose, the protein in dairy milk that cats can’t digest.
But almond milk may contain other additives, including sweeteners, that are not good for cats. And if almond milk is sweetened with xylitol, a popular people food sweetener, this will make the almond milk toxic to your cat.
Finally, almond milk is ultimately made from almonds, which many cats do not digest well. So unless there is a medical need to offer your cat almond milk, it is probably better not to do it.
Can Cats Have Almond Butter?
Almond butter, almond flour, almond paste, and other almond-based foods all present the same basic problems as plain, raw almonds – they are not a natural food for cats.
And when almonds or almond-based products contain additional ingredients such as sweeteners, salt, flavorings, or seasonings, then the food might be truly toxic to your cat.
If you suspect or know that your cat has eaten food with almonds in it, watch your cat closely for any symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort or distress.
Should You Offer Your Cat Almonds?
Ultimately, it is best not to let your cat eat almonds unless your veterinarian specifically advises you otherwise.
The best rule of thumb is to always ask your feline veterinarian for guidance before offering any almond-based food or raw sweet almonds to your cat.