Can Cats Eat Hot Dogs? Why You Might Want to Skip Sharing This Meat
No cookout is complete without hot dogs. These juicy meats are a staple of summer, especially when smothered in ketchup and mustard and served with pasta salad on the side. But what if our feline fur babies start sniffing around our barbecue spread—can we share with our cats?
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Can Cats Eat Hot Dogs?
"Can a cat eat hot dogs? The short answer is yes," says Pámela Colareta, DVM at Florida Behavior Service. "Should a cat eat hot dogs? Realistically, no."
Along with being less-than-healthy (more on that later), hot dogs are not suitable treats for cats because they pose a few logistics problems. For instance, hot dogs, even when sliced into pieces, are bigger than many cats can safely eat; Colareta recommends giving kitties treats no bigger than 1/4-inch. Another issue? Training best practices.
"When using treats with your cats, we want to be sure that we are using them in a strategic manner," Colareta says. "This means reinforcing desired behavior as opposed to giving them treats just for being adorable. In order to be able to do so, treats should be readily available. Hot dogs are perishable and cannot be readily stored around the house."
What Are the Risks of Feeding Cats Hot Dogs?
Hot dogs aren't exactly a healthy food. High in sodium and fat, snacking on too much of these processed meats can cause health issues among humans and felines alike. Cats shouldn't eat hot dogs due to risks of:
"Though a single tiny piece of a hot dog may not cause these signs, if you are using treats to train your cat, you are likely using quite a bit of treats per training session," Colareta says. "Using hot dogs for these scenarios can cause your cat to feel unwell and lead to a trip to the vet."
While other types of hot dogs (including all-beef, chicken, and turkey dogs) can be a little healthier, Colareta says you should still resist feeding kitty scraps from your barbecue. They're still too big and too impractical to serve as cat treats.
What Should I Do If My Cat Accidentally Ate a Hot Dog?
If your cat manages to help herself to a hot dog while you're not looking, monitor her for vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased appetite for the next 48 hours. If you notice any of these signs, Colareta says, contact your kitty's primary care veterinarian.
"However, if your cat steals a hot dog, we likely have a counter surfer, which can pose a bigger risk," Colareta says. "Cats jumping on counters and stealing food can be at risk for serious injury, especially if they are jumping up near the stove or if there are knives and other sharp objects on the counter."
To keep your feline from exploring the countertops, Colareta recommends providing enrichment on another surface—the floor. "You can do so by providing them with their favorite toys or placing their favorite treats in food toys to keep them busy and away from the kitchen while you cook," she says. And obviously, never leave yummy-smelling food unattended.
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What Meats Can I Safely Share With My Cat?
Though hot dogs aren't on the list of cat-friendly people food, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning meat is essential for their diet, and there are options you can safely give your fur baby.
"There are good alternatives out there, such as freeze-dried chicken, freeze-dried shrimp, among other treats that are easily stored and a healthier alternative," Colareta says. "If you are looking for a high-value alternative, Churu is a great smearable treat that most cats go crazy for."
Other meats you can share with your cat (in moderation!) include: