Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat; their bodies simply require it. (On the other hand, dogs are considered scavenging carnivores, which means they are primarily meat eaters — but they could survive on plants alone if absolutely necessary.) But what about meats like bacon? Can cats eat bacon? And if cats can eat bacon, should they?
Before we answer the question, “Can cats eat bacon?” let’s look at what bacon is exactly. Bacon belongs to the pork family, which is one of the more versatile meats that we include in family meal planning. But pork and its counterparts — like bacon and ham — are loaded with sodium, fat and calories that our cats should receive in very small doses.
So, can cats eat bacon? Technically yes. Having too much bacon might make them immediately ill (more on that later), but the bigger problem is that bacon can have some negative long-term effects on our felines. Many cats — especially as they age and are kept strictly indoors — do a lot more sleeping than hunting or playing. They really need a careful nutrition profile to counteract their lack of movement.
With a sleeping schedule of 16 to 20 hours per day (yes, you read that correctly), it doesn’t leave much time for the cat’s body to burn off the dense calorie profile of bacon or any other pork products. Bacon especially contains a lot of sodium and fat, which is no better for pets than it is for us.
Simply put, eating too much salt can lead to the following conditions for your cat:
Cats eating turkey bacon isn’t a better alternative to your usual bacon, either. Turkey bacon should also be fed to cats in very small doses due to the high amount of sodium and preservatives required in making the product.
You might also be wondering, “Can cats eat bacon bits, then?” Again, you should avoid the artificial bacon bits that you may sprinkle on salads for the exact same reasons why over-processed, sodium-rich products are not a great idea for your cat’s wellbeing.
While it’s generally important for any type of pork product to be cooked thoroughly to avoid parasites, you can feed your cat an occasional piece of raw bacon. However, the lack of actual health benefits is still present so you are strongly advised to consult with a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist before feeding your cat any type of raw meat.
So, when should you feed a cat bacon? Bacon and bits of ham are particularly good to hide pills on a short-time basis, or as a high-level reward (think after a nail-trimming session or a trip to the vet). Remember: If it’s an occasional treat, it will likely be appreciated that much more by your cat.
“We love our pets and want to give them treats, but we often don’t think about treats from a caloric standpoint,” says John P. Loftus, PhD, DVM, at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “It adds up over time. Better to show our love in ways other than food.”
If your cat unexpectedly ingests a hefty portion of the bacon you were going to serve to guests at a Sunday brunch, you may find that he gets an upset stomach and eventually vomits (so watch where you step). But the likelihood is that he’ll be just fine, and hopefully you have extra bacon to cook for your guests!
Thumbnail: Photography © anmbph | iStock / Getty Images.
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