Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky? Yes, Here’s the Answer

Beef jerky is lean cattle meat that has been trimmed, cut into strips, and dried. Doing so helps preserve the meat for extended periods. It is a savory treat that many people give to their cats, but is it great for their consumption?

Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky? Yes, beef jerky is an excellent source of protein, and cats can eat it. However, it is recommendable to feed your cat high-quality beef jerky with minimum salt, sodium, nitrites, and MSG. A study by ASPCA shows that too much of these salts in your cat’s diet is highly toxic. 

For this reason, you need to take some essential precautions to ensure that the beef jerky you are giving your cat is safe. Read on to find out what these safety measures are, plus other vital details about this meat. 

Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky? Yes, Here's the Answer

What is the Best Variation of Beef Jerky to Feed My Cat?

There are tons of beef jerky brands in the market. However, they all fall under two broad categories – flavored and natural.

Flavored Beef Jerky

It is the most popular type in the market. Moreover, you will find dozens of beef jerky flavors such as teriyaki, black pepper, garlic, sweet & spicy, peppered, and many more.

Flavored jerky comes seasoned with spices and preservatives before being marinated and cured using hickory smoke. So, is it healthy for your cat to eat?

Not at all! The added chemicals are toxic to your cat and could lead to health complications.

Natural Beef Jerky

This beef jerky is 100% free of additives, fillers, and nitrates. It is all-natural. You can find a few brands of this meat in the market or do it yourself at home.

It is the most recommendable type, and you can give it to your cat without fear of complications.

Natural beef jerky is the healthiest for your cat.

What is the Nutritional Value of Beef Jerky to My Cat?

Cats, being obligate carnivores, rely on animal protein for essential nutrients, minerals, and amino acids. Beef jerky is an excellent source of protein for your feline.

However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, beef jerky has lots of nutritional value to your cat. 1 cup (90g) of beef jerky has:

  • 30g of protein
  • 2g of fiber
  • 10g of carbohydrates
  • 23g of fat
  • 369 calories
  • 8g of sugar
  • 1870mg of sodium

Other macro-nutrients available in beef jerky are:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Note: The vitamins and minerals in a single serving of beef jerky are not enough for the overall health of your cat.

However, you should not increase the serving amount hoping to optimize the positive nutritional values. Doing so will increase the amounts of fat, sodium, and sugar, which will, in turn, compromise your cat’s health.

We suggest that you consider alternative sources of vitamins and minerals for your cat rather than depending on beef jerky alone.

Is Beef Jerky Dangerous for My Cat?

Although it is okay to feed your cat beef jerky from time to time, you should consider other healthier and safer treats. Many veterinarians’ advise against giving your cat any beef jerky.

The highest composition of beef jerky is meat, a fundamental part of your cat’s diet. However, jerky is more artificial and highly processed as compared to natural/ wild meat. As such, it is very toxic and dangerous for your cat. Here is why:

High Salt Content

Just like in human beings, excess consumption of salt/ sodium by cats leads to thirst and dehydration. Unfortunately, cats’ bodies cannot process sodium since their natural foods have no salt at all.

Therefore, consumption of high-sodium beef jerky could lead to sodium ion poisoning. This poisoning manifests in the form of:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures, tremors, and in worst cases, a coma
  • Excessive urination or thirst
  • Bloating due to abnormal fluid accumulation

Sodium poisoning is life-threatening to your cat. Be sure to get veterinarian help immediately.

Excessive Preservatives

Preservatives help increase the meat’s shelf life. Sodium nitrite is a common ingredient used in beef jerky preservation. It kills bacteria on the meat and prevents bacteria invasion.

However, this compound is not safe at all for your cat to consume. It has carcinogenic elements which cause cancer.

In the market, you will find an all-natural beef jerky free of preservatives. However, be careful to check its sodium levels because most manufacturers use excess salt for its preservation.

Rubbery Texture

Beef jerky has a rubbery/ leathery texture which makes it tough to chew. Although people find this satisfying, it is fatal to cats. Cats are unable to chew it fully before swallowing, which could lead to choking.

Lots of Seasonings

Manufacturers use additional flavors in beef jerky to make it more delicious. Unfortunately, flavored/ spiced jerky is highly toxic to cats. Most of these flavors have garlic and onions as ingredients.

These two can damage your cat’s red blood cells, leading to gastrointestinal issues or even anemia. A lot of spices also cause a burning sensation in your cat’s mouth. You can notice this by your cat’s eyes becoming watery or excessive salivation. 

Do Cats Like Beef Jerky?

Beef jerky is tasty and smells good, and cats like it! Moreover, cats are obligate carnivores, thus are naturally attracted to meat.

For this reason, your cat can eat any meat they come across, whether good or bad. Therefore, you have the responsibility to control the kind, quality, and quantity of meat that your cat eats.

What Precautions Should I Take Before Buying Beef Jerky for My Cat?

Many owners find the commercial beef jerky a go-to treat for themselves and their cats. Although this meat is delicious and nutritional, you should watch out for the following harmful ingredients:

Sodium

Beef jerky tends to have high levels of sodium because manufacturers use this ingredient as a preservative.

Low amounts of sodium cannot affect your feline. But, when ingested in excess, it leads to a rise in blood pressure, bloating, and other adverse health complications. Before buying any beef jerky, ensure that its sodium level is at most 450 mg – the lesser, the better.

Sugar

Sugar is another ingredient used as a preservative and a flavor enhancer in beef jerky. Keeping it at the minimum should be your goal for the health of your cat. An ideal beef jerky should only have 5 grams of sugar or less.

Beef Source

The best and healthiest beef jerky brands use organic, grass-fed, hormone-free cow meat. This meat is five times rich in heart-healthy omega 3s than the grain-fed beef. It also has twice the anti-inflammatory conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

Other Harmful Ingredients

  • MSG
  • Synthetic nitrites
  • Any other synthetic/ artificial ingredient or preservative

If you are not sure of the ingredients used on a particular beef jerky brand, we recommend that you check at the back of the pack.

Doing so will help you to determine which brand is safe or unsafe for your cat.

Which is the Best Way to Give Beef Jerky to My Cat?

Although beef jerky is rich in protein – which is excellent for your cat’s development and growth, you should not make it a daily full meal. Instead, make it an occasional treat, two or three times a week, to supplement other regular cat treats.

Homemade beef jerky is healthier than commercial one. If you can prepare it yourself for your cat, don’t hesitate to do it.

Other necessary measures that you need to take when feeding your cat beef jerky include:

  • Keep the servings small to prevent sodium poisoning
  • Choose the unflavored and soft type of beef jerky
  • Watch your cat as it eats to prevent choking
  • Always keep the silica gel that comes inside the jerky packet away from your cat.
  • Have a bowl of water close by

Frequently Asked Questions

What Will Happen if My Cat Overfeed on Beef Jerky?

Too much beef jerky is toxic for cats. For this reason, owners should moderate the amounts they feed their furry friends and, preferably, make it a snack.

However, if your cat overeats beef jerky on a single day, there is no need to worry. Your cat will not die! But don’t let this be a regular habit.

If you realize that your cat has overfed, ensure that they drink enough water. Unfortunately, most cats are not good water drinkers. The most recommendable and sure way to make cats drink water is by giving them wet cat foods.

How Do I Handle My Cat’s Beef Jerky?

The way you handle beef jerky plays a crucial role in your cat’s overall health safety. Below are some vital steps to follow.

1.  Clean your hands well before touching the meat

2.  Ensure that all the equipment and surfaces you are using are clean

3.  Keep the jerky refrigerated at 40 Fahrenheit or below.

4.  When defrosting, we recommend that you use the refrigerator rather than your kitchen counter.

5.  For roasting or steaming, keep the heat at 160 Fahrenheit

6.  Dry the meat at 130 to 140 Fahrenheit. A food dehydrator comes in handy for this purpose.

You can also check these guidelines by USDA on how to handle your cat’s beef jerky.