Cashews are small and delicious, the perfect little snack. Humans love them and munch on them all the time. They seem like a great treat for cats too, and cats often seem interested in them. So, is it safe to let your cat try some cashews?
It’s common for pet owners to want to share their food with their pets. The common thought is: if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for them. But that’s not always the case.
Luckily, when it comes to cashews, they’re not toxic for cats, but that doesn’t mean that you should offer them to your kitty. Cashews aren’t very healthy for cats, and there are some risks that you need to be aware of when it comes to cashews and cats. Some sites do suggest raw cashews may actually be toxic to cats, but we haven’t found any evidence to confirm this.
Before changing your cat’s diet or introducing new ingredients or supplements that they haven’t eaten before, especially when it comes to human food, make sure to consult your veterinarian first. Every cat is different and requires an individual approach to nutrition, depending on their age, health, level of activity, and medical history.
What’s Unhealthy About Cashews for Cats?
Even though cashews aren’t toxic for your cat, they’re not a healthy choice for your cat. Cashews are actually pretty unhealthy for your cat, so you should make sure your feline doesn’t get their paws on one. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that cashews can have a negative effect on your cat’s health.
Mold and other Contamination
Nuts are often contaminated with mold that may not be visible to the naked eye and may produce toxins called aflatoxins. These and other toxins can lead to serious gastrointestinal and neurological signs in cats and will require veterinary attention. Cashews seem less affected than other types of nuts, but any discoloration or obvious mold is a sign they need to be trashed.
Cashew nuts have a caustic liquid in the shell that protects the nut against insect attack, but shelled kernels can still be affected by storage insects and rodents. These can transfer disease. The shell is quite hard and is definitely unsuitable for cats to try and break, as they may damage and fracture their teeth. Also, if they swallow any piece of the shell or an overly large piece of the nut, it can lead to choking or gastrointestinal blockage.
In the wild, cats eat a diet that consists of primarily lean meats. They consume fat as part of animal food sources, but definitely not in the high amounts you find in cashews. Excess fat may lead to a stomach upset or obesity long term.
Obesity is a serious problem that faces our pets as much as us. To help fight it, pets should be fed a diet that corresponds to their life stage and activity level.
Cats aren’t even meant to eat plants in the wild. They’ll only rarely eat grass, which may anecdotally help with digestive issues, although the exact reason remains unknown. But other than that, their diet is almost entirely meat-based.
This means that cats aren’t good at digesting plant-based foods such as nuts. It can lead to an upset stomach with vomiting and diarrhea as a worst-case scenario.
Too High in Sodium
Even nuts without added salt are often high in sodium. Cats’ metabolism and digestion are very different from ours, and so is their need for dietary sodium. For this reason, their bodies are not good at processing high amounts of it.
When a cat eats a high concentration of sodium or does not have access to fresh water, it can easily cause serious dehydration problems. Even if your cat accidentally ate only one or two of these nuts, you’ll need to ensure that they drink plenty of water to avoid becoming thirsty or dehydrated. However, salt poisoning is very unlikely from one or two cashews, as it would take quite a few to reach the toxic dose of sodium for cats, based on the sodium content of one cashew.
It’s best to completely refrain from giving your cat any cashews, as they will not benefit from them and may end up with a gastrointestinal upset. If there is any mold, this will make your cat even sicker, and some sites claim that raw cashews may even be toxic to cats. We cannot find any research to confirm this, but you should err on the side of caution and speak to your vet.
Choking Hazard and Gastrointestinal Blockage
This is one you might not think of at first, but it’s one of the most potentially fatal risks that cashews pose for your cats. While a nut like a cashew might be very easy for us to eat, cats don’t have the same kind of teeth as we do, and there is a significant difference between the relative size of a cat’s mouth and ours in comparison to a cashew nut.
In the wild, cats don’t eat vegetables, grains, starches, nuts, or anything even similar. They feed only on wild meat sources such as other animals. This means they have teeth that are suited to killing and eating meat, not nuts.
We think of cashews as being very small, but your cat isn’t nearly as large as you are. That little cashew is much larger to a cat, and if it’s a full cashew, it can easily get lodged in your cat’s airway or at the back of their throat. If this happens, your cat may choke and could potentially die if you don’t take immediate action.
If you’re going to feed your cat cashews anyway, make sure to feed them smaller pieces so that it’s less of a choking hazard. Swallowing overly large pieces can lead to a blockage of the stomach and/or intestines and will need surgical intervention, by either endoscopy or surgery.
If you regularly feed your cat cashews or other very fatty or inappropriate human foods (which we strongly discourage), some websites may state that it could lead to pancreatitis. This is not scientifically correct. Researchers still don’t quite understand why inflammation occurs in the cat’s pancreas, and no clear cause has yet been identified, although it is commonly associated with inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Cats with pancreatitis may require advanced medical treatment, which can be quite costly and stressful.
Some signs of this include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, appetite loss, and lethargy. It’s a serious problem that you can’t take care of on your own.
Are Cashews OK for Kittens?
Cats and kittens are not the same, and while a small piece of cashew is unlikely to cause significant harm in most cats, kittens should avoid it. While adult cats have strong teeth adapted to tearing meat, kittens have baby teeth that get replaced by permanent ones when they’re around 6-7 months of age. Baby teeth are fragile and may break. Plus, kittens are smaller than adults, and a piece of cashew that a fully grown cat can easily chew on and swallow may lead to a tooth fracture or choking in kittens. It’s just not worth the risk. Kittens are very small, and a cashew can present a very real choking hazard.
Even cashew milk can cause an adverse reaction in kittens. Since their digestive systems aren’t prepared for all of the fat, they’ll likely get an upset stomach from cashew milk, though it won’t be fatal. Still, it’s recommended that you avoid feeding kittens any cashew-derived food or drink.
Can I Give My Cat Cashew Milk?
Since cashews aren’t poisonous to cats based on the available evidence, it’s best to speak to your vet before giving yours a little cashew milk. However, you’ll still need to do so sparingly.
Cashew milk is still very high in fat, which is not great for your cat. They have a hard time digesting it since it’s not a natural part of their diet. Unless you want a cat with a stomach upset or the risk of obesity, cashew milk is best avoided or fed only as an occasional treat.
That said, this nut milk isn’t going to pose a potential choking hazard the way that whole cashews will. For that reason, cashew milk may be a preferable choice to whole cashews when you want to give your cat a little cashew-flavored treat. However, there are many safer and more nutritious treat options your cat will enjoy.
In the end, cashews aren’t healthy for your cat, and should be avoided. They can certainly be detrimental to your cat’s health if made a regular part of their diet, or if they are contaminated with mold.
Cashews are very high in fat, which cats may have a harder time digesting since there are no high-fat sources that naturally occur in their diet. The sodium content is also very high in cashews, but it is unlikely to cause serious issues unless a cat eats quite a few of these nuts.
Finally, cashews can potentially choke your cat, especially if left whole. Alternatively, after consulting with your vet, you may be able to use a little bit of cashew milk instead, which is lactose-free and doesn’t create any risk of choking.