Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Beans? Pinto, Lima, Kidney & More

Can cats eat beans? Are these protein and fiber packed seeds safe for felines? Are some beans better than others? Is there a difference between pinto and black beans for kitties? We discuss this and many more frequent questions about cats eating beans in this quick guide.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: December 5, 2022 | 12 min read

Curious cat sniffing on beans on table

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Beans are an incredibly healthy source of protein and are eaten in many cuisines and tasty dishes all over the world. In fact, for folks who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, beans are one of the best sources of protein they can find. They are good for humans, but are they safe for felines? Owners may wonder about this and often ask if cats can eat beans.

It is easy to assume that healthy human foods would also be nutritious and beneficial for our purr babies. Unfortunately, sometimes things are not as open and shut as that. When it comes to cats eating human foods, it is important to do your research before adding anything to your kitty’s diet. Even some healthy foods, like tomatoes, are not safe for kitties, so always check before giving them new foods.

A wide variety of beans are incorporated into our human diet. Whether or not they are safe for cats is something owners will want to know before feeding any to their pets. Let’s take a look at the issues surrounding cats eating beans and learn if these tasty legumes are safe and healthy for felines.

What Are Beans?

Beans are seeds that come from different kinds of plants. They are seeds, but they are not all from the same plant, nor do they all taste the same. They are legumes. The larger group of legumes includes peas, lentils, peanuts, black-eyed peas, edamame, and Anasazi beans. Legumes are classified as plants that produce fruit that grows in a pod. Beans belong to this larger group of legumes, just like cats belong to the larger animal family Felidae.

We use beans in dips, salads, as side dishes, in our soups, stews, as main dishes, in casseroles, and the list goes on. They can be purchased fresh, canned, dried, or made into delicious dips like hummus. These legumes are inexpensive, easy to find, extremely nutritious, and easy to cook. Foods like this pack a massive punch of fiber, protein, resistant starches, potassium, folate, and more.

Many people dealing with health conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart issues, and more may be told to eat more legumes like these as they work in many ways to help human health. They can help lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol, help manage diabetes and pre-diabetes, can work to boost heart health and prevent heart attacks, and may even help fight off cancer.

Can Cats Eat Beans?

The short answer here is yes, cats can eat beans, but it is not necessarily recommended, nor a food they would eat much of in their natural diet. Additionally, because there are so many different types, there is no one size fits all answer to this question. Most varieties, in moderation and prepared appropriately, will be safe for kitties to consume and might be an occasional treat they enjoy.

It is important to point out that felines are obligate carnivores, and their bodies are made to run on and digest meat. Legumes and other fruits, grains, and vegetables are difficult to digest. Eating too much of these foods can cause them digestive distress. They can experience pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis, and other gastrointestinal distress If they eat too many plant-based foods that are hard to digest.

Are Beans Dangerous To Cats?

An adult Aegean street cat eating cat beans from bowl
If kitties are fed legumes, they should only be those prepared especially for them.

Beans are not dangerous to cats, but that does not mean they are suitable for them to eat all the time or in large quantities. Purr babies need meat that contains high-quality animal proteins to survive. Their bodies will not develop properly or run well; without enough animal protein, they will not be healthy. This can impact everything from their quality of life to their expected lifespan.

A minimal amount is safe for cats to eat. Along with being hard to digest, kitties may experience irritable bowel syndrome, stomach pain, excessive gas and flatulence, intestinal distress, and discomfort when eaten in excessively large quantities.

Uncooked seeds like these are not safe in any way for cats, and dried ones are a choking hazard and may cause a potential bowel obstruction. It is also important to note that some varieties contain chemicals that are toxic to felines when eaten raw.

It is also important to point out that vegetables prepared for human consumption are most often mixed with other ingredients and spices. Many of these, including onion and garlic, are extremely toxic to felines and may cause them to get sick. Human foods often contain high levels of salt and pepper, as well as chemicals and other additives that are hard for felines to digest. Bean dishes are usually cooked with a high level of spice, something that will not be pleasant for your feline friend to digest. With any human food, fruit, vegetable, meat, and more, felines should only ever be given items that are specifically prepared for them and do not have any of the other additives and flavorings we often use.

A compound called lectins is found on and in raw and undercooked legumes. These are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are sticky and toxic. Lectins originate in plant food and help keep the growing plants safe from pests like rodents, spiders, insects, and more. Lectin is the substance in seeds that can sometimes cause people to feel sick. The best way to avoid these compounds is to soak legumes before cooking them. Cooking will further disintegrate these harmful toxins and make food safe for your cat to eat.

Phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) is a compound in several varieties of dry beans. If this compound is eaten in large quantities, it will cause something that is called red kidney bean poisoning or Phaseolus vulgaris. PHA is found in very high concentrations in kidney beans. Red has the highest levels; however, white and black also contain high levels. Eating just a few raw ones can cause severe illness and symptoms of pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and more. PHA is destroyed when veggies are fully cooked. This is of particular concern for foods prepared in slow cookers, as they may not reach high enough temperatures to disintegrate this harmful toxin fully.

Can Cats Eat Canned Beans?

Other than cat food that comes in a can, it is not a good idea to feed felines any kind of canned food. Regardless of the variety, if it comes in a can, it is best not to feed it to your cat. Part of the reason for this is that most canned foods have high levels of sodium to preserve quality and taste. Too much sodium is a very big health issue for a feline. Salt poisoning is very serious and, in severe cases, can cause felines to experience tremors and seizures. In very severe cases, it can even be fatal.

Cats who overeat salt may experience the following:

  1. Decrease in appetite
  2. Excessive thirst
  3. Lethargy
  4. Incoordination
  5. Confusion
  6. Vomiting
  7. Diarrhea

Many people rinse off their canned vegetables to remove some salt, but this is not an effective method. The salt is soaked into the vegetables already, and for felines, even a very small amount can be too much. The American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommendation is that cat foods should contain 0.2% salt, meaning that most canned foods contain far too much salt to be safe for them.

Can Cats Eat Pinto Beans?

Your feline friend can eat one or two plain, fully-cooked pintos or frijoles. They should not, however, eat refried ones. Refried frijoles are high in fats, salt, and spices like garlic and onion. The only kind of pintos a feline should consume is the boiled, plain variety. Even then, they should only consume a few. Between one and three at a time, kitties should not have them daily. If you choose to make refried without added ingredients or fats, those will be okay for your kitty, but again, only feed them about one to three.

Can Cats Eat Black Beans?

Black beans are not toxic to felines, so they can have them in very small amounts. There are a few different types of these, and it is always best to feed your cat foods made from scratch, not over-processed or canned ones. Stick to a minimal amount of plain ones, fully cooked, with no added ingredients or spices. They are hard to digest because they are very high in fiber. There is potential for them to cause stomach pain and distress in your Kitty, even after only a few bites. Only give your cat a few at a time, and keep these as an occasional treat.

Can Cats Eat Chickpeas

Chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans. Like many others on the list, chickpeas are not toxic to felines but may be hard to digest. A cat eating an occasional chickpea is likely to be fine, but more than that will cause some stomach distress. Felines should not be fed hummus, as it often contains other ingredients and spices. In particular, many people like very spicy hummus with red Peppers, jalapenos, and high amounts of onion and garlic. Mashing up a chickpea is okay but not something generally recommended for felines.

Can Cats Eat Lima Beans?

Felines can eat these, but they must be cooked fully before they can be safely eaten. Limas contain a compound called linamarin, which can be poisonous to felines. Additionally, there may be bacteria on the outside coating, which must be cooked fully to kill them off.

Can Cats Eat Kidney Beans?

Like many other varieties, kitties can consume kidney beans in moderation as long as they are fully cooked. One thing to point out is that the red ones, when raw, are quite toxic to felines due to the PHA levels. Try to avoid your cat getting into any uncooked bean due to the choking hazard and the potential for toxicity. Because of their potential to be toxic, avoiding kidney beans is probably the best route for your purr baby.

Other Kinds Of Beans

Many other kinds of these seeds exist, including soy, cranberry, mung, Navy, Adzuki, Anasazi, fava, and Great Northern. That is a long list and does not include every type of bean. Our point here is that there are many different types of these legumes that humans can consume, and all should be treated the same when it comes to felines.

Beans might be okay for kitties to snack on occasionally, and while they are not toxic or poisonous, they can be hard to digest. Because of this, they should only be fed in very limited amounts. Regardless of the type of being, it should only be served if it has been cooked plain, is fresh, not canned, and has no other added ingredients. Always observe your pet when they eat new foods like these to ensure they do not choke or experience any distress.

It is no secret that these veggie nuggets are high in fiber and protein and can be hard to digest, even for humans. Most of us digest them fine but will experience some level of gas or flatulence. The same goes for our purr babies. Eating these legumes will likely cause gas. So, if you choose to feed your feisty feline these legumes, be ready for a stinky afternoon. Knowing that these cause kitty’s painful gas is another reason to only feed them these in moderation or avoid feeding them these altogether.

Beans To Avoid

There are a couple of varieties that kitties should always avoid eating. Both coffee and cocoa should be avoided at all costs for kitties. Both contain caffeine, which is toxic to felines when ingested. For the record, caffeine is also harmful to dogs and should be avoided for both felines and canines. Caffeine toxicity can cause diarrhea, pain, vomiting, excess urination, increased thirst, tremors, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms. Symptoms will occur between 30 minutes to an hour or two after your cat ingests the caffeine. Depending on the size of your cat, just 80 milligrams can be toxic.

Chocolate, which comes from the cocoa bean, contains a chemical called theobromine, which is very toxic to felines. In large quantities, it can even be fatal. Darker chocolate and baker’s chocolate contain higher quantities of cocoa, making them more toxic to felines. Should your cat ingest a cocoa bean or a piece of chocolate, you need to contact your veterinarian immediately. If they get sick depends on how much chocolate they consume, the type of cocoa, and the potency of the specific product they consume. The sooner they receive treatment, the better the chances of recovery and the less damage these harmful chemicals will do.

Alternative Treats

Felines should always have diets that are rich in high-quality animal proteins. Owners concerned that their purr babies need more protein or fiber should not consider veggies the answer. This is not something to try to self-treat or manage on your own. The best plan is always to discuss dietary concerns with your veterinarian. They can help direct you on the right path for your cat. All felines are not the same and will have different digestive issues as well as nutritional needs. Work with your veterinarian as a team to ensure your cat is getting everything they need from food.

While our feline friends may be interested in what we are eating, that does not mean it is good for them, and there are many options out there that both taste great and are nutritionally better than adding legumes. As we have mentioned, felines are obligate carnivores. Not only do they need meat, but they also love its taste. So, meat-based treats are always a big hit.

Sheba Salmon Meaty Tender Sticks

Sheba Salmon Meaty Tender Sticks
  • Real salmon.
  • Fresh taste.
  • For adult cats.
  • Individually packaged.
  • Protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.
VIEW ON AMAZON.COM

Sheba Meaty Tender Sticks are made with real salmon and contain no corn, wheat, soy, or artificial flavors. Treats are individually packaged, so they stay fresh. These traits are a great source of high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids. These are best for adults, and kitties should only have one daily.

Owners can look to freeze-dried, fresh, or raw food if they feel their cat needs more flavor variety. There are plenty of subscription and mail-order pet food options that are both convenient and extremely high in nutritional value. These foods can be used for regular meals or as an occasional treat.

Stella & Chewy's Salmon & Cod Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels

Stella & Chewy's Salmon & Cod Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
  • Multiple flavors.
  • Natural animal proteins.
  • Fresh, raw meat taste.
  • Low carb.
  • No peas, lentils, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy, or by-product meals.
VIEW ON AMAZON.COM

Stella & Chewy’s is a great choice for affordable freeze-dried cat food. These come in several flavors, including chicken, goose, rabbit, salmon and chicken, salmon and cod, and turkey. This food has an incredible taste of raw meat that purr babies cannot get enough of. Food is made in small batches with high-grade ingredients. The recipe is low carb and high protein and contains no peas, lentils, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy, or byproduct meal.

PureBites Freeze-Dried Chicken Treats

PureBites Freeze-Dried Chicken Treats
  • Single ingredient.
  • Raw protein.
  • 100% fresh USA chicken breast.
  • Low calorie.
VIEW ON AMAZON.COM

PureBites Freeze-dried treats are another tasty option. These are safe for kitties of all life stages. Single-ingredient, raw protein. Made from 100% American fresh chicken breast. High in flavor, low calorie, and great for a nice, healthy cat snack.

Clicking the above links take you to Amazon.com, where you can get additional product information and customer reviews. If you make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can cats eat baked beans?

Felines should not have any baked varieties. Often, these legumes come from cans and contain high levels of added ingredients, including artificial sweeteners like xylitol which are incredibly toxic for kitties. Additionally, these are often cooked with high levels of added ingredients, including cinnamon, sugar, butter, and other spices and fats. They will simply be too hard for your kitty to digest and possibly harmful depending on the ingredients used. Kitties do not have taste receptors for sweet flavors, so they are unlikely to go after these for taste.

Are all bean types safe for cats?

While beans, in general, are safe for felines, it is not advised that they eat a lot of this food. There are several types that should be avoided. Any bean dish high in added fats has toxic spices like onion or garlic, or artificial sweeteners like xylitol should be avoided. These substances are poisonous and will cause harm to your feline. Sometimes, even a small quantity is enough. As we mentioned, coffee and cocoa should be avoided in all cases. Raw kidney beans, especially red ones, can be toxic to purr babies, so those should also be avoided. Raw seeds of any kind can be a choking hazard, so it is best to keep these far away from your purr baby’s reach.

Can cats eat rice and beans?

While cats can eat cooked rice in small amounts and some beans in small quantities, feeding them this combination is not advisable. A small bite or two will not likely cause harm but may be tricky to digest. Additionally, neither of these foods provides much nutritional value to your feline. They will be served better by eating animal protein and not plant-based food. Additionally, most rice and bean dishes that are made for human consumption will contain spices that are unhealthy or hard on your cat’s digestive system.

What about green beans? Can cats eat them?

Green beans are legumes but are not true beans. To answer, yes, kitties can eat these, but they should be steamed, plain, and small enough not to be a choking hazard. Nor should cats consume large amounts of them. All plant-based foods can be difficult to digest and do not provide much nutritional value for fur babies.

Can cats eat refried beans?

No, kitties should not eat refried frijoles. Unless they are made with no other ingredients and just for your purr baby, they are not the best choice.

What should I do if my cat eats a lot of beans?

If your cat devours a large amount, take note of their condition, the type of bean, and how much they ate. Observe them for any signs of distress and call your veterinarian for advice on the next steps. Do not try to remove any from your cat’s mouth or throat, nor should you try to make them vomit. There is no way for you to do this at home safely. Contact your veterinarian, and they will help talk you through the next steps, as well as decide if your cat needs to come in for emergency treatment.

Final Thoughts

We have covered cats eating several different types of beans. In very small amounts, as an occasional treat, they are safe for felines. There are many better choices for treats. Legumes are not part of a cat’s natural diet and can be hard for them to digest. Most are not toxic or dangerous, but some, like raw red kidneys, can contain levels of chemicals That are toxic to felines. We hope we have answered your questions about cats eating beans, as well as provided you with some delicious alternatives to keep your kitty’s taste buds happy.

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