Cats are obligate carnivores, this means that their food and energy requirements derive exclusively from meat or animal tissues.
Based on this you could assume that cats can eat beef jerky, this is not untrue, cats certainly can eat beef jerky with many cats enjoying it very much.
However the more important question is “should cats eat beef jerky?”.
To summarise you should exercise great care when feeding your cat beef jerky, do not feed them more than 2 grams to avoid excessive sodium intake, also avoid jerky which is seasoned with anything as some seasonings can be toxic or make your cat ill.
Reasons Why You Should Be Cautious About Feeding Your Cat Beef Jerky
Beef jerky can be very dangerous to cats, here are three reasons why:
1. Beef Jerky Has High Levels Of Sodium
A small amount of salt in your cat’s diet is necessary to support normal development and growth, however too much salt is extremely dangerous; it can poison and even kill your cat.
In fact, cat owners have been warned to avoid buying popular Himalayan salt lamps as cats are prone to licking them, this has resulted in many cats ingesting a lot of salt and becoming seriously ill which has sadly even caused fatalities.
Salt poisoning can cause:
- Reduced appetite
- Excessive sleepiness
- Lack of coordination
- Dehydration / extreme thirst
In very serious cases excessive salt consumption can even cause:
So there’s no doubt that too much salt is a very bad thing for your cat.
A study by the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Pet Food Industry Federation into sodium in feline nutrition recommended that adult cats should have up to 10.6 mg of sodium per kg of body weight per day.
So for an average 4kg cat that would equate to 42.4 mg of salt a day, most cats will get this much in their cat food.
Depending on the brand and flavour of jerky a 10 gram serving of beef jerky has about 100-125 mg of sodium.
This means that if your cat ate 4 grams of beef jerky they would have already met their recommended level of sodium intake for the day without counting the sodium in their usual cat food.
Based on this you should give your cat no more than 2 grams of beef jerky in a given day as a one-off snack.
That said another study that compared the health of cats on high sodium diets (120mg a day) with cats on lower-sodium diets found that there was very little difference when it came to their risk of kidney and heart-related diseases.
So don’t worry too much if your cat exceeds the 2grams quota, just don’t let them chew down a whole packet of beef jerky.
2. Meat Protein Allergies
Despite cats being obligate carnivores meat proteins are actually the third most common feline allergen.
It is estimated that more than 10% of cats will experience meat allergy symptoms at some point in their lives.
Meat proteins are of course contained in beef, if your cat has never eaten beef before then keep an eye out for any symptoms of an allergic reaction.
These can include any of the following:
- Hair loss
- Small fluid-filled lumps on their skin
- Excessive grooming
- Ear inflammation caused by scratching
If you notice any of these symptoms after your cat has eaten beef jerky or anything containing meat protein then you should do two things:
- Speak to your vet ASAP.
- Change their diet, remove the meat (possibly beef jerky) which triggered the allergic reaction from their diet.
3. Dangerous Seasoning
If you’re at all familiar with beef jerky you will know that it rarely comes plain.
Beef jerky comes in a huge range of different flavours with a vast array of seasonings available including spicey varieties like jalapeno and siracha jerky things, hot varieties like siracha as well as countless weird and wonderful varieties such as alcohol, and soft drink seasoned jerky.
If you are going to feed your cat jerky make sure that not only do you give them a very small amount (less than 2 grams) but you must avoid all types of jerky other than plain jerky.
Cats are not used to hot spices so it can make them ill, things like garlic can also be toxic to cats and of course you should never give your cat jerky that has been soaked in alcohol as alcohol is also extremely toxic to cats.
Can Beef Jerky Kill Your Cat?
Yes over consumption of beef jerky could kill your cat.
While it is safe to feed your cat a small amount of beef jerky we advise you don’t because if your cat gets a taste for it they are far more likely to eat a lot of it ( for example a whole packet!) if they find some unattended which could have tragic consequences.
Beef Jerky is dangerous because it can kill your cat with salt poisoning, if your cat has consumed beef jerky watch carefully for any signs of salt poisoning, symptoms can include any of the following:
- Reduced appetite
- Excessive tiredness
- Lack of coordination
- Extreme thirst
- Excessive urination
If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet immediately.
Also Read: Can Cats Eat Raw Hamburger?