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Can Cats Eat Bully Sticks? Vet Approved Nutrition Advice

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 11, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team


Can Cats Eat Bully Sticks? Vet Approved Nutrition Advice


Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

Learn more »

Multi-pet households come with their fair share of challenges, one of which is keeping separate treats for your cats and dogs. Both animals have different nutritional requirements, and while your dog might not have a problem stealing a few cat treats, dog treats often have ingredients unsuitable for our feline friends.

Bully sticks are popular dog treats and aren’t toxic to cats. That doesn’t mean they’re safe for felines to eat regularly though. Their chewiness and lack of feline-appropriate nutrition make them unhealthy treats for cats.

Whether you’re short on cat treats or your cat found a treat that your dog abandoned, this guide will tell you everything that you need to know about bully sticks and cats.

divider-catclaw1 What Are Bully Sticks?

Easy to digest but tough to chew, bully sticks are safe alternatives to rawhide and great for distracting heavy chewers. Unlike rawhide treats, bully sticks are less likely to obstruct the gut, like many rawhide or bones can.

Bully sticks are made from a 100% natural ingredient: a steer or bull’s penis.

Bully Stick
Image by: Hajai Photo, Shutterstock

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Cats?

Cats often have a bad reputation due to their aloof natures. Where dogs are eager to earn a treat, cats tend to be more reserved. Whenever you give your dog a treat, there will be occasions when you turn around to find a hungry feline waiting for their own snack. If you don’t have any cat treats on hand, this can lead to one dejected kitty.

Technically speaking, bully sticks are safe for cats to eat — ingredients wise, at least. They’re made with beef, and that’s about it. Compared to many other dog treats, bully sticks are among the safest treats a pet can have.

Ingredients aside, though, bully sticks do pose a few dangers when it comes to cats eating them.

Choking Hazard

Bully sticks come in a range of sizes. While small bully sticks might be fine for your cat, if you have a large dog, the bully sticks that you own are likely too big for your feline. The issues come in when your cat manages to bite off a chunk that’s too big for them to swallow properly.

In this case, the piece that they’ve swallowed can get stuck in your cat’s throat. If your cat is chewing on a bully stick, watch out for any signs that they’re having issues swallowing or breathing. In either case, you’ll need to get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

tired sick cat lying on bed
Image by: Natata, Shutterstock

Intestinal Obstruction

Your cat will probably be more interested in licking the bully stick rather than chewing it. Some cats, however, do enjoy the act of chewing on something, which often leads to them swallowing things that they shouldn’t.

If they manage to swallow a piece of the bully stick without choking on it, the next risk is an obstruction in their intestines. This is especially true if your cat eats many bully sticks, even if they only bite off small pieces.

Intestinal blockages can be fatal and require surgery to correct. You’ll need to visit a veterinarian as soon as your cat shows any signs of obstruction, such as not using the litter tray recently.

Nutritional Deficiency

First, bully sticks are formulated with dogs in mind. Second, they are designed to be snacks, and although they can help keep both your pets out of mischief, they don’t contain the nutrients that cats require to stay healthy.

No matter which pet eats them, bully sticks shouldn’t become a major part of their diet. Chews are great as special treats every now and then, but they don’t contain enough vitamins and minerals to take the place of a healthy, balanced diet.

Bully Stick
Image by: Hajai Photo, Shutterstock

Can Cats Eat Dog Treats?

The types of dog treats that your cat can eat depend on the ingredients themselves. Usually, it’s not recommended to feed dog treats to your cat due to the fact that many recipes have ingredients that are toxic or inadequate nutrition for felines.

Onion and Garlic

If you check the ingredients on most dog treat packages, you may be surprised to find onion or garlic powder, or even both, on the list. Both are toxic to cats. They’re also toxic to dogs if they eat too much, which is why there’s only a small amount used as flavorings in many dog treats.

While dog treats are tested to make sure they’re safe for canines, the same testing measures aren’t applied for cats. Onion and garlic are two foods that are more toxic to cats than dogs. Dog treats containing onion and garlic might be too dangerous for your feline to eat.

Signs of onion toxicity include:

  • Bloody urine
  • Fainting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
onions and garlics
Image Credit: Pixabay

Propylene Glycol

Added to dog treats to help preserve moisture and texture, propylene glycol (PG) is considered a pet-friendly alternative to ethylene glycol. While PG is one of the least toxic glycols and is used in pet-safe antifreeze alternatives, along with dog food, its usage is a precarious one.

Unlike ethylene glycol, PG is generally recognized as safe by the FDA. However, large quantities are still dangerous for dogs — and cats. As PG is another substance that cats are sensitive to, the FDA has long since banned the use of PG in cat food. You should avoid giving your feline treats that use this ingredient.

Most of the PG toxicity incidents with dogs are caused by them ingesting products with a high concentration of the chemical. The amount in dog treats is well within FDA regulations. If you’re unhappy about giving treats containing PG to your dog, there are plenty of alternatives that don’t include it.

Cat ball divider 1

Alternative Cat-Friendly Treats

Bully sticks might be safe for your cat — provided that they’re broken into small pieces — but it might be safer to stick with treats designed with cats in mind. They are just as tasty and healthy for your cat, if not more. Getting your cat their own treats will also stop them from feeling left out when you treat your dog to a snack.

If you’re short on time and can’t get to a grocery store, certain fruits and vegetables are safe for cats in small amounts. Cats are obligate carnivores, though, so remember that most of their diet needs to be meat based. Small, bite-size chunks of banana, apple, watermelon, and even strawberries are safe for your cat to eat.

There are plenty of commercial treats designed with cats in mind too. A few can even help clean their teeth as they chew, like dog treats do.

divider-catclaw1 Final Thoughts

In a pinch, bully sticks are safe for your cat to eat. They contain no toxic ingredients and are relatively easy to digest. However, they’re also difficult to chew, and large bully sticks can pose a choking risk. Large amounts can also obstruct your cat’s intestines. The lack of feline-appropriate nutrition makes bully sticks unhealthy treats for your cat.

When in doubt, stick with treats formulated specifically for cats when you reward your feline. Bully sticks, no matter how tempting they are, are best kept only for your dog.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Dmitriev Mikhail, Shutterstock

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