✔ This article was reviewed for accuracy by a licensed veterinarian.
It’s Taco Tuesday. You’re preparing your food, trying out a new margarita recipe (you’ll use too much mixer), and attempting to keep your cat off the counter. You open some refried beans, your cat stares into your soul, and you begin to wonder: can cats eat refried beans?
A better question is: should cats eat refried beans? The answer is no — especially if they’re served in a can. Canned refried beans are commonly seasoned with ingredients poisonous to cats like onion and garlic.
Beans and cats are an interesting combination, to say the least. Cats require a high volume of protein as part of their diet, and beans provide a ton of protein. However, cats require animal protein more than anything, and beans are legumes — part of the plant family Fabaceae.
Our team has performed extensive research on the feline diet in recent months. We’ve been coordinating with our staff vet, reading peer-reviewed research, and speaking with specialists in the field. This due diligence has enabled us to share answers to your pressing questions about cat dietary restrictions!
We cover the following items in this post:
- What Are Refried Beans And How Are They Made?
- Can Cats Eat Refried Beans?
- Are Refried Beans Healthy For Cats?
- Why Are Refried Beans Unhealthy For Cats?
- What To Do If Your Cat Has Already Eaten Refried Beans?
What Are Refried Beans And How Are They Made?
Refried beans are a staple Mexican and Tex-Mex dish, and are very popular across Latin American countries. They’re simply cooked beans that are then mashed or pressed and then fried. However, they’re generally only fried once, which can lead people to believe that the name is a bit misleading.
They can be made using the most popular beans. However, many restaurants and recipes recommend pinto beans as they’re usually rich in flavor and can be a bit buttery.
They’re made by:
- Cooking them while raw or soaking them overnight
- Stewing them
- Draining the majority of the remaining liquid
- Converting them into a paste consistency using a masher or pressing them through a mesh sieve
- Adding in a liquid (maybe the previously drained liquid or stock) if the paste is dry
- Baking them or frying them (usually after adding in seasoning)
The issue with refried beans and cats is that the beans are often made using a healthy mix of seasoning. The store-bought refried beans also include preservatives. The preservatives and seasoning can prove to be too much for a cat’s gastrointestinal tract and are often poisonous to cats.
For example, Old El Paso’s premade refried beans include ingredients like salt, garlic powder, and onion powder, amongst other ingredients. Onion and garlic are both toxic to cats, and high levels of salt/sodium are also toxic to cats.
If you look for any at-home recipes to make, you’ll find that one of the first recommended ingredients is often chopped onions.
We created an extensive post to cover foods poisonous to cats. Please use it as a guide to assist with additional questions on ingredients you can share with your cat!
So, Can Cats Eat Refried Beans?
It’s a trickier question than you may imagine, so we broke down the answer below to be as clear as possible:
- Yes. If they’re made fresh at home and prepared without preservatives and seasoning. Cats can eat small portions of refried beans intermittently if they fit in this category.
- No. If they were purchased from the store, premade with preservatives and seasoning, and served in a can. Cats shouldn’t eat these.
As we stated above, the issue isn’t with the beans themselves. The issue is with the ingredients often used to either make the beans or preserve them.
Are you wondering about beans in general? We cover whether cats can eat beans in this post.
Can Kittens Eat Refried Beans?
No. See the answer above!
We recommend against feeding kittens human foods often. Not due to health risks, although present. We advise against it so you don’t build bad habits in kittens. If a kitten expects human food, it will continue to do so into its adult stages as well.
Are Refried Beans Healthy For Cats?
No. Although rich in protein, they are not the protein source cats need.
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they require meat to survive and prefer animal protein.
Why Are Refried Beans Unhealthy For Cats?
In addition to the facts we laid out above regarding seasoning and preservatives, refried beans are also just generally overprocessed for a cat’s gastrointestinal tract.
Cats can handle and require some degree of fats and fatty acids. Fats are necessary for a healthy feline diet and provide the most concentrated source of energy in the diet.
However, in addition to the fat content in the beans themselves, what can also cause problems is the fat that the beans are fried in. People often overlook that the fat used to fry food often stays in the food and this is the same for refried beans.
Because of the high-fat content, refried beans can drastically alter the balanced nutrition that cats need. If the cats manage to have particularly fatty refried beans it can make them seriously ill, or at least lead to you cleaning the litter box a bit more often!
Cat food often contains the appropriate amount of fats needed to power your cat, and additional fats may not be converted to energy, especially for indoor cats. This can lead to weight gain and the associated symptoms of an overweight cat over time.
Excess Salt / Sodium
As noted above, excess sodium can be toxic to cats. If a cat has too much sodium in its diet, a large array of problems can be caused like vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. At even higher levels of sodium intake, it can cause seizures or even be fatal in cats.
Seasoning and Preservatives
Finally, the aforementioned seasonings and preservatives can be downright poisonous to cats. Onion, garlic, and high levels of sodium are just downright bad for cats. Unfortunately, even small amounts of garlic powder can lead to hemolytic anemia, which is when red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made.
If you have made the refried beans yourself, and you are sure you have taken every precaution to make sure that they are safe for cats, then, yes, you can share a little with your cat.
Personally, I don’t think this it’s worth the effort as a lot of what makes refried beans delicious for us, is what makes them unhealthy or even toxic for cats. It’s quicker to throw them some treats that are made for cats and require far less effort.
This video does a great job highlighting how to tell if your cat is sick:
What To Do If Your Cat Has Already Eaten Refried Beans?
First and foremost, be calm. Unless your cat has gotten into a can and eaten their way through quite a bit of refried beans, they’ll likely be just fine.
If you feel they’ve eaten too much, call your veterinarian and discuss it with them to obtain their recommendation.
Chances are, they’ll tell you to:
- Ensure there is plenty of water available in case your cat is a bit dehydrated by the sodium intake.
- Keep an eye on your cat to ensure their behavior seems normal. Stay home and check on your cat intermittently.
- Only come in if you feel your cat is acting strange or you feel they’ve eaten too much.
Nobody knows your cat better than you do though. Trust your gut and act accordingly!
Final Thoughts: Can Cats Eat Refried Beans?
Before making any changes to your cat’s diet, please speak with your vet!
You should avoid feeding your cat refried beans. If you do give your cat some refried beans, only do so if you’ve made them yourself and you know for a fact they contain no poisonous ingredients like onions or salt.
It’s worth remembering that cats can and do fend for themselves in the wild. They don’t always have the best cat food available and tend to do alright. So, don’t fret if you shared a bit too much of something your cat shouldn’t eat often. If you feel it was too much — monitor your cat, and do your best to avoid doing so in the future.