When I am enjoying my food and my cat starts meowing, it is hard to resist the temptation to hand her a bite. I love my cat, and if she wants to share my dinner, I’m happy to oblige. Unfortunately, human food is not designed for cats, and although the food we are eating may be safe and tasty to us, it can cause your cat a whole load of problems.
While this may be clear for things like chocolate which is well-known for upsetting our pet’s stomachs, other foods are less obvious. For example, cats cat meat and fish, so can cats eat hot dogs? This stick of meat may seem harmless, but it is actually completely different from the meat your cat should be getting in their diet.
In this article, I will run through the reasons why cats can’t eat hot dogs according to the experts, and how else you can treat your cat without causing any tummy upsets.
Why Can’t Cats Eat Hot Dogs?
If you ask a veterinarian, nutritionist, or anyone else in the know, they will tell you to avoid giving your cat hot dogs. Although cats are carnivores, not all meat is on par. For example, hot dogs are delicious to us, but would you want to tuck into a bowl of cat food for dinner? No… me neither!
A hot dog is very different to say a mouse or a bird that your cat may bring in; hot dogs are highly processed, whereas the meat cats eat in the wild is in its most basic and natural form. In fact, the wild meat that cats have evolved to eat over the years is completely different from the artificial and processed meat that makes up hot dog sausages.
To understand more, here are all the big differences between hot dogs and wild meat and why these weiners are so bad for our cats.
1. Hot Dogs Contain High Levels of Fat
One of the main issues with feeding your cat hot dogs is that they contain high levels of fats. In the wild, not many animals have high fat content and the meat is mostly lean. This means that a cat’s natural diet consists of higher protein and lower fat concentrations.
Feeding your cat fatty hot dogs can have two main issues. Firstly, your cat may struggle to digest the fat it contains. Their bodies and digestive systems are not designed to handle high levels of fat and they don’t have the same enzymes inside them as we do as humans. Trying to breakdown and process the food can therefore leave them feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
Secondly, foods that contain a lot of fat have the potential to cause weight gain and obesity. Whereas the occasional hot dog won’t make your cat gain weight, feeding them to your feline consistently without knowing the damage it can cause could contribute to weight gain.
If a cat is overweight or obese, they face a lot of health challenges. This includes an increased risk of diabetes, certain types of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. These could all contribute to a shorter lifespan. Additionally, the extra weight on the joints could move the onset of arthritis forward, causing your cat pain and discomfort throughout its life.
To prevent both of these issues, it is important to feed your cat a healthy diet that is comprised of the nutrients that need. For that reason, you shouldn’t feed your cat hot dogs.
2. Hot Dogs Have a High Sodium Content
Aside from high levels of fat, hot dogs also contain a lot of sodium – in other words, salt. Sodium is a key electrolyte in all bodily systems and the correct concentration of sodium ions in our fluids and cells is what controls the water content of our cells and keeps us hydrated.
Diets high in salt can be problematic for humans, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. However, when it comes to processing sodium, humans can still manage relatively large quantities and only diets with excessive amounts of sodium over a long period of time have any real health implications.
On the other hand, as sodium is not found in any of a cat’s natural food sources, their bodies are not designed to process it at all. Therefore, although the effects of high sodium diets in humans are bad, they are even more detrimental in cats, leading to potentially life-threatening situations.
Small amounts of sodium can cause your cat to become severely dehydrated, but if your cat continues to eat food high in sodium it can lead to sodium ion poisoning. If your cat has sodium ion poisoning, you may notice some of the following symptoms:
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- High body temperature
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Stress, anxiety, and depression
- Frequent tremors and seizures
If left unchecked, sodium poisoning can be fatal to your cat, so it is best to avoid feeding cats any foods with sodium in, especially foods containing extremely high levels such as hot dogs.
3. Hot Dogs Contain Preservatives & Chemicals
Unlike most meat sources we consume that are fresh, hot dogs are classified as long-life. To get food into a state where it will not degrade over time and be safe for consumption over longer periods, chemicals and preservatives are added to treat the food. Therefore, hot dogs contain far more preservatives than most of the food we eat.
In the case of hot dogs, sodium nitrates and sodium nitrites are commonly used to treat the food and increase its shelf-life. While our bodies have adapted to eating processed food, none of the food your cat eats in wild will contain these compounds. Plus, they also contribute to the high sodium levels found in hot dogs.
As people are becoming more aware of the chemicals found in their food, some manufacturers are now selling preservative-free hot dogs. However, because of the other issues associated with cats and hot dogs, these are still unsafe for your cat to eat and should be avoided.
4. Hot Dogs Come With Toppings
If you’re eating a hot dog, chances are you’ve garnished it with toppings to make it tastier and more delicious for you. But these toppings make hot dogs even more dangerous for your feline.
The two most popular hot dog toppings are ketchup and mustard, and both of these sauces are bad for your cat. Ketchup and mustard both contain salt which can upset your cat’s digestion and cause sodium poisoning, as mentioned earlier. Mustard additionally contains mustard seeds which can cause severe gastroenteritis leading to vomiting and diarrhea in felines.
If you’ve been even more lavish with your hot dog toppings and have added a relish that contains garlic or onions to your hot dog, then the food becomes even more dangerous. Garlic and onions are both toxic to cats can lead to poisoning. If your cat eats either of these things in high enough quantities, you will need to see a vet to prevent complications and fatalities.
5. Hot Dogs Contain Flavorings
Even if you are being “safe” and give your cat a plain hot dog that is free from toppings, many hot dogs have flavorings added in the manufacturing process. Common flavors are onion and garlic as these taste great for humans, but have the same issue as giving your cat a hot dog topped in onion relish.
Another common flavoring that is added is paprika. Again, this tastes fantastic to us but can cause your cat some tummy troubles. Paprika made from sweet peppers is unlikely to cause much damage, but the spicier variety made from capsaicin can cause your feline gastric issues.
In addition, the hot flavorings can cause oral distress for your cat as they cannot handle the spicy flavor. They may salivate excessively in response, or you may notice their eyes watering as they struggle to handle the heat.
Are All Hot Dogs Bad for Cats?
Sausage is one of the oldest forms of processed food, and the popular hot dog has evolved a lot throughout history. Today, you can purchase hot dogs made through different preparation processes and with different meats. So, are all hot dogs bad for cats? Or just some of them?
Is Preparation Important?
Meat itself isn’t bad for cats. After all, they are carnivores! In the wild, they eat meat such and mice and birds, and the meat found in cat food is commonly beef, chicken, fish, and even kidney and liver. If cats can happily digest meat, this means it must be something to do with the manufacturing process that makes hot dogs bad for your feline.
The typical process for making a hot dog is as follows:
- The chosen meat is cut into tiny pieces and mixed with selected spices, flavorings, and binding agents.
- This mixture is then forced into casings which are commonly made from cellulose, and the filled casings are sent to the smokehouse.
- The hot dogs will then be cured using nitrates and nitrites to increase their shelf-life and help them retain their color, and smoked to add flavor.
- The cellulose skin is stripped away and the hot dogs are packaged ready to be sold.
It is both the flavorings added in step 1 and the curing process in step 3 which means all hot dogs are unsafe for cats. Therefore, preparation is important and it is this process that actually makes hot dogs unsafe for cats to eat.
Although no hot dogs are good for cats, any “uncured” hot dogs are safer as these have not gone through the curing process and so will not contain as many harmful preservatives. However, the meat is still fatty and high in salt, making it a bad choice for your cat.
Does The Type of Meat Matter?
Hot dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and while traditionally hot dogs were made from pork or beef, hot dogs made from poultry are now commonly available to buy. Some also contain a mixture of two or more meats. Therefore, you may be wondering if all types of hot dogs are bad for cats or just specific types.
Unfortunately, regardless of what meat the hot dog is made from, it is the preparation that makes it dangerous for cats. Cats can happily and safely eat beef, pork, or chicken, but as soon as it goes through the preparation stages it becomes dangerous. As mentioned, it is the curing stage in particular that can cause eating hot dogs to have serious health implications for your cat.
That being said, poultry and white meat contain much lower levels of fat than red meat, and so an uncured chicken hot dog with no added flavorings and no toppings would be the safest option for your cat. However, this is still not recommended and you should treat your cat in other ways instead.
Can I feed My Cat a Cooked Hot Dog?
Some people also ask whether a cooked hot dog versus an uncooked hot dog is any better or worse for cats to eat. To help answer this question, I’ll start by looking at whether cats should be fed raw meat or cooked meat.
As humans, we cook meat to kill any bacteria and parasites that are on the surface so that we don’t get food poisoning or become sick. The heat used to cook meat also breaks down some of the bonds and makes it easier to digest, meaning we can extract more calories and nutrients from the meat. When cats eat cooked meat they also gain these benefits, and so feeding your cat cooked meat is a safe option.
However, if we look at wild cats, they always eat fresh raw meat – you won’t see a cat sat there lighting a fire and heating up its latest catch! Cat’s bodies are designed to handle raw meat, whereas we are more sensitive to it and can only cope with eating raw meat in certain situations, such as a steak tartare. Therefore, feeding your cat uncooked meat is also okay and perfectly safe.
That being said, whereas cats can digest raw meat more effectively than we can, cooked meat is still a safer option to ensure there are no bacteria and parasites present, as these could be found on the surface of raw meat.
But does any of this matter when we are talking about hot dogs? No – because hot dogs are extremely processed and contain high levels of fat, salt, and preservatives, not to mention additional flavourings and toppings which can cause harm, whether they given to your cat in the cooked or uncooked form is irrelevant. Either way, they’re bad.
What Should You Do If Your Cat Eats a Hot Dog?
Did you feed your cat a hot dog without realizing the dangers it can cause? Or perhaps they managed to sneak some from the kitchen worktop when you weren’t looking? If this has happened, don’t worry. Eating a small amount of hot dog weiners is unlikely to cause any major issues.
Obesity from eating hot dogs will only happen if your cat consumes them regularly, and so it is likely your cat will only suffer from slight discomfort, bloating, and potential nausea or sickness from eating a hot dog. You can help by comforting your cat and ensuring you provide your cat with plenty of water too to help with any related dehydration from high salt levels.
However, it is important that you also keep an eye out for the symptoms of sodium ion poisoning which has the potential to be fatal. The likelihood of your cat being poisoned by the hot dog depends on several factors. They will more likely suffer if they have eaten large quantities, if the hot dog is cured, and if there are additional onion and garlic flavorings which are both also toxic to cats.
The symptoms of sodium poisoning include excessive thirst, sickness and diarrhea, weakness and lethargy, seizures and tremors, and anxiety and depression. If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the vet immediately. Sodium ion poisoning can lead to coma and death in worst-case scenarios and so urgent treatment is required.
What Food Should Cats Eat?
So we all agree that is best to keep hot dogs off-limits, but what food should you be feeding your cat? And why is their diet so important?
Cats are carnivores, but they are what is known as “obligate carnivores”, meaning they only eat meat and rely on animal proteins to get essential nutrients into their diet. Without these animal sources to feed on, cats cannot function properly. In other words, your cat cannot be a vegetarian, and the type of meat they eat needs to contain the nutrients they need.
Why Do Cats Need to Eat Meat?
The two main nutrients that cats rely on meat for are Taurine and Arginine. These are both amino acids, the building blocks that make up all proteins. However, these two amino acids are special as they are only found in animal protein and cannot be synthesized by cats. Therefore, they are known as essential amino acids.
If cats don’t get these amino acids in their diets, they can get Taurine or Arginine deficiency. Taurine is essential for good heart health, as well as keeping their eyes, brains, nerves, and immune system functioning. If cats suffer from Taurine deficiency, the function of any of these organs and systems could be compromised.
On the other hand, Arginine removes ammonia from cat’s bodies. When ammonia cannot be removed, it can cause cats to suffer from weight loss, as well as vomiting and diarrhea, neurological problems, and in worst-case scenarios even death.
How Cat I Feed My Cat the Right Nutrients?
To ensure your cat is getting the nutrients they need, you should stick to feeding them cat food. Cat food is designed specifically for cats and so contains high quantities of both of these essential amino acids, helping to keep them happy and healthy. They also have the balance between the levels of protein, fat, and carbohydrates spot on and optimized for your feline.
Where possible, you should feed your cat food that is suited to their stage of life. For example, kitten food contains added nutrients to support growth. Similarly, senior cat food will contain more digestible protein sources as their digestive system will work less efficiently as they age, thus helping to ensure they can extract all the nutrients they need from their diet.
What Human Foods Can Cats Eat?
Most of your cat’s diet should consist of cat food so that they get the vital nutrients they need for healthy functioning and survival. However, from time to time, it is okay to share some human food with them, so long as they are feline-friendly options.
Lean & Unprocessed Meats
Unprocessed meat is a great option if you want to treat your kitty as it will have similar nutritional values to the meat they have evolved to eat in the wild. Also, lean meat is best as cats find it harder to process fats than proteins, and feeding large quantities of fatty meats can lead to obesity.
It should also be noted that although cats can digest raw meat, be sure to feed your cat cooked beef, chicken, or turkey. This can help prevent sickness from bacteria found on the meat. Also, never give your cat meat on the bone as they could choke, especially tiny chicken bones.
Cooked or Canned Fish
Fish is another good treat for cats that is relatively healthy. Fully of natural oils, feeding your cat fish can help to give them a glossy coat and healthy skin. However, fish should only be given to your cat occasionally as it does lack Vitamin E, meaning it could lead to a deficiency over time.
When feeding your cat fish, it must be cooked. Raw fish contains the enzyme thiaminase which breaks down Thiamine, one of the cat’s essential amino acids! However, cooking fish makes this enzyme dysfunctional, and so cooked fish is safe for cats to eat in moderation.
Canned fish is also fine, such as canned tuna or salmon. However, stick to canned fish in water and avoid fish stored in brine. Brine is highly salty and can cause sodium ion poisoning. Canned fish in oil should also be off-limits because oil is highly fatty.
Being an animal product, eggs also have high levels of healthy amino acids and proteins that are beneficial to your cat. Therefore, eggs are a great occasional treat if you want to feed your cat human food. Just be cautious to only feed your cat eggs every once in a while. They do contain a lot of calories and can lead to your cat being overweight or obese if you’re not careful.
Eggs also always need to have their shells removed and be fully cooked. Raw eggs contain salmonella which can make your cat sick. Plus, raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin which can bind to Vitamin B7 and prevent its absorption into the body. Cooked eggs, however, are safe.
Lastly, and the most surprising human food that you can feed your cat is oatmeal. Once again, oatmeal should be enjoyed only as a treat. Cats are meat eaters and so large quantities of oats can be difficult for them to digest. However, a little is fine and can bring some benefits to your cat’s diet.
Oats can actually be found in some cat foods as it contains both fiber and Vitamin B. Vitamin B is great for getting your cat’s energy levels up, whereas fiber helps with digestion. Oats also help your cat to feel fuller for longer.
When making oatmeal for your cat, always use water instead of milk. Believe it or not, many cats suffer from lactose intolerance and the milk in the oats can cause them to be bloated, uncomfortable, and even sick!
To summarize, although you may think you’re treating your cat by feeding them hot dogs, you could actually be causing them pain and discomfort, contributing to long-term health issues such as obesity, or even poisoning them thanks to the high sodium levels and flavorings! Therefore, do not feed your cat hot dogs, no matter the meat or preparation process used.
If you did want to treat your cat, human food you can feed them include lean and unprocessed cooked meats, cooked fish or canned fish stored in water, cooked eggs, or oatmeal made with water. All these should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, with cat food mainly being what your cat lives off.
Cats need to be fed the right diet so that they are healthy, so stick to this advice and offer the occasional treat and you’ll have one very happy kitty.