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Can Cats Eat Pig Ears? Facts & FAQ

Rawhide bones, pig ears, and other chew-style treats are designed and marketed for dogs. We all know that dogs love to chew, but some cats do too! While dogs are known for eating everything in sight, cats are fussy eaters. So, do cats like dog treats? Is it safe for cats to chew on chews like pig ears? There are certain types of meat-based chews that are suitable for cats and dogs, regardless of how they are marketed, but pig ears aren’t one of them. Due to the risk of salmonella infection, they have questionable safety for dogs, so they’re not safe for cats either.

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Are Pig Ears Safe?

Pig ears aren’t recommended as safe treats for any animal, cat or dog. They are extremely high in fat, which can lead to serious digestive issues when consumed. Foods high in fat can also cause an increased risk of pancreatitis in susceptible animals, which can lead to lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Cat vomiting
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Salmonella Infection

Salmonella bacteria are prevalent in pig ear treats. The government of Canada, the government of the United Kingdom, and the USFDA have issued recalls and warnings about bacterial contamination. While some pets don’t have any complications from ingesting salmonella, others can develop serious long-term complications.

Bacterial contamination poses a risk to you too. Salmonella infection in humans occurs from handling pig ear treats or handling pets that have become infected with the bacteria.

Clinical symptoms vary significantly in cats with salmonella infections. It’s common for cats to harbor asymptomatic infections or exhibit mild symptoms, such as inappetence or a mild increase in temperature. Some cats develop acute diarrhea that requires supportive treatment in the form of re-hydration.

cat and vet.
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

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Can Dogs and Cats Eat the Same Treats?

Food and treats are specifically formulated separately for cats and dogs for a reason. Cats and dogs are different animals. They have different physiological makeups and nutritional needs. The nutrients that your cat needs to be healthy aren’t the same as those needed by a dog; therefore, feeding dog treats to your cat on a regular basis won’t meet their needs.

The primary concern with dog treats is that they sometimes contain ingredients that are safe for dogs but toxic for cats. These include onions, garlic, propylene glycol, and ethylene glycol.

Why Do Dog Treats Contain Toxic Ingredients?

It’s important to remember that toxic ingredients aren’t present in all dog treats, and when they are present, it’s typically in small amounts. Propylene glycol and ethylene glycol are used to keep chew treats moist and appealing to dogs. Garlic and onions are flavorings to tantalize a dog’s tastebuds. The levels of these ingredients are tested to ensure safety for dogs, but it can’t be guaranteed that the levels are safe for cats.

calico cat having treats
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

Propylene glycol and ethylene glycol are the chemical names for antifreeze. While propylene glycol is marketed as “pet safe” antifreeze, cats are incredibly sensitive to the compound. Its use has been banned from all cat foods for this reason. If your cat ingests even a small amount of propylene glycol contained in a dog treat, it can become fatal.

The FDA has approved the use of propylene glycol as a general-purpose food additive for humans and dogs. The only food that it can’t be used in is cat food. Only food and treats that are designed specifically for cats are guaranteed to be free of propylene glycol.

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What Can I Give My Cat to Chew?

Dehydrated or freeze-dried meats are safe options for cat chews, as are cat grass and catnip in small amounts. There are several varieties of cat chew toys on the market that your cat may enjoy. CatTwig makes versions similar to dog chew sticks but designed specifically for cats.

If you can’t find a cat chew that satisfies your cat, there are a few cat-safe dog chews. Look for single-ingredient, meat-based chews rather than dental bones, and always check the ingredient list to ensure that they don’t contain toxic chemicals.

maine coon cat having treat
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Pig ears aren’t safe chews for cats. They are hard on a cat’s digestive system and have the potential to cause salmonella poisoning for you and your cat. The best option for cat chews is those made specifically for cats, as they are guaranteed to be safe and to meet your cat’s nutritional needs. Since cats aren’t natural chewers, it can be hard to find chews that they like. If you choose to use dog chews, check the ingredients carefully before giving them to your cat.

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