We all know that cats are real meat-eaters but what about processed meat like ham? Can a cat eat ham?
This article will help us find the answer as we look into the pros and cons of feeding ham to your kitty.
Felines are skilled hunters in the wild, and they survive by eating the meat of their prey.
Unfortunately, domestic cats are raised indoors and are adapted to live harmoniously with humans.
Domestication has dramatically changed the way felines live their lives. Since they can't hunt their preys anymore, they solely rely on food being offered to them by their owners.
It is, the responsibility of the pet owner to provide them with foods that are appropriate for carnivores.
Buying commercial cat foods are probably the most convenient way to provide a nutritious meal for our furry companions.
However, even with adequate cat foods, they often would want to try the foods that we usually eat.
Many of us probably assume that meat in any form is good for our kitties. Whether it’s raw, cooked or processed, our feline pets will eat the meat nonetheless.
For us humans, not all meats taste the same. Some are more flavorful and more tempting than others.
Ham, for instance, has a distinctive flavor that you can’t find in any other types of meat products.
That’s why it has become a staple in most Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner table.
People have enjoyed the unique taste of this delicious meat, so you're probably wondering if it's okay to share it with your furball.
Felines are obligate carnivores
However, can a cat eat ham? It's only natural to think that a kitty can eat ham because this food is . Moreover, we are all aware just how much our feline buddies love to eat meat.
However, before you toss a slice of ham to your favorite feline, let us first try to answer these questions: Do cats eat ham? Is it safe for them?
This means that they are biologically required to consume meat and thrive mainly on the nutrients in meat.
Unlike humans, felines don't need fruits, vegetables, and legumes to meet their nutritional needs.
Besides, their digestive systems aren't capable of breaking down plant-based foods.
To put it just, felines only need a diet consisting mostly of meat to survive.
There are various types of meat that cats can eat – poultry, fish, beef, pork – and of course, rodents.
High-quality cat foods (either dry or wet) usually offer real meat of chicken, beef, salmon, lamb, turkey, and many more.
You may want to be careful in choosing cat foods because the cheaper ones mostly use meat by-products and fillers.
If you’ve noticed, there are no pork or other pigmeat included in cat food varieties.
There’s beef, poultry of many kinds, fish of many kinds, even rabbit and buffalo but no pork.
The reason behind why cat food manufacturers don't use pork in their product is still unclear.
However, it's no secret that cats love pork as much as they love chicken or beef. How about ham? Can a cat eat ham?
Do Cats Eat Ham?
So, it is safe for cats to eat ham? Can a cat eat ham? A simple ‘yes' or ‘no' isn't the most precise answer to these questions.
Take note that several types of hams are prepared in different methods.
The safety of the meat will entirely depend on the type of ham that you intend to feed to your feline pet.
Generally, pork from a leg cut is preserved by two methods of curing – dry cure and wet cure.
Dry-cured hams are produced by rubbing salt directly on raw pork leg while gradually pressing to drain all the blood.
To enhance the flavor, specific herbs such as black pepper and saffron can be added to the salt.
After the pork is completely covered in cure mixture, it can be just hung in a dark, seasonally tempered room for about 8 to 10 months.
It is then placed in a smokehouse to be preserved through smoking.
Dry curing process produces drier savory meat that doesn't require refrigeration as long as it's adequately wrapped.
Wet curing process involves immersing the meat in a brine, along with other ingredients such as sugar or honey for added sweetness.
The meat is submerged in the curing solution for about 3 to 14 days depending on the size of the meat and the desired flavor.
To strengthen the curing process, the curing solution may also be injected into the meat which increases the volume of the finished product.
Wet-cured hams are then placed in refrigerators for around 7 to 21 days before these meats can be preserved further through smoking.
This process produces moist, tender meat with a hint of sweetness.
Based on the two methods of curing meat, we've found out that both ways use vast amounts of salt during the process.
Salt is necessary for a feline's body to function correctly
How does this affect the health of our feline pets? Salt is necessary for a feline's body to function correctly.
It helps their cells transport nutrients, and it aids their digestive tract to regulate the production of gastric acid to digest food properly.
However, too much salt can lead to sodium toxicity in cats. Signs of sodium toxicity include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and excessive thirst or urination.
High concentration of salt in the body can throw their electrolytes out of balance and may potentially cause kidney damage.
If your pet is not treated within 24 hours, it can die from this condition. So, can a cat eat ham?
Because both dry-cured and wet-cured ham is prepared by being covered and immersed in heavy salt.
This is enough reason to make you think twice about feeding ham to your kitty.
If you’ve already given a piece of ham to your feline pet, there’s no reason to panic at all.
Sodium toxicity only happens when there's too much salt intake. A small piece of ham given in moderation shouldn't pose any harm to your beloved feline.
How Much Ham Is Safe for Cats?
Can a cat eat ham? Yes, cats can eat a small amount of ham only on rare occasions.
Even though ham is , it should NOT become a part of a kitty's diet due to its high sodium content.
Other additives such as sugar, honey, black pepper, and saffron are considered not appropriate for a feline's diet.
Felines don't need much sugar in their diet, and too much of it can lead to diabetes and high blood sugar.
Black peppers contain a toxic substance called glycoalkaloid solanine which can be poisonous to cats.
Saffron is a spice obtained from the flowers of the plant saffron crocus which contains colchicines and other alkaloids that are toxic to felines.
All these things combined with a vast deal of salt can be dangerous to your furry friend.
If you intend to give ham to your kitty, choose unseasoned ham that is void of spicy herbs and preservatives.
Half a slice of fresh cut ham twice a week should be safe for your kitty. Your pet will probably ask for more but don't go beyond the recommended amount.
Can Cats Eat Raw Ham?
Before domestication, felines in the wild mostly eat fresh, raw meat and internal organs of their prey.
However, since domestication, indoor cats never have the opportunity to hunt their prey and eat fresh meat.
That’s why many pet owners are considering feeding their pets with raw meat to compensate for this.
Now you probably think if it's okay to give raw ham to your furball. Can a cat eat ham that is raw and uncooked?
Before you jump into the raw meat feline diet trend, stop for a moment and contemplate on the matter at hand.
Raw meat coming straight from a fallen prey is entirely different from the raw meat products that we see in the supermarkets.
When uncooked meat sits for an extended period (which is precisely the case in frozen meats), it can become a breeding ground for enteropathogens.
Bacterial enteropathogens found in raw meat include salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.
These pathogens can cause potentially chronic gastroenteritis and acute diarrhea that can even result to death in both humans and animals.
Now that you know the risks of feeding raw meat to your pet, would you still take the risk?
Does Ham Have Any Benefits For Cats?
If there's one thing that a ham can positively offer to felines, it's the amount of protein it contains.
Just like most carnivores, felines require higher amounts of protein in their diet. However, as long as you include lean meat of fresh chicken or fish in its food, there's no need for additional supplements.
Let us remind you again that ham is high in sodium and may contain seasonings that may harm your feline pet.
However, a small quantity of it given in moderation won't pose a threat. This meaty treat can serve as an occasional exciting treat for your furry companion.
Do cats eat ham? Since they rarely experience the taste of pork, it can undoubtedly please your pet's taste buds.
Can a cat eat ham without any ill effects? As long as you stick to the recommended amount and infrequency of feeding ham to your pet, there’s nothing to worry about.
Can Kittens Eat Ham?
For an adult cat, a tiny slice of unseasoned ham should be beautiful. However, the case is entirely different if it's for a kitten.
Young kittens have very delicate digestive systems, and they can only handle their mother's milk during their first four weeks.
After which, they will be gradually introduced to soft foods such as kibble.
Solid foods should only be introduced after the weaning process, ideally when they reach eight weeks of age.
However, don't give them inappropriate foods even during this stage. Remember that they are on a crucial stage of development and they require essential nutrients from their diet.
Giving ham to a kitten will do more harm than good, and there's no point in doing it.
If anything, you're putting your delicate kitten to risk by giving foods that are inappropriate for developing felines.
Concerns About Ham As a Cat Treat
Not all ham products have the same quality and standards. Bear in mind that these cured meats already contain high levels of sodium because salt is the primary curing agent being used.
Cold cuts and canned hams may be cheaper compared to the expensive more exceptional cuts coming straight from the butcher.
However, these more affordable meat products mostly use low-grade meat with lots of additives and preservatives.
Only choose high-quality unseasoned hams if you plan to use it as an occasional treat for your kitty.
Moreover, don't forget to read the label. Wet-cured variants seem to be a better choice because the meat is more tender and more comfortable to chew than the dry-cured types.
However, remember that wet-cured types may use much sugar. Furthermore, they contain more salt because the brine is also injected into the meat.
You may also want to avoid honey-cured variants because honey is not considered appropriate for felines to eat.
Of course, take time to read the list of ingredients because there are seasonings that can be toxic to cats.
Can a cat eat ham? There are several things to keep in mind to fully answer this question.
If we're talking about high-quality unseasoned ham, then the answer is ‘yes.' You may give half a slice of this meat to your kitty but only sparingly.
The recommended dose of fresh, unseasoned ham should be safe for your feline pet to eat. However, don't feel at ease with this recommendation.
Cats differ in so many different ways, and every kitty may have different reactions to a particular food.
Most kitties are beautiful with the recommended dose without experiencing any ill effects.
However, there's no guarantee that your particular pet would also be excellent after eating a small piece of ham.
If you’re giving ham for the first time, start with a tiny morsel of the meat and observe how it reacts to the food.
Immediate side effects may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating.
In this case, take your pet to the vet right away. Moreover, completely cross out this food on your list of cat treats.
If your kitty doesn't show any side effect, then that's the time you can consider it as an infrequent treat.
When feeding this meaty treat to your kitty, make sure that they have plenty of water available.
Due to its high salt content, the chances are good that they're going to get thirsty afterward.
Please make it a rule of the thumb to use unseasoned ham for your feline pet. Also, say NO to raw ham.