Can Cats Eat Ham? Is It Toxic Or Safe?

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Can Cats Eat Ham

Can cats eat ham? There was once a strip of the famous “Garfield” comic where the eponymous overweight tabby regarded the salad he was expected to eat as part of his diet. Garfield decided “I think I'll garnish it…with a HAM!” The punch line panel showed Garfield slamming a whole bone-in-ham on the lettuce leaf.

An animated quickie showed Garfield being disgusted at the way Odie panted while chasing his tail to amuse Jon, until Jon rewarded Odie with a slice of ham. Garfield then proceeded to act as ridiculous as Odie with the excuse “A ham's a ham!” While no cat should eat as much as Garfield does, a bit of lean-cut ham would be better for a cat than a green salad.

Ham is a cut of pork from the hog's hind leg. It may be cured through smoking or curing and preserved by salting. Many people mark the Christmas and Easter holidays by dining on a large, cured ham. Sliced ham is a popular form of cold cuts. Grilled ham is a popular brunch dish.

Your cat is sure to sniff out this ubiquitous meat and start hankering for a taste of it. Can cats eat ham? Of course! Cats are obligate carnivores and ham is a meat. A better question is should cats eat ham? 

But before going there, there are certain things you need to know first. Read on.

Can cats eat ham?

Is Too Much Ham Toxic to Your Cat

While it is safe for cats to eat ham, do keep in mind that all things should be in moderation. Ham does tend to have a lot of sodium loaded preservatives with salting being the most common method. It's not good for cats to have too much sodium.

Can Cats Eat Ham

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They should have no more than 42 mg of sodium per day. Not only is heavy sodium hard on a cat's kidneys but cats dehydrate easily as they're not as diligent about drinking water as other animals. Regular eating of ham can lead to high blood pressure, diarrhea and obesity. Processed meats can stunt a kitten's growth.

But don't think it's all bad news! A little bit of ham every once in a while as part of a balanced diet can do your cat some good. All you have to do is remember not to over-do it. As Hippocrates the Father of Medicine said “Everything in excess is opposed by nature.”

Even if Kitty likes to beg for extra food, it would be against nature to feed her more than she needs. However, a little cut of well cooked ham every now and then is fine. If Kitty shows reluctance to take her medicine or vitamin pills you might try wrapping them in a slice of deli cut ham.

What Are the Benefits of Eating Ham for Your Cat

Cats not only need protein, they also need taurine, a nutrient that ham is rich in. Cats can't make their own taurine but need it for a strong heart and digestive system. Ham also has thiamin and riboflavin. The riboflavin provides energy and protects antioxidants. Thiamin aids in metabolizing the protein.

Vitamin B6 keeps the nervous system healthy. A cat's sensitive kidneys can always use more potassium. A good helping of zinc ensures a thick and shiny coat. Selenium is good for the heart and copper makes strong bones and aids in healing.

Not only should you be careful about how much ham to feed your cat but what kind of ham is also important. Go with Grade A ham, not the cheap stuff prepared with a lot of fillers.

The stuff that comes in a can and has a brand name that rhymes with ham (not naming names) is probably not the best thing to give to your cat. The less fat and salt that piece of ham you want to feed your cat has the better.

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Can Cats Eat Ham

What about raw ham?

Under no circumstances should a cat be fed raw ham. Ideally, a ham should be cooked until the internal temperature is 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw pork can lead to food poisoning or trichinosis, a parasitic disease caused by roundworms.

Can Cats Eat Ham? Is It Toxic Or Safe? 1

If your cat has eaten raw ham or any other kind of raw meat (including vermin or other local wildlife) and is experiencing vomiting, diarrhea or running a fever, you need to get her to a veterinarian right away. While it's true that cats can eat raw meat, it's best avoided if possible.

Fortunately, most ham products are already cooked and people usually just heat them up to improve the flavor. Luncheon meats are already cooked, but considering their high fat and salt content, you might not want to give Kitty too much of this type of ham.

Can Cats Eat Ham? Is It Toxic Or Safe? 1

Also never feed your cat anything that's spoiled. If it smells bad, is a strange color, has something growing on it or (ew, gross) moving in it, do not feed it to your cat. Cats are just as prone to food poisoning as you are. Do not feed rotten food to them.

Keep your cat out of the garbage so she doesn't eat rotten food by mistake. Don't even let stray cats get at it. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn't eat it, your cat probably shouldn't either.

How to Safely Feed Your Cat Ham

Let's reiterate; ham should be fed to your cat only in the strictest of moderation. It should have as little salt and fat as possible and your cat should have easy access to water.

Feed your cat only the high quality ham as processing and filler tends to be nothing but empty carbohydrates your cat doesn't need.

Can Cats Eat Ham? Is It Toxic Or Safe? 3

If your cat really has a hankering for ham, there are ham flavored cat foods on the market that will give her the ham taste she wants plus some extra vitamins. The ham should be cooked and fresh. In the wise words of Cicero “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.”

Show some restraint and common sense and you can safely make ham part of your cat's gastronomic experience.

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