Many cats love all kinds of meat. If you’ve ever been making a deli sandwich in the kitchen listening to your cat’s pitiful begging meows, you know that it’s true. It seems like offering them a slice or two might not be bad for them because cats are carnivores.
A cat’s digestive system is made to process meat, but not the same kinds that humans regularly eat. Maybe you’d like to give your cat some of your prosciutto but don’t know if it’s safe for them. The good news is that in small quantities, prosciutto isn’t harmful to cats. The bad news is that it’s not healthy for them either.
Let’s find out why cats shouldn’t eat large amounts of this cured meat.
What Is Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is Italian for “ham.” Prosciutto is Italian ham that is uncooked, unsmoked, and dry cured. It’s usually served in thin slices and has a meaty, salty, buttery flavor. Since most curing processes use salt, the meat is saltier than the meats usually found in a cat’s natural or domestic diet.
What Is a Healthy Diet for a Cat?
Cats are obligate carnivores and get nutrition from meat. In the wild, cats get everything that they need from their prey. When it comes to household cats, their diets should mimic the ones of their wild ancestors as closely as possible. This means plenty of protein, moderate fats, a low number of carbs, and various vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Do Cats Need Salt?
Sodium is necessary in a cat’s diet to make sure they stay healthy. The amount of sodium that each cat needs depends on their age, health, and weight. Your vet can help you decide how much sodium is right for your cat, but the proper amounts are usually already balanced in your cat’s commercial food.
The danger lies in a cat having too much salt. Salt overdoses can be toxic to cats, and salt poisoning is a medical emergency.
Giving your cat a small piece of prosciutto won’t send them into a toxic state, but if your cat manages to eat half of the package of the cured meat, they may be sick afterward. Here are signs of salt poisoning to watch for:
These symptoms usually set in within 3 hours of the salt consumption. If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet or poison control hotline (888-426-4435) right away.
Other Problems With Prosciutto & Cats
We now know that prosciutto may be too salty for cats to enjoy regularly. If cats eat too much salt, it can send their organs into overdrive trying to rid the excess salt from their bodies. This can cause dehydration, reduced blood pressure, and a high heart rate. Cats with kidney disease should avoid eating too much salt because it can put too much strain on these organs.
There are other issues with the meat when it comes to a cat’s diet.
Cured meat is not cooked. Curing kills many parasites in the pork, but there is always a risk of them recurring due to poor handling of the meat during the curing process. Purchasing your prosciutto from reputable sources and freezing it before consumption can help lower these risks.
Bacteria, like Salmonella and E. Coli, can lead to serious, life-threatening illnesses for cats. There is always the risk of these bacteria in meats that aren’t cooked. The curing process will kill bacteria, but proper storing and preparation of the prosciutto before consumption is necessary to keep cats and people healthy.
Prosciutto is often cured with spices to add to the flavor that makes it so appealing to people and animals alike. Some spices can be toxic to cats, however.
If your prosciutto is cured with spices, examine the ingredients carefully, and avoid giving your cat any meat that is made with things that they can’t have.
For example, garlic and onions are toxic to cats. These are known to cause gastrointestinal distress in cats before moving on to destroying their red blood cells, leading to anemia. Large amounts of these ingredients can be fatal.
How Much Prosciutto Can My Cat Have?
Prosciutto should not be given to your cat daily or take the place of their regular diet. Your cat’s food is balanced with the proper amount of nutrition that they need. Unless directed by your vet, you don’t need to supplement their diet with anything else.
The occasional piece of prosciutto as a treat is fine for your cat to have. It’s not a healthy option for them, and there are plenty of healthy treats available as alternatives, but if they enjoy prosciutto in moderation as a snack, there should be no adverse health effects.
You should make sure your prosciutto isn’t cured with spices, like onions and garlic, that could potentially harm your cat. If it’s just cured with salt, small pieces as treats are acceptable.
How Should I Offer Prosciutto to My Cat?
This meat should only be offered on an occasional basis. Cats should not eat a full slice of prosciutto as a treat.
Carefully cut or rip small sections of prosciutto, about the size of your fingernail. These can be offered to your cat as treats or occasional toppings for their food or to hide the taste of certain medications. If you slip a pill in with the pieces of the prosciutto, your cat may not even notice that they’re eating the pill.
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It’s tempting to offer your cat a bit of whatever you’re eating, especially if it’s meat. Cats are carnivores and eat meat in their daily diets. However, prosciutto is made with salt and other spices that can be harmful to your cat if eaten in large quantities.
Prosciutto can be offered to your cat in tiny, fingernail-sized pieces as occasional treats or snacks. It should not be offered frequently or used in place of your cat’s regular meals. By sticking to this plan, you can let your cat enjoy a few of the things that you eat without putting their health at risk.
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