Jerky has been around in human diets for millennia. Civilizations spanning the globe all have their own methods and recipes for drying and curing meat. It’s a great way to ensure that meat doesn’t spoil and lasts for extended periods.
While early jerky was more of a necessity, nowadays jerky — particularly beef jerky — has become a wonderful savory treat. But while it’s good for us humans, can cats eat beef jerky? The answer is that, while they can, it isn’t a good idea.
Is Beef Jerky Safe for Cats?
Cats are strictly carnivores, meaning they only eat meat and meat byproducts. They don’t do too well when it comes to digesting fruits, veggies, and grain. So, beef jerky does physiologically agree with cats.
Take a look at your cat’s treats. If your cat likes softer treats, you’ll notice they’re primarily some form of dried meat whether it’s fish, poultry, or beef. And if your cat loves these, they’ll likely love beef jerky.
But here’s the thing — just because your cat can consume it doesn’t mean they should.
Precautions to Feeding Your Cat Beef Jerky
If you do plan on sharing your beef jerky with your cat, there are a few things you should be aware of.
Jerky is High in Sodium
Beef jerky at its purest form is essentially beef and salt. In order to actually make jerky, meat is cured in a salt solution and then dried. Today’s beef jerky is often cured in soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, both of which are high in sodium. Giving your cat too much sodium can result in sodium poisoning.
This is a very serious problem. Firstly, sodium poisoning can cause dehydration. You’ll notice your cat becoming overly thirsty. More serious cases can lead to permanent kidney damage or worse.
Extra Seasonings Mean Extra Problems
Plain beef jerky is hard to find. It’s always got some kind of extra flavor like teriyaki, peppered, or jalapeno. And while these may sound delicious to you, they may be harmful to your cat. The biggest culprit when it comes to extra seasonings in beef jerky is garlic. Garlic has been shown to be toxic for cats, and even lethal in high doses.
Silica Gel Packets
Ever open up a package of beef jerky and find that little packet that says “DO NOT EAT”? That’s silica gel. Silica gel is a desiccant, which is a substance that absorbs moisture from the surrounding environment. It’s used in all sorts of commercial and household applications including food storage. That silica gel in your beef jerky helps to maintain its dryness and freshness.
Unfortunately, it’s a little bag of beads. And for a cat, that usually means playtime. This is not something you want your cat to accidentally ingest. If you do have some beef jerky near your kitten, make sure to keep this packet out of their reach.
Beef is a Common Allergen in Cats
Just like people, cats can have allergies. And beef happens to be a relatively common one for cats. You’ll be able to quickly tell if your cat is allergic or not. They will start to exhibit excessive itching, skin irritation or redness, and hair loss.
Alternatives to Beef Jerky for Cats
There are other alternatives that are much safer and healthier for your cat than beef jerky.
You can usually find some form of dried fish or seafood (squid, cuttlefish, etc.) that is specially processed without added salt and in a biologically-safe environment. These are often safe options for your cat to eat. Typically, these have zero additives or seasonings such as salt or others.
Also, dried fish has a bunch of health benefits. It contains lots of Omega-6 and Omega-3. This is great for maintaining your cat’s joint health and mobility. Also, they’re a high-protein source with small amounts of healthy fats to go along. Your cat will get a nice intake of fish oils that help keep their coats shiny and smooth. Even the texture of dried fish can help to scrub your cat’s teeth as she’s eating them.
While there are many benefits to dried fish, it should not make up your cat’s total diet. But a couple of times a week or as an occasional snack is just perfect.
Jerky Treats Designed for Cats
Your cats can still enjoy the wonders of jerky, but they should have their own kind. And that’s easy enough because just about every pet store sells some form of cat jerky treat. These are made specifically with a cat’s physiology in mind to prevent harm.
Should You Feed Beef Jerky to Your Cats?
To put it bluntly, no. Healthwise, it’s not a good idea.
If your cat accidentally ingests a little bit, she should be fine. But that doesn’t mean you need to go around feeding it to her. Think size-wise: the amount of sodium that is diluted in your size and weight compared to the same amount of sodium diluted in your cat’s size and weight. In this way, you can easily understand why some food that is safe for you is not safe for your cat to eat.