Chorizo has been trending in the human food world, with chorizo options appearing everywhere from Chipotle to Blaze Pizza. When we bring home chorizo, our cats may go wild at the tantalizing smell of the ground pork sausages (if it’s traditional chorizo), but it’s not necessarily safe to feed our cats everything we put in our gobs.
Chorizo isn’t safe to feed cats because it’s usually made with ground pork sausages, full of fat and spices. Vegan chorizo is traditionally made with tofu, but even this shouldn’t be fed to cats because the spices mixed into the chorizo to help it mimic the taste of pork chorizo can make it unsuitable for cat consumption.
Cat Nutrition: What Do They Eat?
Science refers to cats as “obligate carnivores” or “hypercarnivores.” This term identifies creatures with a wild diet of at least 70% animal proteins. In the wild, cats will hunt other small animals, and they consume pretty much all of their prey, including the bones. Because of this dietary evolution, cats have fewer of the necessary enzymes to break down plant matter and turn it into nutrients. They get some nutrients when they ingest plant matter, but those sources of sustenance aren’t as nutrient-rich as they are for herbivorous or omnivorous animals.
In captivity, cats have retained this dietary need and will need to be fed a diet that consists of primarily animal proteins; cats can’t be vegetarian or vegan. However, that doesn’t mean that every meat product we provide ourselves is suitable for consumption.
Foods made for humans are often mixed with spices, and meats are often cured with salt to help them stay fresh. The latter can be especially dangerous for cats with a very low salt intake threshold and quickly become sick when fed too much salt. Salty foods like cured meat should be avoided as best as possible when providing for your cats. Because pork chorizo is made with pork sausages, it has a much higher sodium content than is appropriate for a cat’s diet.
Vegan chorizo is usually made with soy protein such as tofu. This is also not appropriate for your cat’s diet. Vegan chorizo still contains the same spices and is generally salted like pork chorizo to best mimic the taste. Skip the vegan chorizo when it comes to cats as well.
Feeding Cats Meat Safely
Since cats are intended to eat a steady diet of meat products, feeding our cats some table scraps will cross almost any cat parent’s mind at some point. However, table scraps fall into the same pitfalls as any other food cooked for human consumption—like chorizo—where the real problem is the way they’re prepared.
Most humans don’t particularly like to eat unseasoned meats since they don’t have a massive amount of flavor on their own. If you want to feed your cat a little bit of the meat you bought, you’ll have to cook it separately from your portion. When cooking for cats, you’ll also want to avoid feeding them anything that has been oiled. Oil is very high in fat and calories and very low in nutrients.
While raw diets have become very trendy amongst pet parents, even the most ardent supporters of raw diets recommend against feeding your cat raw meats from the grocery store. Most raw cat foods have been sterilized using high-pressure processing — the same process used to sterilize guacamole! — to avoid bringing any pathogens to your pet’s doorstep.
Is High-Pressure Processing Effective?
High-Pressure Processing uses pressure to kill pathogens in food. It’s trendy for sterilizing fresh foods like guacamole. To achieve sterilization, the product is submerged in water and subjected to 87,000 pounds of pressure, many times greater than that at the bottom of the ocean. This high-pressure environment isn’t survivable for most microbes that inhabit our surface world with us, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
The pressure is held on the product for three minutes which sterilizes the product leaving it free of pathogens. Studies show that High-Pressure Processing is just as effective as heat processing and only a bit less effective than irradiation when it comes to killing pathogens. It’s also been shown to improve the shelf life of foods processed this way, given that the packaging has not been opened.
However, High-Pressure Processing lacks a “kill step” to destroy the pathogens. Some pathogens, like those responsible for botulism, are resistant to high pressure and could still be present in the food after High-Pressure Processing.
How to Sterilize Meat at Home
High-Pressure Processing also can’t be replicated at home, which means it’s not an attainable standard for pet parents who want to feed their pets meat from the grocery store. The most accessible sterilization method pet parents can employ is heat and cooking meats.
Most sources on feeding your pets household foods will recommend that you provide your pets with meats that have been baked or boiled. Baking the food can kill the bacteria and cook the food evenly without necessitating any oils.
Just like when cooking for yourself, you want to make sure that the meat is cooked thoroughly before feeding it to your cats. This will eliminate any pathogens that might find their way to the meat before reaching your home. Heat also contains that “kill step” that High-Pressure Processing lacks. It kills and eradicates the pathogens that are present in the food.
Can You Make Cat “Chorizo?”
If you want to feed your cat some pork from the grocery store, you’ll want to use uncured ground meats or meat cuts. Some cooked ground pork or a cut-up pork chop would be an appropriate occasional food to feed your cat.
Cats need a variety of nutrients in their diets. While they get most of their nutrients from meat, every meat product we shovel into our faces is not appropriate to feed them. Pet parents need to be proactive about feeding their cats appropriate foods for the best health outcomes for their cats. Chorizo may not be appropriate for your cat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t whip up a little kitchen miracle for your cat once in a while with other, more suitable ingredients!