Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky? Everything You Need to Know About Processed Meats

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can cats eat beef jerky

Cats are carnivores and eat meat, but can cats eat beef jerky? It’s best to avoid giving your pet processed meats such as beef jerky as they are high in salt and contain spices that may harm your cat. 

While beef jerky is a type of meat, it’s not the healthiest choice for a cat. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they need animal-based protein to survive. If your pet has stolen a piece of beef jerky, there’s no need to worry unless he’s eaten large quantities. However, knowingly sharing this snack with your cat is not a good idea.

This article will answer the question, ‘can cats eat beef jerky?’ We’ll discuss beef jerky’s ingredients and examine why it’s not the best choice for your cat. We’ll also look at healthier options for your pet.

Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky?

Can cats eat beef jerky? It's best to avoid it as processed meat is very salty. Instead choose a treat that's designed specifically for cats or make your own.

While beef jerky does contain protein that cats need to eat, the downside of feeding it to pets far outweighs the benefits. Cat treats are manufactured by drying meat, and if your cat likes soft, dried chews, you might be considering giving your cat beef jerky as it’s the same consistency.   

Beef jerky is a dried and cured meat that is very processed and high in salt and other spices, such as garlic, and chili, which can harm cats. Cats also do not have a lot of tolerance for processed foods. It’s best to avoid feeding beef jerky to your cat as the high salt content can cause dehydration.

Salt is harmful to cats in large amounts as it can cause dehydration and other health problems over the long term. Cats that eat processed meats such as beef jerky can suffer from sodium poisoning, which can be life-threatening. It’s best to avoid feeding your cat food that is high in salt.

Symptoms of sodium poisoning include dehydration, and you may notice that your cat is drinking more water than often. Beef jerky often contains soy or Worcestershire sauce which is also very salty and can cause dehydration. Other symptoms of sodium toxicity include vomiting and diarrhea, fatigue, and tremors. In the long term, salt can cause kidney problems and, in the worse case, a coma and kidney failure. 

Perhaps surprisingly, some cats are allergic to beef. Beef allergy can cause affected cats to have skin irritation, including redness and swelling. You may find that your pet is itchy and notice some hair loss. 

It’s also worth noting that beef jerky often contains a packet of silica gel (the little white bags that say Do Not Eat). These are designed to keep the meat dry and should be kept out of the reach of cats. Young kittens, in particular, will like to jump on or play with the sachet. 

Avoid beef jerky for the following reasons:

  • May contain garlic which is toxic to cats
  • Has excessive preservatives, MSG, sugar
  • It is cured in salt, which could lead to sodium poisoning
  • Can cause dehydration
  • Contains other unhealthy ingredients such as chili and soy sauce
  • Some cats are allergic to beef
  • Beef jerky often contains silica gel which should be kept out of the reach of cats

Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky if it's Natural?

can cats eat beef jerky

Natural beef jerky is thin strips of meat that have been dehydrated and contain 100% beef. Always read the ingredient list to check that the beef jerky is totally natural. As long as the beef is free from additives, preservatives, flavorings, and, most importantly, salt, you can feed your cat this type of meat.

A few brands manufacture natural beef jerky, but the best way to ensure the meat is safe for your pet is to make your own at home. Beef contains many beneficial vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. It’s also a great source of protein for your cat.

The downside of natural beef jerky is its texture, it can be tough and chewy. Some cats find it hard to chew, which can cause choking, damaged teeth, or cause stomach issues.

How to Make Beef Jerky at Home

To make beef jerky that doesn’t contain harmful ingredients and that can be fed to your cat, you’ll need a dehydrator. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use the oven on a very low heat. Here’s how to make some treats for your cats:

  1. Cut the beef into very fine strips of approximately ¼ inch. You can put the beef in the freezer for about an hour to achieve this. It’s a lot easier to cut cold meat with a sharp knife. 
  2. Use a dehydrator or preheat the oven to 158°F (70°C)
  3. Place the beef strips on a wire rack and cook for about 3 hours until they are dried out. 
  4. After removing the meat from the oven, you should let them air dry for about 24 hours.
  5. Your cat can enjoy the beef jerky in small quantities two or three times a week.

What are Some Alternative Snacks I Can Give my Cat?

If you are looking for a healthy snack for your cat, you could offer them small pieces of cooked chicken or fish. Ensure that anything you give your pet is plainly cooked and doesn’t contain oil or seasonings. 

Your cat may like the texture of beef jerky, in which case you could try giving him dried fish that hasn’t been cured in salt. Fish is a very healthy option for cats as it contains omega 3 and 6, protein, and healthy fats. 

Fish is beneficial to cats’ health for the following reasons:

  • Helps maintain mobility and joint health
  • Creates a healthy, shiny coat
  • The texture of dried fish will clean your pet’s teeth
  • Contains omega 3 and 6

Healthy treats

You may prefer to buy some cat treats for your pet rather than making your own. There are many types of treats for cats that are cheap, healthy, and convenient. Some manufacturers even make ‘jerky’ style treats for cats to chew on. These are made from cat-friendly ingredients and don’t contain harmful salt, herbs, or spices.

Choose a treat that has been specially formulated for your pet’s stage of life. Be careful not to let your cat overindulge in treats, as this could cause weight gain, leading to health issues.

Some cat treats are even beneficial for the health of your cat’s teeth and will help to reduce tartar build-up. You can also get treats that are designed to minimize hairballs.


You can also give your cat catnip, a safe and non-toxic herb cats love and often go wild for. You can try growing your own cat nip for your pet to nibble on or buy a toy that contains cat nip.

Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky?: Conclusion

Beef jerky is a good source of protein, but it’s also high in fat and salt. Feeding your cat too much processed meat can lead to health problems and sodium poisoning. If your cat has eaten some beef jerky, monitor your pet and keep an eye out for any adverse effects. Contact your vet if you are at all worried.

On the other hand, if you can find a brand of natural beef jerk or a jerky manufactured for cats or even dehydrate your own meat at home, your cat will receive a healthy treat.

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