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Can Cats Eat Deli Meat (Lunch Meat)? What You Need to Know!

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

deli meat and a knife

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Dr. Nia Perkins

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Deli meat is a tasty part of daily lunches for many people. We also know that cats enjoy meat. So you may have wondered if you can share the deli meat from your lunch sandwich with your cat. It’s important to talk about the benefits and risks associated with giving your cat deli meat before you try it.

Avoid feeding deli meat (lunch meat) to your cat. Here’s what you need to know about feeding deli meat to cats.

Can Cats Eat Deli Meat?

Deli meat is not ideal for cats for a few reasons. In very small quantities, most lean deli meats can be safe for your cat to consume, but it’s best to avoid feeding it to your cat.

Deli meat contains high levels of sodium for preservation purposes. Even in humans, this isn’t ideal, but for cats, high amounts of sodium can be dangerous. Cats are much smaller than humans, so the sodium in a whole piece of deli meat would negatively impact a cat more than it would a human.

Most deli meat also contains sodium nitrate, which is a preservative. Some studies in humans have indicated that sodium nitrate consumption may damage blood vessels by leading to atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries. Although this condition is very rare in cats, it’s possible that this preservative can have the same impact on a cat’s cardiovascular system.

Seasonings like onion and garlic may be added to deli meat, both of which are toxic to cats. Some meats have seasonings listed as “seasonings” or “flavors”, which makes it nearly impossible to know what you’re really giving your cat sometimes.

plate full of deli meat
Image Credit: PxHere

Are There Better Alternatives to Give to My Cat?

There are lots of great options you can offer to your cat as a treat that are safer and healthier alternatives to deli meat. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they love meat of almost any kind. You can offer your cat lean meats in small quantities as a treat. Chicken, turkey, and fish are great options that most people already have in their kitchen. Make sure to only offer meats that are cooked without oil, salt, and seasonings.

an orange cat eating food from a bowl
Image Credit: Olga Kazanovskaia, Shutterstock

What are the Best Foods to Feed to My Cat?

Commercial pet foods formulated to AAFCO standards are the best option for your cat. Commercial treats are also a great option because they are formulated with the nutritional needs of cats in mind. By feeding commercial cat food and treats, you can know that you are giving your cat something safe for them and nutritionally sound.

It’s always a good idea to talk to your cat’s veterinarian to discuss non-commercial food and treats you may offer to your cat. Your cat’s vet knows your cat’s medical needs and history, so they’ll be able to help guide you into making an informed decision that will support your cat’s highest level of health.

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In Conclusion

Deli meat is not an ideal food to offer to your cat. A tiny bite or two on occasion is unlikely to cause an issue, but there are many options that are far better for your cat than deli meat. Deli meat is packed full of sodium and sodium nitrate, both of which can stress the cardiovascular system. It can also contain seasonings and flavorings that could be toxic to your cat, like onions and garlic. Sometimes, you may not even know your deli meat contains these seasonings, so it’s best to avoid it altogether to keep your cat safe.

If you’re interested in feeding meat to your cat, stick to non-processed, fresh foods that are plain and cooked without oil and other additives. Avoid giving your cat meat that has been seasoned. Lean meats, like chicken and fish, are the best options to offer to your feline friend. When in doubt, talk to your cat’s veterinarian before offering them something. They are a fantastic resource to ensure you are giving your cat the best foods to keep them happy and healthy.

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Featured Image Credit: PxHere

Brooke Billingsley

Authored by

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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