Walnuts are considered something of a superfood for humans – they are high in some great fats and oils and plenty of vitamins. They are also a small source of protein. But are they good for cats?
Cats are curious animals and it’s not inconceivable that they will try a bit of walnut that fell to the floor. If and when this happens, do you have to worry about rushing your cat to the vet? Can cats eat walnuts?
Short answer: While a tiny piece of walnut is unlikely to hurt a cat, walnuts are not something that should be regularly featured in a cat’s diet.
There are far too many health risks associated with the nut itself as well as the shell to make it worth the benefits, even if a cat does derive a bit of a health benefit from them. While a small piece doesn’t necessitate a trip to the vet, it should not be encouraged.
Do Cats Like Walnuts?
Cats are going to vary wildly on whether they care about walnuts or not. Some may go after them, if nothing else out of curiosity, while others will pretty well ignore them.
Some cats like to eat anything that hits the floor and others might just play with them and you’ll find out a dried-out, disgusting walnut piece under the fridge several months later.
In short, there’s no definitive answer to this because it will depend on the cat.
What is known is that since walnuts are plant matter, cats probably aren’t going to be overly attracted to them. If they do eat them, it will be more out of curiosity than a craving or a desire. Cats in the wild would not bother with walnuts.
Do Cats Hate Walnuts?
It would be less that cats hate walnuts and more that they are indifferent to them. Walnuts are not something that a cat would instinctively seek out, so in a kitchen, they might view them as a toy more than food!
If your cat isn’t into walnuts, you should mostly feel relieved. Walnuts aren’t good for cats and if there’s a food you don’t have to discourage them from eating, that just means less work for you. It also means you don’t have to worry about chasing them away from your baking or from any that fall on the floor. (Although you may have to worry about them becoming toys…)
Can Walnuts Kill My Cat?
Here is where things can get a bit tricky. A small bit of walnut will probably not kill a cat (unless your cat has severe nut allergies), but it can make your cat quite ill. This is because a cat’s digestive system, as an obligate carnivore, is not meant to handle plant matter like nuts. Their digestive system is quite small and short, so it mostly just goes through them and makes them very uncomfortable.
Furthermore, walnuts (and all nuts) are high in fats and oils. These are good things for humans (well, in moderation), but can cause a lot of irritation to a cat’s stomach. This often leads to vomiting and diarrhea and too many nuts can lead to pancreatitis which is when the pancreas is inflamed. This will necessitate a trip to the vet and can cause a lot of discomfort to a cat.
In particular, walnuts contain an oil toxin called Juglone. This is a toxin that can cause vomiting, but also damage to the kidneys and liver. It would take more than a small bit to cause this, but if your cat keeps sneaking walnuts, the damage can build up.
Walnuts are also relatively high in sodium. Cats should never eat too much sodium because they can get sodium poisoning easily. Symptoms of sodium poisoning include:
- Kidney damage
- Excessive urinating and thirst
- Loss of appetite
A cat who contracts sodium poisoning will need to go to the vet and may require things like IV fluids, electrolyte monitoring, and even treatment for brain swelling.
All in all, walnuts are definitely not a good thing for cats to be eating. The very occasional tiny piece may not cause any harm, but otherwise, it’s not something that cats should be eating regularly as it does far more harm than good.
This includes walnut shells which are a choking hazard. Sometimes people make cat litter out of walnut shells (or at least partially from them), but cats can hurt themselves on them, so it’s best avoided.
And of course, this includes baked goods made from walnuts as on top of the dangers that the walnuts pose, you’re also introducing far too much sugar to be healthy for cats.
How Many Walnuts Are Safe for My Cat to Eat?
Cats shouldn’t eat walnuts at all. The potential hazards outweigh any benefits. But if your cat manages to steal a very small piece, you probably don’t have much to worry about. A cat should not have more than a very small piece once a month, and obviously, less is better. It should definitely not be a usual thing.
This includes things like black walnuts, walnut milk, and definitely walnut oil which is even more hazardous for cats than regular oil. Cats should just say no to them!
Are There Any Health Benefits to Walnuts for Cats?
Well, there are the same health benefits for cats that there are for humans. These include:
- Polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, and polyphenols are good for the cat’s brain, prevent brain damage and boost memory
- Prevent heart disease
- Prevent premature aging
- Immunity system boosting through antioxidants
- Polyphenols that can help protect a cat from type 2 diabetes
- Can help obese and overweight cats suppress their appetites
However, given all of the health risks and hazards associated with walnuts, you’re far better off going with foods that do the same thing, but in a better way such as fish and high-quality red meat.
And since the small amount of walnut once a month or less than a cat can maybe have safely wouldn’t confer many benefits, it’s really not worth it. Keep the health benefits of walnuts for yourself so that you can be healthy for your cat!
Walnuts may be full of great health benefits, but really only for humans. A small bit once in a while probably won’t hurt your cat, but there are far healthier and less risky, things for a cat to eat, so it shouldn’t be encouraged.
Eating too many walnuts are connected to all manner of health risks for cats, some of them quite serious, so keep the walnuts to yourself and let your cat have its own treats.
Has your cat ever eaten walnuts? Or are they more inclined to play with them?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.