Can I Give My Cat Bacon?
Regardless of your philosophical stance on bacon, if you are a pet owner, sooner or later you are going to find yourself faced with a tough choice to make. You will sit down to a meal, lift a slice of bacon from your plate, and notice a pair of big yellow eyes staring up at you from underneath the table. If your cat is more subtle, they may sit down and lick their lips. If they are more aggressive, they will probably meow obnoxiously. Either way, you need to answer the same question: can cats have bacon?
The answer may surprise you: yes, cats can eat bacon as a rare treat. Though this food is one of the worst whole foods we as humans can eat, it is actually more suited to our cats than many of our other indulgences—think high-carbohydrate sweets like cakes, cookies, and candy. Bacon should not make up a substantial portion of your cat’s diet, but it is a safe, easy, and enjoyable treat.
So, why is bacon a more reasonable treat than other unhealthy people foods like ice cream or cake? Just like their big cat cousins, our house cats are, biologically, obligate carnivores—their bodies have evolved to meet all of their nutritional needs by eating exclusively meat. Since cats have historically survived by eating nothing but prey animals, their bodies have stopped producing many of the chemicals required to process high-carbohydrate plant foods, namely amylase. Their inability to digest carbohydrates also explains their inability to taste sweet foods, which is why your favorite candy may be met with a disinterested tail flick.
Bacon, obviously, is meat. From a macronutrient perspective, it’s nothing but protein and fat, which means there is no carbohydrate to upset your cat’s stomach. It’s also a better option than dairy foods such as ice cream, because the vast majority of cats are lactose intolerant. Bacon is the sort of junk food that your cat would come up with if they could put on a chef’s hat and head into the kitchen.
That does not, however, mean that bacon is healthy for cats—not in the slightest! While bacon contains a modest amount of protein (about 3g per slice), it is also extremely high in salt and unhealthy fats. While the fat in the pig flesh is not too much of a problem (your cat is a carnivore, after all!), the added oil involved in frying is another story. Just like humans, cats who eat too much fat are at risk of becoming overweight and obese. While fat cats may be cute, they are rarely healthy in the long term.
Things to Keep in Mind
The other big problem with bacon is the high salt content. While we all love salty foods, cats cannot handle nearly as much of it as humans can. This means that, if they eat too much bacon, your cat can suffer severe adverse health effects. In the long term, salt increases your cat’s blood pressure and puts them at risk of heart attack and stroke. In the short term, salt poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, extreme thirst, lethargy, and even death. If you think your cat has consumed too much salt, take them to the vet immediately.
While bacon is a perfectly safe cat treat, it is still junk food. Just as you or I would not eat bacon every day, your cat should not eat bacon every day. Bacon should be used as a rare treat, a celebratory food, or a way to sneak medication down your cat’s throat. Just make sure all pork is thoroughly cooked—undercooked bacon may carry parasites.