Can Cats Eat Bacon? A Vet Says Teensy Bits—and Only Sometimes
When fewer than 10 percent of your kitty's daily diet can come from treats, you have to really be choosy about his indulgences. So while he might swipe at your fork while you're eating bacon and eggs, you might have to resist his persuasion.
Can cats eat bacon? Well, tiny amounts as an occasional—occasional!—treat are OK. Felines are obligate carnivores, which means they're designed to eat meat and receive the vast majority of their nutritional needs from it. This includes a vital amount of protein and an essential amino acid called taurine, which is critical to maintaining many healthy functions of your kitty, including their heart and vision.
So, while cats can eat bacon in moderation, you need to keep track of the bacon's high amounts of fat and sodium. With that in mind, it's probably a better option to stick with your cat's veterinarian-recommended food and treats.
Is Bacon Safe for Cats?
Standard pork bacon contains complex B vitamins and nutrients such as selenium and zinc, so there's a little goodness in every slice. Renee Rucinsky, DVM, DABVP(F), is the owner of Mid Atlantic Cat Hospital and Feline Thyroid Center in Queenstown, Md., says cats can eat cooked bacon in moderation, but keep in mind, this refers to bacon without additional seasonings or nitrates. None of that honey BBQ or black pepper stuff. Or anything seasoned with onions or garlic, which are toxic to cats. Stay away from the candied bacon, bacon bits, and definitely don't let your cat eat raw bacon.
While cats need a daily allowance of minerals such as chloride, salt, and potassium, their requirements are covered by a well-formulated commercial food diet. Generally, healthy adult cats need about 740 milligrams of sodium in their food. So while a rare treat of bacon meat is safe, the average strip is approximately 147 milligrams—which is too much additional salt for kitty on a regular basis.
You have to watch out for the fat content, too. If an adult cat isn't nursing, they require roughly 5 grams of fat in their daily diet. But a single piece of bacon might have as much as 4 grams of fat. Yes, we know. That's what makes it irresistible, but it's still too much for kitty.
There's another caveat to offering occasional bacon morsels. "For cats with sensitive stomachs, bacon might be a little much," Rucinsky cautions. If your kitty is already dealing with certain gastrointestinal issues, such as pancreatitis, stick with the cat food and treats recommended by your veterinarian, and don't let your tenacious tabby pilfer any bacon from your plate.
What Kinds of Bacon Can Cats Eat?
If you choose to fry or bake standard pork bacon for your cat, you'll have to take on a few more preparation steps than usual.
Your cat shouldn't ever eat bacon grease, so take care to rest her treat piece on a paper towel, then blot the rest of the grease off it. Remove the fatty bit from the meat, then dice up the meat and offer it to your kitty—if she loves it, you could use it as an occasional food topper if your cat isn't eating. Let's look at some other types of bacon.
Rucinsky says turkey bacon—which is usually made from both light and dark turkey meat—in moderation is OK. While it's lower in fat, it still contains a high amount of sodium.
RELATED: Should You Let Your Cat Eat Turkey?
Canadian bacon is actually unsmoked ham known in Canada as "back bacon" and produced from pig loin. Ham is also a rare treat for cats—while not toxic, it's not the healthiest option, either.
If you often nibble "facon" made from seitan, tempeh, or coconut, it's easy to think cats can eat bacon alternatives like this, but remember: They still prefer meat. "And like more 'regular' bacons, these alternatives can also be really high in salt content," Rucinsky adds. "There's nothing specifically bad about them, but they should only be offered in very minimal amounts."
Special snacks are always great rewards for bonding and training. However, Rucinsky recommends choosing the variety of shapes and flavors of commercial treats and cat-friendly homemade goodies, such as tuna and catnip bites.
What To Do If Your Cat Eats Too Much Bacon
If you caught your curious cat gobbling down a hunk of bacon off the counter or out of the trash, call your vet for an immediate exam. They'll need to monitor vitals such as blood pressure, hydration, and signs of sodium ion poisoning. Symptoms of this condition often include:
- Excessive thirst or urination
If you suspect too much bacon is the cause but can't reach your vet, call the Pet Poison Hotline at (855) 764-7661.