Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky?

can cats eat beef jerky?

Out of all the snacks that people enjoy eating across the world, there is one snack that people have loved for thousands of years. That snack is beef jerky. 

Jerky has its roots far back in ancient times when people dried meat out to preserve it for later consumption. While today’s jerky is more of a tasty treat and less of a way to save food, people still enjoy eating it. 

In fact, it’s not just people who enjoy it but also animals. After all, who could resist the meaty smells of jerky as well as the strong taste?

While your cat may show interest in your jerky, you may begin to wonder whether or not your cat is able to indulge in the treat as well. Maybe you turned your back for a minute or two and you came back to find your cat eating your jerky; now you are worried about whether or not the jerky was safe for the cat to eat. 

This will eventually beg the question of can cats eat beef jerky and the answer to that question is unfortunately a little bit complicated.

The Problem with Beef Jerky

angry cow
Photo by Matthis Volquardsen from Pexels

As a short answer, cats can technically eat beef jerky but you need to practice extreme caution if you are trying to feed your cat jerky. 

More often than not, the jerky that people regularly purchase in stores includes more than just the meat. There are seasonings, salt, and occasionally artificial additives in the jerky. 

For people, this is often not a problem and can usually mean that the jerky tastes better than it otherwise would have. However, for cats and their sensitive digestive systems, it can be a serious problem.

For example, many jerkies, especially ones that are meant to be flavored a specific way, will be seasoned with garlic or onion powder. Both of these powders are lethally toxic to cats and should not be anywhere near your cat. 

When it comes to whether or not your cat can eat jerky, there is a catch to it. Your cat can eat jerky as long as it is minimally (or not at all) salted and has absolutely no flavoring added to it whatsoever. 

Cats can eat the pure dried meat portion of the jerky but cats do not do well with most of the seasonings and additives that are in modern, readily available pieces of jerky.

Modifying Jerky So Cats Can Eat it

Aside from the commercially available pet-oriented jerkies that can be bought at most pet stores, you may want to find a way to create jerky that your cat can eat. Maybe you are interested in preserving your own meats or maybe you want to make your own jerky in the first place and you don’t mind making some for your cat. 

The problem with most beef jerky that is meant for people is the fact that it is so heavily flavored with seasoning, salt, and additives. You will want to make sure that any jerky you make for your cat doesn’t have any of this.

While salt is an important part of the preservation process and most people can easily handle the amount of salt in jerky, cats are extremely sensitive to salt content. 

You should try to use as little salt as possible. If you can, you should try to use none at all if you are making your cat some jerky. Similarly, you should not be using other preservatives as these are also bad for cats. 

This will understandably take longer and it may not be to your taste as jerky; however, since it is for your cat, it will work out well.

What About Store-Bought Beef Jerky?

There are very, very few store-bought types of beef jerky, aside from ones specifically made for pets, that will be safe for cats to eat. If you are determined to look for them, here are some of the things you should pay attention to. 

  1. You will want to find beef jerky with as little salt content as possible since this is one of the biggest dangers of beef jerky for cats. 
  2. Additionally, if the ingredients of the beef jerky do not specify exactly what is in the ingredients (such as labeling it “natural flavoring”), then you should avoid it at all costs as it could contain garlic or onion powder. Garlic and onion powder are lethal to cats and should be avoided at all costs as well. 
  3. Beef jerkys for cats should have no additives, no artificial flavoring, and no preservatives in it.

Best Jerky for Cats

If you would like to give your pet cat a tasty jerky treat, here are some of the best available options:

What You Should Do if Your Cat Eats a Bag of Jerky

If your cat accidentally gets into a bag of jerky, consider getting in touch with a vet simply to make sure that you know what to do if your cat starts displaying signs that it has eaten something it shouldn’t. 

Stay with the cat and comfort it, as well as provide additional water that is easily accessible, since most store-bought beef jerky is too sodium-rich for a cat to safely eat.


More often than not, if you want to give your cat some beef jerky, your options will be to make it yourself where you can control the ingredients or to purchase a pet-oriented brand of jerky for your cat. 

In the end, what stops cats from being able to eat beef jerky isn’t the meat itself but what is added to the meat to make beef jerky taste good to people.

Lara Kitt

When we aren't scooping up droppings to ensure a luxurious litter box experience for our fur babies, we are writing all sorts of stuff about cats for your enjoyment and knowledge.

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