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When it comes to feeding nuts to cats, there are always inherent risks to beware of. So, it’s understandable why many pet parents are usually skeptical about sharing almonds with their feline friends.
But are almonds toxic to cats? Can cats have almonds?
Almonds have long been thought to be toxic to cats. But according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), these nuts are entirely safe and possibly even beneficial for your adorable furball. Fresh almonds are low-fat, high-fiber nuts that can offer many medicinal and nutritional benefits to cats.
However, while eating almonds is unlikely to necessitate an urgent visit to the vet, these nuts are only safe for cats in moderation. Consuming almonds in excess might still trigger various adverse effects, including gastrointestinal complications and even anaphylactic shock.
This article delves deeper into the potential interactions between cats and almonds.
The almond refers to the edible nut produced by a tree of the same name. The almond tree, known botanically as Prunus amygdalus or Prunus dulcis, is native to Iran and neighboring countries.
Almond fruits produce a drupe that’s made up of an outer hull and a hard shell containing the seed. Although widely considered a nut, the almond seed isn’t a true nut.
What Nutrients Do Almonds Contain?
Almonds comprise 50% fat, 22% carbohydrates, 21% protein, and 4% water. The nuts also contain decent amounts of essential minerals and vitamins.
Notable vitamins in almonds include the B-complex vitamins riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, vitamin B6 and folate, as well as vitamin E. And the minerals range from calcium and copper to iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
The carbohydrate content in almonds mainly comprises dietary fiber and simple sugars. The fats include monounsaturated fats like oleic acid and polyunsaturated fats like linoleic acid.
Lastly, like most plant-based foods, almonds are loaded with antioxidants, including the flavonoids catechins, epicatechins, and kaempferols.
How Might Almonds Benefit Your Cat?
1. Almonds May Ease Indigestion
Almonds are high in dietary fiber. Fiber generally moves through the stomach undigested. In the process, it adds bulk to stool, thereby helping to regularize bowel movements.
Fiber-rich foods like almonds can help ease indigestion in cats while also promoting the animal’s regular bowel activity.
2. Almonds May Aid Weight Loss
Protein constitutes more than 20% of almond’s total mass. The combination of protein and fiber can aid weight loss by increasing the sensations of fullness.
Giving your cat foods high in protein and fiber, such as almonds, is a proactive way of fighting hunger. Ultimately, this can help induce weight loss or prevent unhealthy weight gain.
3. Almonds May Keep Your Cat’s Blood Sugar Levels Down
Almonds are relatively high in carbohydrates. High-carb diets are linked to blood sugar issues like diabetes.
Ironically, almonds contain minerals that may inhibit blood pressure spikes, such as magnesium. Studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium-rich diets can improve insulin function by correcting a deficiency in this hormone. That can be useful in preventing type 2 diabetes in cats.
4. Almonds May Improve Your Cat’s Heart Health
Almonds can lower your cat’s LDL “bad” cholesterol levels remarkably. The positive effects of almonds on bad cholesterol is the main reason these nuts are recommended for managing heart and cardiovascular diseases.
5. Almonds May Protect Your Cat From Chronic Infections
Almonds are loaded with antioxidants, including vitamin E and the flavonoids catechin, epicatechin, and Kaempferol. Antioxidants can help protect your cat against oxidative stress caused by the over-accumulation of free radicals in the body.
Simply put, these compounds can minimize the risks of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Antioxidants also have anti-aging effects and may help rejuvenate your cat’s coat and skin.
How Might Almonds Hurt Your Cat?
Cats are obligate carnivores. Which means that they derive most of their dietary needs from animal-based products. The fact that almonds are plant-based foods implies that these nuts could be nutritionally-deficient for your cat.
Besides, cats can develop intolerance from ingesting nuts like almonds. Symptoms of almond intolerance in cats include;
• Gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and an upset stomach
• Respiratory symptoms like coughing and sneezing
• Oral symptoms like hypersalivation and gum discoloration
• Skin symptoms like itching, urticarial, and angioedema
Fat is another major problem with almonds for cats. At least 50% of raw almonds constitutes fat. This percentage might increase further depending on how the nuts are prepared and preserved. Excess fat consumption may induce unhealthy weight gain in cats. Fat-laden foods can also cause or worsen the symptoms of certain chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity, and pancreatitis.
Almonds also tend to be high in salt. That’s especially true for cured almond nuts. Too much salt in a cat’s diet might lead to a severe disease called sodium ion poisoning. The condition mainly produces symptoms of renal failure, such as frequent thirst sensation, frequent urination, and fatigue.
The following are other potential risks of almonds for cats;
a) Cyanide Poisoning
Like most nuts, almonds contain a natural toxin known as cyanogenic glycosides. The chemical is more abundant in bitter almonds than sweet almonds.
Exposure to high amounts of cyanogenic glycosides might cause cyanide poisoning. Common symptoms include upset stomach, labored breathing, fatigue, and dilated pupils. In severe cases, cyanide poisoning may cause coma and even death.
b) Aflatoxin Poisoning
Almonds tend to attract aflatoxin-producing molds. Aflatoxins are chemicals produced by various mold species, such as Aspergillus parasiticus and Aspergillus flavus. The chemical is highly carcinogenic and may open up your cat to various forms of cancer.
c) Choking Hazards
Last but not least, almonds may prove indigestible for your feline companion. Attempting to swallow the nut might lead to asphyxiation or intestinal blockage.
What’s The Best Way to Serve Almonds to Cats?
i. Shell the almonds
Almond shelling refers to the removal of the shell to reveal the seeds.
ii. Blanch the nuts
After shelling almonds, you should consider blanching the nuts before serving them to your cat. Blanching is the process of soaking almonds in hot water to soften their seed coat.
iii. Serve the almonds to your cat
You can serve almonds to your cat raw or cooked. Raw almonds must be rinsed thoroughly in clean water to rid them of any dirt. If you prefer cooking almonds before sharing them with your cat, insist on cooking methods that do not include the use of excess fat, salts, or seasoning.
Cats do not need almonds in their diet. However, there’s no harm in supplementing your cat’s diet with these nuts occasionally. If safely prepared and carefully served, almonds may offer numerous benefits to your feline friend.