It’s hard to sit there enjoying a yummy treat without wanting to share it with your cat, who seems more than interested. Cats are meat-eaters, so why would you pause before sharing your beef jerky with them? It’s wise to think about what jerky actually is and consider if those ingredients are suitable for your cat. So, here’s the breakdown on whether or not you should feed your cat beef jerky.
What is Beef Jerky
This super yummy, portable snack is the end-product of curing strips of meat in a salt solution and then drying it out. That may have been the extent of beef jerky production in the past, but what we have today is a more upscaled version. Most beef jerky today is cured with Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce - both being high in sodium. And as you know, too much sodium makes your cat susceptible to sodium poisoning.
Why Shouldn’t Your Cat Eat Beef Jerky?
Following are just a few reasons to reconsider feeding your cat beef jerky.
Sodium poisoning, also called hypernatremia, is an electrolyte imbalance in your cat’s blood. When your cat has too much salt, it will behave unusually, leading to brain and kidney damage and even death.
The signs of sodium poisoning in your cat are:
- Excessive thirst
- Low appetite
- Changes in behavior
- Internal bleeding
Your initial sign may be that your cat is dehydrated and maybe, unstable on its feet.
Preservatives and Other Ingredients
In addition to the salt, other ingredients may be included in your beef jerky that can also be harmful to your cat. Most jerky contains hot peppers and garlic, and neither of them is good for your cat. Garlic is dangerous and possibly toxic to cats.
Other than salt, sodium nitrite is often used as a preservative in beef jerky. It kills bacteria on meat and protects consumers against bacterial attacks. Unfortunately, sodium nitrate is also carcinogenic and will compromise the health of your cat.
Sharing your treat with your cat may not be in their best interest.
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A Choking Hazard
The tough, rubbery texture of beef jerky is not at all like most cat foods. Jerky may present a challenge for your cat to chew adequately and then to swallow. Your cat may get too large a piece, or it may mistakenly think that they have thoroughly chewed it, only to find it stuck in their throat. This could be fatal to your cat.
Just like us, your cat can have allergies. Believe it or not, beef is a common allergen among cats. You might not realize that your cat is allergic to the proteins in beef until after they consume enough of it to see the symptoms, ranging from mild to critical.
Here are the symptoms your cat has been exposed to an allergen:
- Itching. Primarily, the itching is around the head and neck but may also be anywhere else on the body
- Alopecia. Baldness and patches of skin can be the result of the excessive itching.
- Crusty little bumps on their skin all over the body, filled with fluid
- Dull Coat
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Ear infection
In addition to beef jerky, jerky packages also contain silica gel packets. They’re there as a desiccant - a means of moisture absorption. They keep your jerky dry and fresh. Unfortunately, they consist of tiny beads that your cat may find an attractive toy. It could be a problem if they accidentally ingest them. So beware of this danger if you eat your jerky near your cat.
Exercise Caution When Feeding Your Cat
While it won’t kill your cat, you will want to exercise caution when considering feeding them beef jerky. You may feel terrible for enjoying a snack and not sharing a bit of it with your cat, but in the long run, it’s better to avoid feeding your cat human foods.
A small piece of jerky probably won’t do any harm to your cat’s health, but it might be the beginning of a habit. You don’t want your cat to think that jerky is their treat, and you also don’t want to get in the habit of sharing jerky with your cat regularly.
Consuming beef jerky can lead to serious health issues for your cat. Even mild side effects can cause your cat discomfort or pain.
An Alternative to Beef Jerky for Your Cat
Can your cat eat beef jerky? Yes, but it isn’t safe or good for them. If you want to feed them a meat product that’s safer and healthier, consider dried fish.
This usually has no harmful additives or seasonings, like salt. Dried fish is a nutritious snack for your cat, being loaded with Omega-6 and Omega-3. It’s easier for your cat to chew, and the fish oils will improve its coat. Finally, even the texture of dried fish will scrape your cat’s teeth while they eat it.
Final Thoughts on Cats and Beef Jerky
While your cat might enjoy a nibble or two of beef jerky, it’s not in their best interest. As shown above, jerky contains ingredients that can have mild to deadly effects on your cat. What seems like a loving act of sharing your treat with them can cause your cat a great deal of discomfort or pain. Dried fish is one alternative you can consider if you want to give them a little ‘finger food.’
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