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Can Cats Eat Pistachios? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove


Pistachios are healthy human snacks that provide protein, fiber, potassium, carbohydrates, and vitamins. After a successful nationwide marketing campaign was launched in the early years of the 21st century, pistachios became more popular and accessible. While you’ve snacked on the salty nuts, you may have wondered, can cats eat pistachios? No, cats cannot eat pistachios. They’re not toxic to felines, but like most nuts, they’re not beneficial to a cat’s diet. You should also avoid feeding your cat pistachios in other forms as well. Because of the dairy, sugar, and fat in ice cream and whipped toppings, you should also avoid serving your pet pistachio pudding or pistachio ice cream.

Several years ago, pistachios were considered a staple of convenience stores and were usually dyed with a red powder to make them stand apart from other snacks. Thankfully, artificial coloring is no longer an ingredient of commercial pistachios. However, the nut’s popularity has led to several flavors and additives that are harmless to most humans but hazardous to pets.

Risks of Feeding Pistachios to Cats

As humans, we love to eat salty snacks like pistachios, but as responsible cat owners, we should always resist the urge to treat our cats with these and other human food. Here are some of the reasons why pistachios should never be given to your cat.

Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay


Excess sodium is unhealthy for humans, but it can be hazardous or fatal for felines. The average weight of a human is 10 to 15 times greater than a cat’s weight. Salty treats, intended for humans, have a more profound effect on a cat’s tiny digestive systems and organs than a human. Cats that consume high levels of sodium can contract hypernatremia. Hypernatremia can lead to severe medical conditions, including:

  • Seizures
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Coma
  • Polydipsia

Flavorings and Preservatives

In addition to the adverse effects of sodium, flavorings on pistachios can also upset your kitty’s stomach. Garlic and onion seasonings are common additions to pistachios, but they’re unsuitable for cats. Onion, garlic, and any plant in the Amaryllidaceae family are toxic to felines. Also, some companies use preservatives to extend the nut’s shelf life, and your cat is more vulnerable to certain types of preservatives than humans. Sodium benzoate is a common preservative for numerous human foods and even some pet food, but it can be toxic to felines.

Choking Hazard

Cats’ teeth are designed to rip apart meat, but they’re less efficient at reducing the size of small nuts. If outside, cats sometimes swallow nuts or seeds, and while some enter the digestive system without issues, larger pieces can become lodged in their throats and obstruct the airways.

Veterinarian examining teeth of a persian cat
Image Credit: didesign021, Shutterstock

Digestive Issues

Eating pistachios usually produces a small mound of shells, and some cats may be tempted to taste the salty pieces. However, the shells can be more dangerous to your cat than the meat. Since a cat is incapable of grinding the shells into harmless pieces, a sharp shell sliver could become lodged in the animal’s digestive tract. The only treatment for the obstruction is a costly surgical procedure.


Commercial pistachios are produced to be fit for human consumption, but they can become contaminated by mold if sanitary practices are not followed. Humans are less affected by moldy nuts than cats because people enjoy a more varied diet than their pets. Cats eat practically the same type of food every day, and their systems are more vulnerable to aflatoxin poisoning. Aflatoxin poisoning from pistachios is not a common occurrence, but it’s a risk that encourages most pet parents to keep their pistachios and shells away from their felines.

Top 5 Human Foods to Avoid Serving Your Cat:

Although they’re less insistent than canines, cats will beg for food when they encounter a strong aroma. In small quantities, certain types of human food are not detrimental to cats. An unseasoned piece of chicken or beef can be a healthy addition to your kitty’s diet, but be sure to check with your vet for advice before feeding your pet from the dinner table. Several foods and drinks that are beloved by people are toxic to cats.

cat eating on floor at home
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

1. Canned Tuna

Cat food tuna is safe for cats and is usually enhanced with additional vitamin E, but canned tuna can upset your pet’s stomach. It has higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids than cat food, and if it’s given to your cat frequently, it can cause the inflammatory condition called steatitis.

2. Dairy Products

Cats sipping from bowls of milk is an outdated stereotype that does not highlight a cat’s lactose intolerance. Too much cow’s milk can cause diarrhea and vomiting in cats.

3. Chocolate

Theobromine is a compound in chocolate that’s toxic to cats and dogs. A tiny piece of chocolate like a chocolate chip may not cause an animal hospital visit, but larger quantities can cause seizures, muscle tremors, or heart arrhythmias.

varieties of chocolate bar
Image Credit: Pixabay

4. Garlic and Onions

A small piece of garlic or onion fed to your cat could cause an upset stomach, but more significant amounts can result in anemia.

5. Caffeine

Many people depend on caffeine for energy, but the chemical is not suitable for cats. It can lead to heart palpitations, muscle tremors, and rapid breathing.

5. Alcohol

Although several of the previous foods we mentioned are less dangerous in small portions, alcohol can be hazardous to your cat in any amount. PetMd states that a tablespoon of alcohol can send your cat into a coma, and any more can cause death.

The Ideal Diet for Cats

It’s tempting to treat your cat with some of your fine cooking, but cats can live long, happy lives without eating human food. Cats are selective about their food and can be challenging to satisfy, but your vet can help you develop a meal plan that fits your cat’s preferences and dietary needs. If your cat has medical issues, professional assistance is even more critical for establishing the correct diet.

cat eating dry food
Image Credit: aleg baranau, Shutterstock

Age-Appropriate Cat Food

When you’re shopping for pet food, it’s vital to select products that are designed for your cat’s age group. For instance, kittens need commercial food with higher calories, additional vitamins and minerals, and higher fat than adult food. Adults should eat meals high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and high in moisture. A low-fat diet with high protein, additional vitamins, and higher moisture content is ideal for seniors.

High Moisture

Regardless of age, cats often have problems staying hydrated. Cats carry their wild ancestors’ traits for relying on food for moisture, and some cats are not fond of drinking from water bowls. Premium dry kibble can be as nutritious as wet food, but it does not contain enough moisture for your cat. Even if your cat likes dry food, try to introduce more wet food into its diet to maintain hydration.

cat eating
Image Credit: Lenar Nigmatullin, Shutterstock

Meat Proteins

Felines benefit from a carnivorous diet that is primarily composed of meat-based proteins. Unlike humans, cats are unable to digest plant protein as efficiently as protein from poultry, beef, lamb, or seafood. Highly rated premium food that uses animal protein as one of the top ingredients is a healthy choice for your cat. The best brands (not the most expensive) contain no preservatives but have vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Premium food is more beneficial for your pet than discount food loaded with fillers and plant proteins.


Although pistachios and other nuts are healthy additions to any human diet, they should not be on the menu for your cat. They’re high in fat and may contain aflatoxin that can cause liver damage or death. Instead of nuts, feed your cat a tasty protein-rich treat. Commercial cat treats are healthier and pose less of a choking hazard than pistachios. Before choosing a new pet food or treat for your cat, consult your veterinarian for recommendations and feeding tips.

Featured Image Credit: sunnysun0804, Pixabay

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