Cats may be cute, soft, and cuddly. But they are primal hunters at their core. In a wild setting, felines require a diet of animal prey and they thrive on this food.
Of course, when a cat lives with people, they may get curious about “people” food like beans. Your cat may even want to try beans.
Perhaps one day you will be eating beans and your cat wanders over and gives your plate a sniff. Should you let your cat take a taste?
Is it safe for cats to eat beans? Let’s find out together now!
Can Cats Eat Beans?
As Veterinary Practice points out, cats are known to be obligate carnivores. Beans are protein but in a plant-based form. So while cats can certainly eat beans, this is not an optimal protein form for a feline.
Watch a Cat Play With a Green Bean
In this YouTube video, you can watch a cat’s reaction to the sight and taste of a green bean.
As the owner points out, this is probably because the bean is shaped like a favorite treat.
Can Cats Eat Green Beans?
As PetMD points out, green beans are on the list of safe “people” foods cats can eat.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat should eat green beans or needs to eat green beans.
Can Cats Eat Other Kinds of Beans?
While green beans are one of the most popular types of beans, they are far from the only kind of beans that people like to eat.
There are black beans, lima beans, fava beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans, garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), soybeans, kidney beans, navy beans, and many more.
So perhaps the better question then becomes: are there any beans that are not safe for cats to eat?
Beans in general are safe for cats to eat with one requirement: the beans need to be cooked.
Can Cats Eat Raw Beans?
Cats should never be allowed to eat raw beans for two reasons: they are hard to digest and they contain lectins.
As the Cornell University Department of Animal Science explains, raw beans contain lectins, a potentially toxic glycoprotein.
There are many different types of lectins and some are more toxic than others.
As Cat’s Kitchen points out, beans are not the only plant foods that contain lectins.
As Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM points out, most foods contain lectins, especially nuts, dairy, grains, and certain vegetables (most notably eggplant), which have a type of preservative effect.
The toxicity of lectins is also thought to serve as a type of defense for the plants to repel insect pests and potential predators.
While most types of raw beans contain lectins, kidney beans have an especially high concentration of these toxins.
What happens if your cat eats raw beans or other foods that are high in toxic lectins?
The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA) states that you may see the following symptoms of lectin toxicity:
- Abdominal pain.
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment to neutralize the impact of ingesting lectins. Rather, treatments focus on rehydration, stabilization, and simply managing the symptoms until they pass.
Are Cooked Beans Safe for Cats to Eat?
As Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains, cooking foods that contain lectins typically neutralizes most if not all of the toxic side effects of consumption.
Soaking beans for several hours prior to cooking them is a classic example of how to neutralize the harmful effects of lectins.
This is effective because the majority of the lectins in plant foods are located on the outside so they can serve as a deterrent to predators and pests. Soaking and cooking can degrade the lectins so they don’t cause harm.
So does this mean that all cooked beans are safe for cats to eat? Unfortunately, the answer is “no.”
Not all cooking methods are equally effective at neutralizing toxic lectins in beans and other plant foods. For instance, soaking and boiling beans are quite effective at neutralizing lectins.
But low-heat cooking methods such as simmering or slow cooking is not as effective. Under-cooked beans may still have potent quantities of active lectins.
Are Canned Beans Safe for Cats?
At this point, you might be wondering if canned beans are the safest option for cats to eat since the beans are soaked, cooked, and then soaked again in the canning liquid.
But canned beans often contain other ingredients such as sugar, salt, flavoring agents, feline toxins like garlic or onion and other seasonings, sodium and other preservatives.
Even plain canned beans that do not have any flavorings or seasonings won’t be safe because of the addition of preservatives.
Can Cats Eat Coffee Beans?
Coffee beans, like coffee and caffeine in any form, should never be offered to cats.
As VCA Animal Hospital explains, if your cat eats coffee beans or drinks coffee, caffeine toxicity can quickly occur and cause severe side effects.
The most commonly reported side effects include:
- Rapid heart rate.
- Uncontrolled urination.
If you suspect or know that your cat has eaten raw or ground coffee beans or ingested any coffee, don’t wait. Take your cat to the nearest veterinary emergency clinic.
Can Cats Eat Lentils or Peas?
Lentils and peas, including the popular New Year’s Day favorite, black-eyed peas, all contain some amount of lectins, which we discussed in an earlier section here.
Lentils, peas, nuts, and other legumes may provide plenty of protein, but none of these foods provides protein in the best form for your cat’s gastrointestinal system to digest and make use of it.
As Pet Food Industry magazine points out, lentils, peas, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are a popular ingredient in many commercial cat food recipes (both wet and dry) today.
The goal here is primarily to produce a grain-free commercial diet that is still palatable and nutrient-rich for pet cats and dogs.
But is this type of diet actually healthy for your cat? Unfortunately, commercial pet foods that are high in peas and legumes are not well-tolerated by all cats and dogs.
Happy Cats Haven explains that many ingredients in commercial cat foods – not just peas, beans, or legumes – can cause digestive distress for pet felines.
Some of the biggest offenders include peas and green beans.
If your cat seems to do just fine on the cat food you are feeding, you probably don’t need to worry even if that food includes green beans or peas or other types of beans.
However, if you are having a hard time finding a commercial cat food (wet or dry) that your cat likes and tolerates well, it is time to talk with your feline veterinarian about switching to a limited ingredient diet to rule out food allergies.
According to a study published by the Journal of Experimental Biology, adult domestic cats prefer a diet that is rich in pure animal protein.
This means that even if your cat seems to enjoy the occasional cooked green bean, bean, or pea treat, you probably shouldn’t make a habit of offering these foods to your precious kitty.
The feline gastrointestinal system has developed over millennia to operate best with animal protein for its primary fuel.