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Can Cats Eat Pepperoni? Vet-Reviewed Nutritional Facts & Safety Info

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 8, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Can Cats Eat Pepperoni

Can Cats Eat Pepperoni? Vet-Reviewed Nutritional Facts & Safety Info


Dr. Maja Platisa Photo


Dr. Maja Platisa

DVM MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

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You might have left out a leftover pizza only to be interrupted by a phone call. When you come back, you find your cat chomping down on the pepperoni.

Should you be worried? Can cats even eat pepperoni? We’ll look at whether it’s okay for your cat to have the occasional processed meat snack or if you should take care to keep it out of your curious cat’s reach. Unfortunately, we definitely don’t recommend feeding pepperoni to your cat, as you’ll find out below.

Let’s get started!

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Is Pepperoni Harmful for My Cat?

Pepperoni certainly looks like it should appeal to cats, whether it’s on a pizza or in a packet. The soft meat is full of flavor, but where exactly does all that flavor come from? That’s the problem—while pepperoni might look juicy and tasty for your cat, some of the ingredients are not good for them, or even us!

Pepperoni contains preservatives and colorings that aren’t designed for cats to eat. Some of them have the potential to make your cat sick. We’ll take a closer look at those ingredients one by one. So, while a small amount of pepperoni isn’t harmful for your cat, it’s certainly not something you should be feeding them.

Can Cats Eat Pepperoni
Image Credit: Shutterbug75, Pixabay

Interesting Facts About Pepperoni

Pepperoni is a dried salami usually made with pork or beef, though other varieties also exist (such as chicken). As one of the most popular pizza toppings in the US, it’s estimated that 50% of all pizzas ordered include pepperoni!

The name pepperoni comes from the Italian “peperone,” which means “bell pepper.” So, if you try ordering a pepperoni pizza in Italy, you will likely get slices of bell pepper and not pepperoni sausage!

What Does Pepperoni Contain?

Different brands of pepperoni will contain various percentages of each ingredient and vary in what they use for flavorings. Let’s take a look at popular ingredients found in most brands.


Pepperoni is high in salt, which is part of the reason it tastes so good to humans! We know that too much salt isn’t great for us, but the amount of sodium in pepperoni is sky-high compared to your cat’s daily sodium requirements. One slice, or around 2 grams of pepperoni, contains, on average, 31.6 mg of sodium. A slice of pepperoni pizza may contain almost 700 mg of sodium.

Let’s compare the amount of sodium in a small slice of pepperoni to how much your cat needs daily. Your adult cat needs around 10 mg of sodium per kilogram of body weight per day (or per 2.2 pounds). That’s right; one seemingly innocent slice of pepperoni contains almost enough of the daily sodium requirement for a smaller-sized cat.

Of course, if your pepperoni is coming on a delivered pizza and not out of a packet with the ingredients listed, it’s impossible to know exactly what it contains. In fact, salt can be poisonous to cats if consumed in large quantities and without access to fresh water.

Signs of Salt Poisoning
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme thirst and/or urination
  • Tremors
  • Incoordination
  • Seizures

In the worst-case scenario (which usually involves your cat not having access to water), it can lead to a coma and, sometimes, death. If you suspect your cat has eaten more pepperoni than may be good for them or they’re exhibiting any of the previous signs, call the Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian for immediate advice.

While the salt content of pepperoni on its own is enough to discourage us from feeding it to our cats, it also contains other substances that can harm them.

Can Cats Eat Pepperoni
Photo Credit: jamesoladujoye, Pixabay


Because pepperonis are cured meat, a preservative called nitrates is often used to increase their shelf-life and stop the growth of bacteria. Unfortunately, nitrates can also be poisonous to cats if consumed in high enough quantities. That’s another good reason to keep a pepperoni pizza away from your kitty!

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Flavorings and Spices

Lastly, the flavorings and spices that give pepperoni that all-important spicy kick aren’t the best for your cat either. Pepperoni is likely to contain red pepper flakes, black pepper, and garlic. The strong flavor of these ingredients may dissuade your cat from tasting it in the first place, which is good news!

Out of all the flavorings that might be used, garlic is the one that has the potential to do your cat harm. Garlic is poisonous to cats and can cause anemia and gastrointestinal issues; cats are considered among the most sensitive species towards garlic and other plants in the same genus, Allium. Some of the signs to look out for include:

Signs of <em>Allium </em>Poisoning
  • Drooling
  • Painful abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pale gums
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse
  • Increased heart rate

Sometimes these signs can take a few days to appear in cats, so if your cat develops any of them or you remember having something garlicky around in the last week or so that the cat may have tried to eat, speak to your veterinarian as soon as you can. But what would be best is to keep all the food containing onion, garlic, shallots, and leeks safely stored away from your cat, and if they still somehow do end up tasting some, call your vet immediately.

It’s better  to get your cat checked out before signs of illness occur, as this is when your vet can attempt a few safe methods of decontaminating the cat’s stomach. If you leave veterinary intervention until later (when your cat is showing obvious signs of poisoning), then your vet can only help manage the signs until your cat (hopefully) recovers. Therefore, quicker intervention offers your cat the best chance at a successful recovery

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And That’s Not All

Pepperoni is quite fatty and caloric and certainly something your cat can do without. Eating pepperoni may lead to a stomach upset in cats, and it will just add to the empty calories.

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We hope that you’ve found the answer to your question in this article, but to sum it up, we don’t recommend feeding pepperoni to your cat. The risk of them ingesting too much salt, nitrates, or any amount of certain toxic seasonings such as onion and garlic is high.

Of course, if they eat some accidentally, many factors must be considered. What’s too much pepperoni for one cat might not affect another. Considerations like the size of your cat, their health, how much pepperoni they ate, and if they have any allergies will all play a part.

If you’re unsure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so contact your veterinarian for further advice! And of course, if there are any Allium spp. ingredients in the pepperoni (such as garlic or onion) at all, get your cat to the vet straight away.

Your precious kitty will always be healthier and happier if you stick to feeding them a species-appropriate diet, which means no pepperoni!

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