I don’t eat ham very often (because half the family doesn’t care for it), but we do have it once in a while and we also have sliced deli ham around. Ham is one of the things which my cat will actually show some interest in (she’s very picky about her food and won’t mooch unless she’s really interested, and she usually saves that for beef or turkey). At face value, it should seem that ham would be fine for cats to eat. It’s meat, cats eat meat, job done. But whenever we are talking about food for humans, the answer about whether it’s safe for cats is a little more nuanced than that.
Overall, and in small amounts, ham is generally safe for cats to eat. And some cats really enjoy it! What should you know about cats and ham before you invite your feline to partake in the ham dinner over the holidays?
Do Cats Like Ham?
It depends on the cat. My current cat will lick it and nibble it and she certainly likes the smell of it. I’ve had other cats that liked the idea of ham but didn’t eat it. As usual, it depends on your cat. Most cats quite like it though.
Do Cats Hate Ham?
Most cats probably won’t hate ham. It’s meat, it’s tasty, and it’s relatively easy for cats to eat. That being said, there’s always one in every crowd and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were cats out there who turned their noses up at it.
Can Ham Kill Cats?
Whenever we are talking about human food, the main thing we have to watch out for is the added things for those foods. For example, the added sugars in things like yogurt, the added preservatives in deli meat, and the added salt, glazes, and spices found in many hams.
By itself, ham would be fine for a cat to eat except that for the most part, the ham you pick up at the store has a lot of extras added to it which makes it less than ideal for cats to eat. In particular, ham is often quite high in sodium from the extra salt and curing that it undergoes. That extra sodium translates to an upset stomach for cats and if they eat too much ham over a period of time, clogs in the arteries which can lead to heart problems in the future. The high salt content can also lead to dehydration since cats are terrible about drinking adequate amounts of water at the best of times.
Ham can also be cured with things like sugar which is also not good for cats since they cannot process sugars anyway.
Ham is also high in fat. That fattiness makes it taste really good, but a little goes a long way for cats, and a diet too high in fat leads to obesity with its attendant health problems.
Back to the question at hand: can ham kill cats? Well, anything can kill a cat if they eat too much of it all the time. In the case of ham, the high salt content can lead to health problems down the road. Ham in small, moderate quantities as a treat once in a while though won’t kill a cat. In fact, ham has some benefits that cats can certainly take advantage of.
How Much Ham is Safe for Your Cat?
Cats should have no more than 42mg of sodium per day. Any more than that regularly can lead to kidney damage, high blood pressure, diarrhea, and obesity. How much is 42g of sodium translated to ham? About one-tenth of a slice of ham (35 mg of sodium, assuming the 360mg of sodium per slice of ham). In other words, a very small bit of ham and only given once in a while.
But not just any ham will do. The best ham for cats is ham that comes straight from a reputable butcher, has no extra seasonings on it, and is processed as little as possible. Cats should not eat deli ham much at all because it is loaded with a lot of extra salt and preservatives which are not good for cats to eat. Ham that is also too high in fat can cause pancreas inflammation which is pretty severe.
When serving your cat ham, chop it into a small cube or two and serve it with their regular food or as a stand-alone treat/reward for good behavior. Ham over wet food for example would probably make your cat pretty happy! All fat should be removed from the meat and they should never get the bone. Also, make sure that your cat has water nearby since they may get thirsty afterward.
Cats should never be fed raw ham because it can lead to food poisoning or roundworm infestation. While cats can eat raw meat, they really shouldn’t because there’s too much in the meat nowadays that can cause problems for them, ham included.
Cats with the following medical conditions should not eat ham:
- Kidney disease
- Heard conditions
- If your cat is on a food trial to deal with allergies
- If your cat is on a prescription diet
- If your cat has a sensitive stomach
Talk to your vet if you’re not sure!
Health Benefits of Ham for Your Cat
Although ham is high in sodium and fat, it does have some solid benefits for cats. Ham is high in protein of course, but it is also high in taurine. Taurine is a nutrient that cats require for their heart and digestive system and they cannot produce it on their own – it has to come from food.
Ham is also high in thiamin and riboflavin which provides energy, antioxidants, and aids in absorbing the protein. Ham also has vitamin B6 which is good for the kidneys, zinc for their coat, copper for the bones, and selenium for the heart. All of these things are really good for cats to get in their diet and ham provides it all.
Ham is one of those foods that is both good for cats (in moderation) and one that most cats really enjoy. It gives a boost of important nutrition and is generally safe, as long as it’s fed sparingly.
Does your cat go for ham over the holidays?