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Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky? It’s not just high in protein!

Cats are excellent at persuading us that they are hungry, especially when we are eating delicious-smelling snacks.

The sound of you opening a packet of beef jerky may bring your cat running to your feet sporting a longing expression (and possibly a little drool at the corner of its mouth).

You might think, “Surely cats can eat beef jerky without coming to any harm?” And why wouldn’t you? After all, it’s touted as a high-protein meat treat. If you believe this, prepare to be enlightened.

Don’t let your cat eat beef jerky! As a high-protein product, it may seem like the perfect treat for an obligate carnivore such as a cat, but in truth, it is not. Though the beef element of jerky is OK for cats to eat, this dried meat snack contains another ingredient that can seriously compromise your cat’s health.

Just a one-ounce portion of beef jerky contains more than 10 times a cat’s daily sodium requirement. The repercussions of allowing your cat to eat jerky on a regular basis are not worth the risk. There are far safer treats to offer.

A grey cat at the table begging for beef jerky!

Is beef jerky a safe treat for cats in small amounts?

Beef jerky is a human snack and like many human foods, is not created with cats in mind. Even a small portion of jerky is not safe for your cat.

A small pack of beef jerky contains a 1-ounce portion. If you let a cat eat 1 strip from such a bag it might be eating about one-tenth of an ounce.

The salt content of one-tenth of an ounce of beef jerky is about 47mg. When you take into account that a cat should have a maximum of 40mg of sodium per day, you can see how that one jery treat has just blown that limit.

On the whole, it’s best to assume any amount of beef jerky is unsafe for cats, so store it safely out of their reach.

Can beef jerky kill cats?

A small portion of beef jerky will not kill your cat. However, if your cat’s diet regularly includes beef jerky, there is a high risk of it suffering from sodium poisoning.

Sodium poisoning can quickly lead to deadly illnesses in cats, so it’s best to avoid offering them any food with added salt.

If your cat accidentally gets access to a bag of jerky and eats several pieces at once, there is a chance that this could prove fatal. Always keep jerky out of your cat’s reach.

What happens if my cat eats beef jerky?

If a cat eats a small piece of beef jerky, it will probably enjoy it and beg for more. The last thing you need is a cat that develops a taste for such an unhealthy snack because then you’ll never be able to eat it in peace again.

The salt content of jerky can cause a cat to become dehydrated and you may notice it drinking more water in the hours that follow. It’s a good idea to encourage this and refrain from giving your cat any other salty food that day.

If you let your cat eat beef jerky on a regular basis, there is a strong chance this will lead to salt poisoning. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and excessive thirst or urination. If left untreated, salt poisoning can lead to kidney damage, seizures, and even death.

A grey tabby cat stretching with an image of rock salt in the background.

Which Beef Jerky ingredients are bad for cats?

The fact that the salt content of jerky makes it unsuitable for cats should be enough to stop you from wanting to give it to yours without wondering what other ingredients in the recipe might be bad for your feline friend.

Though it’s mainly beef and salt, other ingredients can be used to flavor certain varieties of jerky. For example, garlic, which is also known to be toxic to cats.

Look at the ingredients list as this varies from one brand to another and then check which are not recommended for cats.

Can cats eat any dried beef products?

Beef jerky is a high-protein beef snack that is preserved and dried using salt. It is not suitable for cats but other dried beef products are.

Many dried cat foods contain beef and are perfectly safe for cats to eat, though ideally they should be balanced with other wet or raw cat foods.

Blue Buffalo Rocky Mountain Recipe contains plenty of beef if that’s your cat’s preferred protein. It’s grain-free and chicken-free for those cats who are intolerant to these ingredients.

As a rule of thumb avoid feeding your cat any food that has been dried and preserved using salt.

Do cats need salt in their daily diet?

With all this talk of salt being bad for cats, they do actually need a certain amount in their daily diet. Cat’s need salt to balance fluids in their blood and to maintain healthy blood pressure, nerve and muscle function.

If your cat’s diet is salt deficient, it can develop Hyponatremia, an abnormally low concentration of sodium in the blood. Symptoms can be the same a those mentioned earlier for salt poisoning.

The best way to ensure your cat always consumes the correct amount of salt is to feed it good quality, high-protein complete, balanced cat food.

A tortoiseshell Maine Coon cat licking her lips in anticipation of a treat.

Are any jerky treats OK for cats?

There are many treats similar to jerky on the market and you might be wondering if these contain less salt making them safe for cats.

Are Slim Jim smoked snacks bad for cats?

Please don’t feed your cat Slim Jim snacks. They contain mechanically recovered meat, are highly processed, salty, full of sugars and preservatives, and very low in protein. I’d go as far as to say a Slim Jim is even less suitable for a cat than beef jerky.

Can cats eat chicken jerky?

Chicken jerky has no place in a cat’s diet as it has a high salt content just like the beef version. Stick to healthy cat snacks – there are plenty to choose from.

Cooked chicken is an ideal healthy high-protein treat for any cat, though it’s not enough to feed them this alone. Most cats will go wild for this as a treat so pick over your carcass after a roast dinner but avoid giving them any of the bones.

Safer snacks than beef jerky for cats

Many cat treats come in the style of beef jerky and make a good safe alternative snack.

Our cats love Sheba Meaty Tender Sticks. They are made using real meat and come in a variety of flavors. They contain many essential nutrients and more importantly do not contain excessive amounts of salt.

Each stick is a portion and is individually wrapped to stay fresh. They are conveniently available on Amazon. Here’s a link to see reviews, flavors and prices.

Can cats eat beef jerky? The lowdown

Of course, cats can eat beef jerky, will eat beef jerky, even adore beef jerky but this doesn’t make this high-protein snack a good food choice for them. Unfortunately, beef jerky is not just high in protein, it’s high in salt too – far too high.

Cats don’t know this snack is too salty and can easily damage their health – it’s up to us, their responsible owners, to ensure they do not consume it.

If you want to treat your cat whilst you enjoy beef jerky yourself, offer it a similar treat designed for cats or a simple piece of chicken. After all, you want a happy healthy cat, don’t you?