Updated - Oct 27th, 2021
Bananas are loaded with healthy carbs, fiber, and nutrients that can benefit humans and our dogs. But are they safe for our cats? The short answer is yes – bananas are safe and not toxic to cats. The real question is, do bananas offer the same nutritional benefits, and should our cats be eating them?
Let’s look at a cat’s dietary requirements first.
Cats, the true carnivores
Science categorizes cats as obligate carnivores. This means that to thrive, a cat’s body requires nutrients that are only found in animal proteins. So a vegetarian diet is a big no for cats!
Cats have very different nutritional needs than we humans or even dogs do. Let’s explore how they differ.
First, your cat’s body requires meat and only meat. Due to this diet, cats don’t have receptors to taste sweetness found in fruits, so most cats develop very picky taste preferences.
Second, cats lack the digestive enzyme to process plant-based foods. In their daily diet, they can only process 0-2% carbs (about as much as what’s found in the digestive system of any rodent they may consume). Giving them large amounts of fruits and vegetables can upset your cat’s digestive system and overall health.
The best cat diet is a balanced and complete commercial cat food formulated by a certified feline nutritionist. There is no need to supplement their diet for added nutritional benefits. In fact, sometimes it can be harmful to do so.
A few cats, though not many, have unusual food interests and may be interested in your banana snack. What should you do? Let’s look at the health benefits of bananas and how they apply to your kitty.
Health benefits of bananas
- Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system.
- Vitamin B6: A critical coenzyme for brain and body functions. It regulates fluid balance, builds proteins, regulates hormones, and supports neurotransmitters in the body.
- Folate: Helps develop healthy red blood cells.
- Potassium: Supports healthy kidney and heart function, promotes healthy bone density, regulates fluid levels, and helps with muscle development.
- Calcium: Important for strong bones and teeth
- Magnesium: Promotes healthy bone growth while helping the body use vitamins and minerals more effectively.
- Fiber: Bananas have a high fiber content, which is important for the digestive system. Fiber moves food (and hair) along the intestinal tract, helping to resolve constipation, diarrhea, and some blockages that can occur.
These all sound beneficial, right? But remember, cats don’t have the enzymes needed to digest plant-based foods. Therefore, the only nutritional benefit your cat receives from a banana is dietary fiber.
If your cat is showing interest in eating bananas, here’s how you can appease your feline and keep them safe.
Feeding cats bananas
Carbohydrates, which turn to sugar in the body, are plentiful in bananas. Too much sugar for any species can lead to diabetes, and cats are no exception.
You can safely offer a small piece (about the size of one kibble) to your cat if they insist that your banana is the perfect snack. Keep in mind that your cat may appear interested in the banana, but once you offer it, they may turn away in disgust.
Banana peels contain ethyl acetate, which smells bad to cats. This is why you see so many videos on social media of cats being scared of bananas.
If you offer banana to your cat, remove the peel. It’s very difficult for them to digest and can lead to digestive tract issues or an upset stomach – or it can be a choking hazard. The fruit is the only part of a banana that your cat can have.
Allergies are always a possibility when you offer your kitty new foods, especially human foods. Bananas can cause some side effects you should watch out for. Let’s look at those now.
The downsides of cats eating bananas
The first suggestion is to always talk to your veterinarian before offering your cat any new food. Your vet knows the specific benefits and risks of any new food based on your cat’s health.
Cats can be sensitive to some foods, which may cause vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or other signs of gastrointestinal upset. Make sure you observe your cat after it ingests any new foods.
Cats who have health issues like diabetes or obesity should avoid eating bananas because of their high sugar content. Overweight cats don’t need the extra sugar found in fruits. It may be fine for awhile, but it can lead to diabetes or blood sugar spikes. Signs of diabetes are:
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss
- Increased urination
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to jump
Plant-based foods can cause your cat discomfort since they lack the enzymes to digest or process it. You may see digestive issues such as vomiting, gas, or abdominal pain.
Allergies aren’t very common but can happen when a cat eats a banana. Signs of an allergic reaction are:
- Itchy rash
- Watery eyes or nose
- Itchy mouth or throat – your cat will paw at those areas or rub against something
- Swelling of the mucous membranes around the nose and mouth, tongue, or gums
- Wheezing from the throat narrowing
This may sound scary, but it’s not common. If you do notice any of these signs, talk to your vet immediately.
The bottom line on cats and bananas
The most important takeaway is that bananas are not toxic to your cat. However, nutrients that ensure your cat thrives are more important than treats, and bananas contain very little nutritional value for your cat. The best choice for your cat’s nutritional needs is a balanced diet that has been formulated by a Certified Feline Nutritionist.
When you give your cat treats, remember the 90/10 rule of daily caloric intake. Most (90%) of the calories your cat ingests in a day should be their daily cat food diet, and healthy snacks can make up the remaining 10%. Anything more in the snack category and you risk your cat gaining weight or developing diabetes.
If you have a cat that loves treats, try some commercial cat treats or a small bite of unseasoned meat instead of a sugar- and carb-loaded piece of banana.