They aren’t exactly a well-known cat food, but bananas are typically thought of as a healthy snack choice. So if they’re good for you, are they good for your cat too?
Can cats eat bananas? They can, but they aren’t the best choice of snack for your cat. They are not poisonous to cats, but are nutritionally unsuitable. They contain too much simple sugar and not enough protein or fat. You can therefore feed your cats small amounts of banana if absolutely necessary, but there are far better snacks for cats like meat or fish of almost any kind, either raw, dried or cooked. Bananas therefore are a poor choice of snack and should certainly not form a large part of your cat’s diet.
The guide below looks at exactly why bananas are nutritionally unsuitable for cats by looking at the exact nutritional content of bananas compared to a cat’s dietary requirements. It also looks at the vitamins and minerals in bananas, different kinds of banana (like raw, dried, candied and so on) and in conclusion gives recommendations on the amounts of banana it’s safe to feed your cat.
Can Cats Eat Bananas?
Cats can eat banana. It isn’t poisonous in the way that chocolate is, for example. What is true, though, is that bananas are far from the best snack you could give your cat. They are nutritionally unsuitable for your pet. They won’t quickly cause weight gain or protein deficiency, so there’s nothing wrong with giving your cat a tiny amount of banana once or twice. But since there are suitable snacks out there that do conform to your cat’s dietary requirements, and which your cat would probably prefer, its best to offer these instead.
Are Bananas Poisonous to Cats?
Bananas don’t contain anything that’s known to be poisonous to cats. That applies whether your cat eats a small amount or a large amount of banana.
Do Cats Like Bananas?
Cats can enjoy all sorts of foods, to the point where you might even spot yours eating out of the trash! While wild cats thrive on an all-meat diet, domesticated cats are used to eating a broader variety of foods, and yours is no different. Yours might therefore enjoy eating bananas just as much as you do. They’re soft and easy for your cat to eat, too.
But just because your cat will eat something, that doesn’t mean it’s making a good choice. In the same way as we might be guilty of eating too much fast food, so too can your cat make incorrect dietary choices. It’s therefore up to you to feed your cat the right food rather than giving it whatever it likes.
Why Shouldn’t Cats Eat Bananas?
It’s one thing to say bananas aren’t your average cat food, so probably aren’t suitable; it’s another thing to explain precisely why. To do so, we have to look at the precise macronutrients bananas contain.
Nutrients in Bananas
The table below uses data from two sources. The first is NutritionValue.org, a website that lists the nutritional contents of common foods. The other source is the AAFCO‘s official guidelines for substantiating the nutritional adequacy of cat foods. This is where the statistics on a cat’s nutritional requirements come from, which are used for the sake of comparison.
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g||Cat RDA* per 100g|
|Carbohydrate||23g (12g sugar)||Variable**|
|Protein||1.1g||26-30g dry matter|
|Fat||0.3g||9g dry matter|
**Varies based on wet food vs. dry food.
As should be clear from the table above, bananas are far from suitable for your cat.
Carbohydrates & Fiber in Bananas
The first point worth considering is that bananas contain more carbohydrates than is ideal for cats.
The table above specifies that a cat’s diet can contain variable amounts of carbs. A wild cat will eat almost no carbs, and rely entirely on prey food (meat). But contrary to popular belief, the wild cat’s diet does contain a small amount of carbohydrate and fiber in the form of its prey’s stomach and gut contents. Cats are therefore capable of digesting carbohydrates. According to a paper in Veterinary Sciences (a highly reputable journal),
Early studies by Morris et al. observed that adult cats could efficiently digest all carbohydrates added to a meat-based diet, despite the described evolutionary adaptations along the feline gastrointestinal tract. The total apparent digestibility of starch is reported to be 40–100%, depending on source and treatment, which proves that cats can digest and absorb carbohydrates. As in other mammals, proper processing and cooking is necessary. Carbohydrate sources are not provided to cats as raw ingredients. Typically, carbohydrate sources are ground and cooked during the extrusion or canning process, which improves digestibility.
What is true, though, is that a high-carbohydrate diet is bad for cats. Cats that eat lots of carbs are more susceptible to diabetes mellitus than those that eat few carbs. And in study after study, cats are shown to ‘self-select’ a low-carbohydrate diet in favor of a high-protein one. The amount of carbs in bananas isn’t as high as that in certain cat foods, but is also higher than is ideal.
Particular attention should be paid to simple sugars. Complex sugars are made up of lots of simple sugars chained together; simple sugars are things like sucrose or glucose. High levels of simple sugars are especially bad in terms of causing issues like diabetes and weight gain because they’re so easily digested. Bananas contain lots of simple sugar.
Protein & Fat in Bananas
The categories in which bananas are flatly unsuitable, however, are those of protein and fat.
To start with protein: it is easily the most important macronutrient in your cat’s food. Cats can thrive on no carbohydrates, on some, and survive on lots. They can get their water either from food or from drinking. Small amounts of fiber are acceptable, too. But your cat’s health will worsen dramatically if it doesn’t get enough protein.
Bananas have nowhere near enough protein for your cat. Cats need somewhere between 26-30g of dry matter protein per 100g of food. Bananas have next to no protein, with only 1.1g per 100g. You likely aren’t thinking of feeding your cats bananas as a core part of its diet, and it would be exaggeration to say that a small amount of banana would somehow cause your cat protein deficiency. But considering that there are snacks which provide more than enough protein, and which cats love, there’s no need to feed an unsuitable treat like banana.
It’s a similar story with fat content. Cats adapted to eating a high-protein, high-fat diet. Since wild cats get almost no energy from carbs, they get much of it from fat instead, so need a reasonably large amount (9g per 100g of food). Bananas almost no fat whatsoever at just 0.3g per 100g.
Water in Bananas
Bananas contain 75g of water per 100g, which is a lot. This may sound like it’s too much for your cat, but in reality, it isn’t. That’s because meat contains a surprising amount of water too, at between 60-70g per 100g. This means that the amount of water which bananas contain is perfectly acceptable.
Calories in Bananas
Similarly, bananas don’t contain too many calories for your cat. If you were to consistently feed your cat banana-based snacks on top of its regular diet, then it could potentially gain weight. But you would have to do so very regularly for this to be a problem; plus, bananas contain fewer calories than other snacks for cats. So this isn’t an issue.
Vitamins & Minerals in Bananas
Bananas are an exceptionally popular fruit, in large part because of their vitamin and mineral content. Like many fruits, they contain a wide variety of both. Below is another table with data from NutritionValue.org, this time detailing each micronutrient bananas contain a significant amount of:
|Vitamin/Mineral||Amount per 100g|
Cats need vitamins and minerals just like we do. However, your cat should get all of the micronutrients it needs from its cat food. It shouldn’t be necessary for your cat to eat a snack like a banana for it to get what it needs from its diet. Moreover, if your cat is deficient in something or other, it should get this either from a suitable snack or from a nutritional supplement provided by a vet. The admittedly large range of vitamins and minerals that bananas contain therefore isn’t an argument in favor of feeding them to your pet.
Can Cats Eat Banana Chips?
Banana chips are a kind of processed banana snack. They can either be dried or candied.
Candied fruit is fruit that has been dried and then had syrup added to replace the evaporated water. It’s therefore very sweet and contains a very large amount of simple sugars. Candied fruit of any kind is unsuitable for your cat to eat, so should be avoided. Most kinds of ‘dried fruit’ sold in the U.S. and U.K. is actually candied fruit, although it is possible to buy real dried fruit, especially from organic/health food shops. However, this isn’t suitable either, as it still contains too much sugar and not enough protein/fat. Both of these options are worse than regular banana.
How Much Banana Can Cats Eat?
So, banana isn’t good for cats but it’s not poisonous either. You can therefore feed your cat a small amount of banana if for whatever reason you have no choice, or if you’re going to do so regardless of advice. If you do, it would be a good idea to limit the amount of banana that you feed so that its health impact is limited. A small spoonful of banana won’t cause protein deficiency or weight gain in your cat on its own.
How Often Can Cats Eat Bananas?
Again, it’s good to limit the amount of banana you feed your cat if you’re going to feed it anyway. The other way you can do this is by only feeding it on rare occasions. Once a week would be an appropriate limit. This stops your cat filling up on banana instead of more nutritious foods.
Should Cats Eat Bananas?
On the whole, no, it’s not a good idea to feed your cat banana. There are myriad other snacks that you can pick for your cat which are more nutritionally appropriate and which your cat would probably enjoy more anyway. Any kind of meat apart from processed meat would be a better choice.