Can Cats Eat Bananas? 4 Keys to Feeding the Fruit to Your Cat Safely
Sure, bananas are an a-peeling and healthy snack for humans, but what about our feline friends? Can cats eat bananas too? The short answer is yes—bananas are generally considered to be safe for cats. But before you let your cat go bananas on a banana (ha!), it's important to consider the pros and cons. Namely, just because your cat can eat a banana, might not mean that he should.
We paired up with the University of Missouri Small Animal Clinical Nutrition Service to find out more about feline nutrition and gain some expert advice on what's considered a balanced diet so you can feed your cat a diet that's healthy and meets all his needs.
Are there Nutritional Benefits to Feeding Cats Bananas?
The Clinical Nutrition Service says that cats have specific nutrient requirements that must be met by their diet, and the nutrients they require simply aren't the same as the ones humans (or even dogs) need. As obligate carnivores, cats rely on nutrients found only in animal products, similar to what they'd naturally hunt for in the wild. But that doesn't necessarily mean you need to go out and hunt mice for your feline friend (in fact, quite the contrary: letting your cat eat rodents can infect them with parasites.)
The Clinical Nutrition Service sums it up best: "The simplest and most convenient way to meet the nutrient requirements of a cat is to provide them with a complete and balanced commercial diet formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist or an individual with a PhD in animal nutrition."
This means that since your cat is getting all of his required nutrients from his regular cat food, treats like bananas aren't necessary. And when it comes to nutrients, more isn't always merrier. In fact, giving a cat more nutrients than he needs can actually cause problems. In the case of bananas, these high-carb fruits really offer no benefit to your cat.
Are there Any Risks with Feeding Cats Bananas?
While the Clinical Nutrition Service says that banana is considered a non-toxic food for cats, it notes that there are caveats. First, good luck getting your kitty to eat one—cats are notoriously picky eaters and since they're naturally inclined to eat an only-meat diet, you probably won't find that they're as interested as your canine companion.
Second, bananas are only considered to be a safe, occasional treat for healthy cats. So if your cat has a health condition (such as diabetes), avoid feeding them banana.
Third, remember that no cat is the same, and that their diets can vary a great deal when it comes to tolerating certain foods. The Clinical Nutrition Service explains: "Some cats may consume a particular food item with no issue, and another cat may consume the same item and develop vomiting, diarrhea, or other adverse signs."
Lastly, keep in mind that the vast majority of your cat's calories should come from foods specially formulated to give him the nutrients he needs. Human foods like bananas should only be offered as an occasional, tiny treat—not a daily dessert option.
How Can I Feed Bananas to My Cat Safely?
Taking into account the caveats above and feline nutritional needs, the Clinical Nutrition Service says to follow these steps to safely feed bananas to your cat if he's meowing for a bite:
- Ask. Talk to your veterinarian before giving your cat any new human foods—even if they're typically considered to be safe for pets. Your veterinarian is in the best position to advise on what your cat should eat.
- Calculate. To determine how much banana your cat can safely eat, you'll need to do a little math. The Clinical Nutrition Service says treats shouldn't account for more than 10 percent of your cat's daily caloric intake. For example, if your cat eats 250 calories a day, only 25 of those calories should come from treats. According to the FDA, one medium banana is around 110 calories. Cats vary in the amount of food they need to eat each day to maintain an ideal weight. If you aren't sure how many calories your cat needs or what his ideal weight is, visit with your veterinarian about developing a nutrition plan that's specific to your cat.
- Prepare. To prepare the banana for your cat to eat, first remove the peel, which could be difficult for your cat to digest. Cut up the banana into cat-bite-sized pieces that are easy for your pet to manage, about the size of your cat's kibble. Or try mushing a tiny bit into a puree and sprinkling atop his food, if you're ready to put your culinary creativity to the test.
- Monitor. The Clinical Nutrition Service says that even foods that are considered safe, such as banana, can have unexpected reactions, so watch your pet for signs of gastrointestinal problems like vomiting or diarrhea after trying a new food. It's also a good idea to introduce only one new food at a time. That way, if your cat does start showing signs of illness, you can more easily determine the source of the problem. If you think your cat is having an adverse response to bananas, call your veterinarian.
So your brave little lion defied the odds, dove into his banana snack, and devoured it. (It's rare, but entirely possible.) But before you start adding this into his daily diet, remember that nutrients are more important than treats—and bananas don't provide the kind of nutrients cats need. So while a small amount every once in a while probably won't hurt, too many bananas can cause diarrhea, allergic reactions, and even spikes in blood sugar that could lead to diabetes.
If you're unsure whether your cat is getting the nutrients he needs from the food he eats every day, bring up your concerns with your veterinarian. They are ready to help you find good options for your pet. And don't be shy about asking which foods are considered safe for your cat—open, honest communication with your vet is key to keeping your cat safe and healthy.