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Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky? Vet-Approved Health and Nutrition Advice

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team


Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky? Vet-Approved Health and Nutrition Advice


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Jerky has been around in human diets for millennia. Civilizations spanning the globe all have 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 jerky was initially made out of necessity, nowadays, it’s a savory treat. But while it’s good for humans, can cats eat beef jerky? The answer is that, while they can, it isn’t a good idea.

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Is Beef Jerky Safe for Cats?

Cats are strictly carnivores and thrive on meat and meat byproducts. They don’t do too well when digesting fruits, veggies, and grains. So, beef jerky physiologically agrees 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. If your cat loves meaty treats, they’ll likely love beef jerky. However, the other ingredients, including preservatives and large amounts of sodium, are unhealthy for your cat.

Precautions to Feeding Your Cat Beef Jerky

If you 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, in its purest form, is essentially beef and salt. To 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, which are high in sodium. Giving your cat too much sodium can result in sodium poisoning.

Sodium poisoning can cause dehydration, and you’ll notice your cat becoming overly thirsty.  More severe cases can lead to permanent kidney damage or worse.

Extra Seasonings Mean Extra Problems

Plain beef jerky is hard to find. It always contains extra flavor like teriyaki, pepper, or jalapeno. While these may sound delicious to you, they can harm your cat. The biggest culprit in beef jerky is garlic. Garlic has been shown to be toxic for cats and even lethal in high doses.

beef jerky
Image Credit: Mark Valencia from Pixabay

Silica Gel Packets

Have you ever opened up a package of beef jerky and found 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 various commercial and household products. The silica gel in your beef jerky helps maintain its freshness.

Unfortunately, it’s a little bag of beads that your cat may be tempted to tear open. It is not something you want your cat to ingest. If you eat beef jerky near your cat, 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. Beef allergies can result in excessive itching, skin irritation or redness, and hair loss.

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Alternatives to Beef Jerky for Cats

Other alternatives are much safer and healthier for your cat than beef jerky.

Dried Fish

You can find dried fish or seafood (squid, cuttlefish, etc.) treats that are specially processed without added salt. They are safe options for your cat to eat and typically have zero additives or seasonings.

Also, dried fish has health benefits. It contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. 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. Your cat will also benefit from fish oils that keep their coats shiny and smooth. Even the texture of dried fish can help clean your cat’s teeth.

While there are many benefits to dried fish, it should not make up your cat’s total diet. A couple of times a week or as an occasional snack is perfect.

dried fish
Image by: yizheng0, Pixabay

Jerky Treats Designed for Cats

Your cats can still enjoy the wonders of jerky if they consume products designed for cats. Most pet stores and online retailers sell some form of cat jerky treat. It’s made specifically with a cat’s physiology in mind to prevent harm.

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Should You Feed Beef Jerky to Your Cats?

It’s best to avoid serving jerky to your cat and feed them high-quality commercial treats instead. If your cat accidentally ingests a little bit, she should be fine. However, jerky produced for humans contains too much salt and additives for felines. Humans are much larger than cats and can tolerate unhealthy ingredients. Therefore, you can understand why some food is safe for you but is not safe for your cat to eat.

Featured Image Credit: Pexels, Pixababy

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