It doesn’t matter whether you’ve lived with a cat for a day or your entire life. You must already know that these adorable furballs have a love affair for meat.
For many pet parents, the mere fact that cats love meat is enough incentive to share all kinds of animal-derived products with their feline friends. That’s regardless of how the food was sourced and prepared.
However, even products that usually constitute a cat’s primary diet may prove more harmful than useful depending on how they’re prepared and served. And that brings us back to our focus question – can cats eat ham?
This article shall delve deep into the potential benefits and inherent risks of ham for cats. But first, let’s start by understanding what this food constitutes.
What Is Ham?
Ham refers to pork obtained from a leg cut and then preserved by curing. It’s one of the most popular meat varieties in the world.
There are numerous ham varieties, depending on the region. Examples include Westphalian ham and Spanish jamón.
Where Did The Word ‘Ham’ Come From?
The modern form of the word ‘ham’ derives from the Old English words ‘ham’ or ‘hom,’ which mean the bend or hollow part of the knee. These words further derive from a related Germanic root word that denotes crookedness.
The term ‘ham,’ with respect to the cut of meat obtained from the hind leg of a pig, began to be used around the 15th century.
How Is Ham Manufactured?
Ham is manufactured using two main curing methods – dry curing and wet curing. Dry curing involves treating raw pork by salting while wet curing uses brining.
Besides salting and brining, ham may also be cured using smoking and the final product seasoned. Some manufacturers also use smoking in addition to dry or wet curing.
How Is Ham Consumed?
Ham is typically sliced and used as a filling for sandwiches and other similar foods. But like all meat products, the food can be consumed in several other ways.
Can Cats Eat Ham?
Cats are obligate carnivores. Therefore, their diet should consist mostly of animal products.
Now, ham is an animal-derived product, which makes it something you’d naturally want to share with your feline friend.
However, it’s important to note that ham is processed meat. And just like humans, cats shouldn’t consume too much processed products.
The various chemicals used in curing ham can harm cats if consumed excessively. Salt, in particular, has proven potentially toxic to cats and dogs.
Long-term exposure to salted foods can trigger kidney failure and a host of related complications. And it’s only worse considering that ham usually contains many more ingredients that cats shouldn’t have in their diets.
How Might Ham Benefit Your Cat?
1. Ham Is High In Protein
Ham is inherently meat. The product is high in animal protein, which happens to be the most important nutrient that cats require in their diets.
Protein acts as the building block for a cat’s muscles and tissues, as well as bones, coat, and even fur. The nutrient is also famous for inducing feelings of satiation for longer after meals. Therefore, it can help manage your cat’s weight by reducing appetite and hunger pangs.
2. Ham Is Loaded With Amino Acids
Amino acids are a special group of proteins that serve other useful purposes besides acting as the foundation for muscle and tissue development. These nutrients are also necessary for stabilizing moods. Therefore, ham and any diet rich in amino acids might help relieve various stress and anxiety disorders in cats.
One specific amino acid known as taurine aids musculoskeletal development, heart & cardiovascular system, digestive system, and vision.
3. Ham Is Rich in Other Useful Minerals and Vitamins
In addition to protein, ham also provides decent amounts of several essential vitamins and minerals. These include all B vitamins, zinc, iron, and phosphorus. Each of these vitamins and minerals plays certain crucial roles in a cat’s body.
For instance, phosphorus supports the healthy development of bones, teeth, and vital organs like the liver and kidneys. The mineral also maintains the central nervous system (CNS).
Zinc promotes a thick and shiny coat while the various B-complex vitamins in ham support the heart, brain, and central nervous system.
Do Cats Like Ham?
Not only can cats eat ham. They like it too. Cats are naturally drawn to meaty flavors. The mere fact that ham is meat means your kitty will readily find the food appealing even if snacking on it for the first time.
However, there are benefits and drawbacks to cats’ natural affinity for ham.
On the one hand, you can use ham to mask the flavor of your kitto’s prescription meds. But on the other hand, your cat’s natural liking for ham means that the animal can easily help himself to more than his fair share of this processed product. And that’s when things can quickly turn nasty, as highlighted below.
How Might Ham Hurt Your Cat?
a) Ham Is Laden With Salt
Salt is the primary chemical used in curing ham. But the same compound can be potentially harmful to cats.
Excess salt consumption could trigger a medical condition in cats known as sodium ion poisoning. The disease mainly attacks the kidneys. Common symptoms include high water drive followed by frequent urination, fatigue, inappetence, rapid weight loss, and gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea.
Without urgent treatment, sodium ion poisoning can cause other more severe symptoms. These include seizures, elevated heart rate, labored breathing, coma, and finally death.
b) Ham May Contain Harmful Seasonings
Salt isn’t the only potential problem with ham for cats. The meat might also contain other seasonings considered toxic to felines, such as garlic and onion.
Exposure to garlic and onion (or any spice in the allium family) can cause Heinz-body anemia in cats. This is a severe form of anemia that results from the rapid destruction of red blood cells. The disease produces anemia-like symptoms, such as fever, paleness, and fatigue.
c) Ham Is Worryingly High In Fat
Ham is obtained from one of the leanest parts of a pig’s body – the knee. However, the meat could still contain too much fat than your cat’s body can handle.
Fat is the biggest risk factor for unintentional weight gain in animals. It’s also linked to various secondary complications, such as diabetes, pancreatitis, and heart disease.
d) Other Risks
Ham is processed meat. Therefore, it doesn’t really contain the same nutritional value as unprocessed pork.
There are also risks of bacterial contamination to beware of. That’s especially if feeding raw ham to your cat. Raw ham could harbor numerous bacteria, including salmonella, Escherichia coli, and listeria. Your kitto might develop gastroenteritis from ingesting these microorganisms.
Last but not least, ham bones are a choking hazard. If swallowed, the bones might further lead to gastrointestinal blockage.
Ham may offer several health benefits to cats. But there are also risks to beware of.
Fortunately, you can avoid the potential adverse effects of ham by serving the meat to your cat in small portions. It’s also best to stick to high-quality, unprocessed ham.