- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Ham, the sweet and savory meat many of us enjoy, can either be found as the main course of holiday feasts or sliced in sandwiches for lunch. Ham is also a delicious way to get much-needed protein throughout the day. When you’re fixing yourself a helping of ham with your loved ones, do feel tempted to hand a piece to your furry friend?
Since we know cats are carnivores, it may seem natural to feed our cat our table scraps. However, unlike their wild relatives, domesticated cats sometimes process “human foods” differently than we do. Due to the ingredients we cook ham and other pork products with, many may be off the table. Some foods, even certain meat products, can wreak havoc on a cat’s fragile digestive system.
Before you consider feeding this meat to your cat, here’s what you need to know about whether cats can eat ham.
Health Benefits of Ham, Pork, and Bacon
According to experts, when pork is lean, it’s at its healthiest for humans. Pork has nine essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Like in many meat and poultry products, amino acids are very important in building muscle and stabilizing moods.
Pork is also packed with vitamins and minerals such as including thiamine, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and iron. Thiamine, also known as vitamin B6 is well known for playing a supportive role in the function of the brain, heart and nervous system.
Besides building muscle, ham is also linked to healthy bones and teeth. The phosphorus in ham not only helps with bones, it works hard in ensuring your liver, kidneys and central nervous system are in working order as well.
Lastly, pork has bioactive meat compounds like creatine, taurine, and glutathione, many of which help with healthy muscle growth and function on a daily basis. It’s no wonder that pork is the number one meat eaten in the world.
Can Cats Eat Ham?
Cats can eat ham, but only in small doses. Gary Richter, DVM, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California and Holistic Veterinary Care tells Rover, “Cats are carnivores so animal protein is critical to their good health. Cat foods should be predominantly made up of animal products.”
According to PetMD, ham in small amounts is fine, or in deli meat form, but shouldn’t be used as a meal replacement. It also should be free of seasonings or cooking oils as much as possible, as those things might upset your cat’s stomach. Experts suggest to not give cats fat trimmings as that could lead to pancreatitis.
Most importantly, do not feed your cat ham if it has been cooked with onions or garlic, as those are toxic to felines.
Can Cats Eat Bacon?
Bacon may be a delicious treat to us, but due to the high volume of fat, grease and salt, it is not recommended to feed your cat bacon. According to the Poison Helpline, salt poisoning can cause pets to vomit, have diarrhea and a host of other reactions. It’s best to not feed your cat more than a nibble of bacon, as it could lead to health risks.
Can Cats Eat Pork?
Ham and bacon have one thing in common: they are both pork! Pork is the meat of the pig, and ham and bacon are which specific meat is cut from the pig. Ham generally comes from the loin while bacon comes from the belly. Pork is any meat that comes from the pig in general.
Feeding your cat raw meat has come up time and time again on the internet. However, raw meat is on ASPCA list of toxic foods for good reason. Raw pork can have Salmonella and E. coli that can cause illness. Raw pork can also have parasitic worms that lead to trichinosis and other infectious diseases.
Alternative Healthy Snacks
Experimenting with new snacks is fun! However, cats sometimes can be cautious about new foods, and may protest if their routine is altered. Here are some human foods you can let your cat try, according to PetMD:
- Plain and thoroughly cooked ham, beef or turkey
- Some whole grains like brown rice or barley
- Celery (they love the crunch!)
- Scrambled eggs
- Green bell peppers
- Spinach (Filled with vitamins A, C, and K!)
- Peas (Often found in many prepackaged foods for cats and dogs as a vitamin-filled addition)
- Pumpkin (Pumpkin is used often as a way to get fiber in your cat’s diet)
Experts suggest that treats, even protein-filled ones, should only take up 10-15% of their daily diet.
“The large majority of what cats eat should be a balanced diet,” Dr. Richter says. “In general, treats are not balanced and should not make up a significant portion of their daily intake.”
Properly formulated cat food has all the nutrients necessary for a cat’s diet. Any of these snacks listed should never replace full meals with human foods. Experiment and see what your cats enjoy the most. Happy snacking!