Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky?

Do you enjoy the salty, meaty flavor of jerky? If you open a packet, you can expect your feline friend to leap into your lap, licking their lips in anticipation of a tasty snack.

With your cat staring up at you hopefully, you wonder if it’s okay to feed her some jerky? After all, it’s just dried meat, right?

Your kitty starts headbutting you and rubbing her face on you, attempting to bribe you with love.

It works.

You reach into the bag and pull out a small stick for your cat. She goes wild with joy, settling down on your lap to chew on the jerky at her leisure.

It’s only then that you realize you might have made an error in judgment. What if jerky is bad for your cat? Do you need to rush off to the vet?

Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky?


Relax, it’s all good. Cat’s can tolerate some jerky. This tasty dried meat snack is full of protein and healthy fats, vital to your cat’s diet.

As obligate carnivores, cats rely on meat for sustenance. They don’t have dogs’ omnivorous habits. Eating plant-based foods causes complications with your cat’s digestive health.

So, feeding them a bit of jerky is a delicious healthy snack they can enjoy. Wait, before you dump half the bag on your lap, there’s a few things you need to know about jerky and your cat.

Is Beef Jerky Harmful to My Cat?


Jerky is tasty, a terrific source of protein, and a favorite snack of your feline friend. However, there are some instances where jerky can cause problems with your cat.

The thing is that jerky isn’t only dried meat. Before curing, butchers add spices and other flavorings to the jerky to enhance the taste during the meat preparation.

Unfortunately, most of these herbs and spices don’t suit your cat’s digestive system. As mentioned, your cat is a carnivore. The digestive biome of cats evolved over thousands of years to turn your cat into a meat-eater.

Therefore, they don’t have the digestive capacity to handle herbs and spices added to jerky. 

Therefore, if you’re going to eat jerky and give your cat some as a snack, stick to unflavored brands.

Some commercial jerky brands also add preservatives to their products. Some of the harmful additives in jerky causing digestive issues in cats include the following.

  • Nitrites
  • Sodium
  • MSG
  • Other chemical preservatives

All these ingredients are toxic in cats. However, if you feed them a small sliver, we doubt it’s going to do them any harm.

Still, it’s better to source your jerky from a reliable deli or butcher that doesn’t have any herbs, spices, additives, or preservatives in the cured meat.

It’s important to note that many cats suffer from digestive problems from their food intake. If your cat is eating specialized food for its digestive health, speak to your vet before feeding them jerky.

What Is in Beef Jerky?


Okay, so now you know about the harmful potential of commercially-produced jerky products. Staying away from these store-bought brands will ensure your cat never has any digestive issues if you feed them a piece.

So, why would you want to feed your cat jerky anyway? Is it suitable to include in their diet? Do they get any health or longevity benefits from the meat?

The reality is jerky is incredibly healthy food for your cat (we’re talking about the unseasoned variety here). A ½-ounce serving of jerky (which is probably double what you should feed your cat) contains around 58-calories, 4.7-grams of protein, and 3.6-grams of fat.

This calorie-dense and protein-rich snack are ideal for your cat. It’s also a rich source of other vital micronutrients for your kitty.

Jerky contains minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron, and potassium. These minerals help with nervous system function and muscular contraction.

Jerky is also an exceptionally rich source of Vitamin B12, a crucial nutrient for creating new blood cells and enhancing circulation.

If you’re sourcing your jerky from a butcher, then you won’t have to worry about any harmful oils or sugar used in the curing process.

What are the Pros and Cons of Using Beef Jerky as a Meal for Cats?


Here are the pros and cons of feeding your cat high-quality, unseasoned, and unflavored beef jerky.

Pros

  • Cats love the taste and smell of jerky.
  • Safe for cats and kittens to eat.
  • It makes a great reward treat.
  • Packed with protein and healthy fats.
  • It comes with beneficial vitamins and minerals for cats.

Cons

  • It’s expensive to feed your cat jerky often.
  • Feeding your cat jerky may develop picky feeding habits.

There are benefits and drawbacks to feeding your cat beef jerky as a meal replacement. First, provided you source your jerky from a reputable source that isn’t using spices, herbs, or flavorings in the meat, you won’t ever have a problem.

Cats can live on this kind of beef jerky indefinitely. It’s got all the nutrition they need, and it’s much better-quality meat than cat food brands use. Therefore, you can expect your cat’s health to improve if you add beef jerky into their diet.

It’s safe enough to feed your cat beef jerky every day if you want. However, the issue with doing that isn’t with your cat’s health – it’s with your wallet.

As an occasional snack, you won’t feel any financial impact from feeding your cat beef jerky. However, if you add it to their meals regularly, it’s going to get expensive. Ounce-for-ounce, beef jerky must be around 4x the price of cat food.

If you’re buying premium beef jerky from a butcher, then you might even spend more than this. It’s for this reason that many cat food brands make meaty chews that provide your pets with a “pet jerky.”

This jerky is nowhere near the same quality as what you get from the butcher, but it’s affordable and a somewhat healthy snack for your cat.

Can I Feed My Kitten Beef Jerky?


Sure, feeding beef jerky to your kitten is fine, provided that they can eat solid food. Beef jerky also makes a good snack food to help you wean your kitty off milk.

However, ensure you’re following the advice of using unseasoned and unflavored jerky as a snack for your kitten. Kittens have far less tolerance to these additives, and they could cause severe health complications in your kitten’s digestive system.

However, kittens can develop food tolerances, and picky food tastes if you feed them too much of this delicious snack. They’ll turn their nose up at other food and wait for the jerky instead.

Feeding your kitten jerky two or three times a week is a great way to help them get more variety in their diet. If your cat has digestive problems, make sure you ask your vet’s advice before feeding them beef jerky.

Final Thoughts – Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky?


Yes! It’s entirely safe to feed your cat or kitten beef jerky. However, make sure you avoid buying and seasoned or flavored products for your cats.

Jerky makes a fantastic treat for rewarding your kitty. However, make sure you’re sticking to cured meats featuring no additives or seasonings – skip the Slim Jim’s.

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