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Cat eating garbanzo beans chickpeas

The essentials

  • Beans are not poisonous to cats — If a kitty snatches a bean from their human’s plate, they aren’t in immediate danger of food poisoning.
  • Beans aren’t a necessary food for cats — Cats are obligate carnivores, so beans aren’t a food they need as part of a healthy diet.
  • Beans aren’t recommended as a regular cat treat — If your cat loves beans, you may give them one or two sparingly, but giving cats beans regularly can disrupt their digestive system.

It can be scary when our cats snatch up some food we’re not sure they should be eating. What’s even worse is if your little bandit really loves the food and won’t stop begging for it. 

When it comes to beans, cat parents can rest easy knowing if their beloved kitty steals one, they won’t need to be rushed to the emergency vet. However, veterinarians don’t recommend beans as part of a healthy diet for cats.

Can cats eat beans safely? 

While giving a cat a bean isn’t going to poison them, they have no need for beans and legumes in their diet. House cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they primarily thrive on eating animal protein such as meat, fish, and other animal products. Regular cat food typically caters to a cat’s need for high amounts of animal protein. Cats don’t require plants or a high fiber diet in order to be healthy, and fiber is one of the primary nutritional benefits of beans. So your feline friend doesn’t gain much nutritional value when they eat beans as a snack or as part of their meal.

Benefits of beans

Beans are chock full of fiber and have a low calorie content. It’s possible that the additional fiber a cat may get from eating beans could help them lose a few extra pounds, or the beans may ease existing digestive issues. However, it’s extremely important to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your cat’s diet. Switching things up without their expertise could throw off your cat’s nutrition and/or cause more harm than good.

Hazards of beans

Because cats are obligate carnivores, their bodies are hardwired to digest meat, but not much else. Cats don’t process the variety of foods a human eats in the same way that humans do. It’s not a good idea to give cats beans often, as it can disrupt a cat’s digestive system. Our feline friends can react poorly to eating too many beans and exhibit symptoms such as diarrhea, excess gas or vomiting.

Beans as a treat

If your kitty just loves the taste of beans, however, it’s hard to say no to that sweet whiskered face. It is safe to give a cat a couple of beans, as long as it’s a small amount and no more than once or twice a week. About a tablespoon is the maximum amount of beans your cat should have.

If you do give your cat beans, always make sure they are fully cooked, and keep the beans plain. Uncooked, raw beans are extremely toxic to cats, and seasoning such as salt or garlic could make your furry friend very sick. Also avoid giving your cat refried beans, baked beans or canned beans, as these all have additives that could be harmful to your kitty.

Types of beans that are – and are not – safe for cats

Are there any differences between types of beans in terms of safety for your cat’s digestion? Here, we look at some of the most common types of beans your kitty may come into contact with.

Garbanzo beans

Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) are not toxic for your cat to consume. The best way to give your cats garbanzo beans is cooked and plain with no seasonings. But like other types of beans, chickpeas should be a rare treat for your kitty.

Black beans

Your feline can have black beans in moderation: no more than a tablespoon once or twice a week. Again, it’s important to make sure your cat isn’t ingesting any added spices that may have been mixed in with the beans, so be sure to always cook the beans plain if you’re giving your cat a little. Avoid giving your cat any black beans that come from a can, as the excess juices, artificial sweeteners and seasoning soaks into a canned bean.

Refried beans

Giving your cat refried beans is not recommended. Refried beans are generally cooked with too much salt than is safe for a cat, along with lots of spices and other ingredients such as garlic and onions. Both garlic and onions are highly toxic to cats and could result in death. The only exception to giving your cats refried beans is if you cook them yourself without any added ingredients or spice.

Green beans

This one’s a bit of a trick, as green beans are technically not beans, but vegetables. And here’s another surprise: green beans are actually a good snack for your cat! Green beans contain added vitamins and other nutrients found in green vegetables that are healthy for your kitty to ingest. Cats typically don’t care for eating green vegetables, so don’t be shocked if your kitty turns her nose up at green beans. But if she does enjoy them, just be sure to serve her plain beans.

Pinto beans

While cooked pinto beans are also not toxic for cats, they’re another food that cat owners should be sure to serve plain to their furry friend. It is never safe to give a cat a raw bean of any kind. Raw beans may contain pesticides, bacteria such as E. coli and staphylococcus, and other toxins on their outer coat. Soaking raw beans overnight and boiling them cooks off these toxic elements.

White beans

A plain, cooked white bean such as a navy bean is safe to give your cat as a rare treat. But, like other types of beans, they should be given in small quantities and not on a regular basis.

🚨 One “bean” that is always dangerous for your cat to ingest is a cacao or coffee bean. 

While technically a seed, never let your kitty eat them in any form. Coffee beans and cacao beans contain caffeine, and cacao beans (also known as cocoa beans) also have theobromine. Both caffeine and theobromine are highly toxic and can be deadly to both cats and dogs. If your pet has ingested a coffee or cacao bean, get them to an emergency veterinarian immediately.

While cats can safely consume a very small amount of beans once or twice a week, veterinarians don’t recommend beans as a regular snack. The potential risks far outweigh the minimal health benefits your cat might receive. Consider instead some healthier alternatives to give your furry friend, and keep your kitty on a protein heavy diet to meet her obligate carnivore needs.

Frequently asked questions

What kinds of beans can cats eat?

It is safe to give your cat plain, cooked green beans, black beans or pinto beans as an occasional treat.

What happens if my cat eats beans?

While beans aren’t toxic to a cat, they might throw off your kitty’s digestive system. Symptoms could be milder or more intense depending on how many beans your cat ate.

Can my cat eat kidney beans?

As long as they are cooked and plain, it’s safe to give a cat a kidney bean. Never give your kitty a raw, uncooked bean, as these are very toxic to cats.

How many beans can my cat eat?

It is generally considered safe by veterinary experts to give a cat about a tablespoon of beans no more than once or twice a week.