Can Cats Eat Hot Dogs? What You Need to Know

Most cats love to share a bit of human food with their owners. You get the loving looks, the long stares, begrudging you every mouthful until you offer them small amounts. But as a pet owner, the job is always to know whether what you are eating is safe for your feline friend. In this case, we want to consider whether cats can eat hot dogs. After all, they are obligate carnivores designed to eat meat, right? The answer is more complex than that, so let’s take a look.

Can Cats Eat Hot Dogs?

If you are enjoying a nice hot dog watching the game or at the BBQ, it might seem harmless to slip a little to your cat. After all, it can be a good idea to give variety in a cat’s diet, and they like to eat a lot of meat. But in the case of hot dogs, this isn’t a good idea. 

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The main reason is that cats are designed to eat unprocessed meat, and a hot dog is very much the opposite. Most of us realize that eating too many hot dogs isn’t good for humans, and the main reasons they are bad for cats are the same.

Too Much Fat

Top of the list of reasons hot dogs aren’t ideal for cat owners to treat their pets is that the processed meat contains too much fat. Cats’ digestive systems aren’t designed to handle large quantities of fat, so they can have problems moving it through their digestive tracts. They don’t even have the same types of enzymes in their bodies that humans do that are designed to break fats down.

​Like humans, too much fat can lead to an increase in weight. The cat’s body isn’t designed to carry extra weight, which can lead to a host of health problems ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes and heart disease to some types of cancer. Plus, it can cause joint issues such as arthritis that restricts movement and can even shorten their lifespan.

Too Much Salt

Another big reason to avoid feeding your cat hot dogs is that they contain a lot of sodium – salt. Sodium is an essential mineral for the body, and we use it in many ways, including keeping us hydrated. But too much sodium can be a problem for humans and lead to a range of health problems. In cats, high sodium levels are even more of an issue because salt isn’t a natural part of their diet. 

Even small amounts of sodium can lead to dehydration with problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as a high body temperature and increased heart and blood pressure rates. Long-term problems from excess sodium can include stress, anxiety and, depression, even tremors and seizures. It can even lead to sodium-ion poisoning, which can be fatal to cats.

Preservatives and Chemicals

​Unlike fresh meat such as raw chicken, hot dogs are classified as long-life products, and that’s because they have preservatives in them that make them last longer. In fact, they tend to have more of these chemicals than most of the food we eat. These are commonly sodium nitrate, which is a type of salt. So this leads back to the problem of having too much salt in them.

You can now sometimes find plain hot dog products that don’t use preservatives, as these are not healthy for humans either. Be aware that these still aren’t a good option for your furry friend, and you are better off offering them chicken breast or some lean meat than even a hot dog without preservatives.

Toppings and Flavorings

The final reason hot dogs are a terrible idea for cats is that they come with toppings and sometimes flavorings. Tasty for humans but often not ideal for your cat, even in small portions.

Ketchup and mustard are two of the most popular food items to add to a hot dog, and neither of these makes it to the list of things that are good for cats. Both contain high salt levels that can lead to sodium ion poisoning. Mustard seeds also cause severe gastroenteritis in cats, leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Other popular toppings, such as garlic and onions, can be worse as both are toxic to cats. Eaten in enough quantities, they can lead to serious health complications and even death.

Even if you have a simple hot dog with no toppings, there are often flavorings in the meat that you may not realize are present but are added to many processed foods. With hot dogs, ingredients such as garlic and onion are often added during the curing process, which, as mentioned, are toxic to cats. Another is paprika, which can lead to stomach issues and excessive salivating as they can’t cope with the heat of the spice.

Can Cats Eat Cooked Hot Dogs?

People often ask if cats can eat cooked hot dogs, but the answer still remains ‘no’ because the things that make them unhealthy and even dangerous for cats are still present.

We cook meat to ensure we kill harmful bacteria and parasites that may have built up on it during processing and because we can digest it easier once cooked. However, a cat’s digestive system is designed to process raw meat, so they don’t need to worry about these things in the same way we do.

However, a cooked hot dog still comes with the issues that a raw one does – high-fat content, high levels of sodium, and the potential for other ingredients that can be toxic. This also applies if different meat is used apart from pork. That’s because the meat isn’t the problem; it is the other ingredients added during processing. So even tiny pieces of cooked hot dog can lead to issues in your feline companion.

What Happens If My Cat Eats Hot Dogs?

We’ve all been there; you have a little bit of hot dog left in the hot dog bun, you take your eyes off it for a moment, and the cat steals the meat and runs off, eating it before you can stop them. Cats’ carnivore instincts don’t tell them when meat isn’t the best for them!

Eating a small part of the occasional hot dog isn’t going to have a massive impact on your cat. The problems inside cats’ bodies come from eating these things on a regular basis. Because things like sodium and fat aren’t in a cat’s natural diet, they can build up and lead to health issues. But there’s no need to worry if they give themselves the occasional treat by stealing a small piece of hot dog from your plate.

Final Thoughts on Can Cats Eat Hot Dogs?

The safest option when it comes to hot dogs is to aim for your cat, not to get them at all. While a single bite of a hot dog isn’t going to be harmful to them, the best way to keep clear of issues such as the high sodium content that come with a processed hot dog is to ensure they don’t get the chance to eat it at all.

If they do, provide plenty of water is around so they don’t get dehydrated from the salt. Then in most cases, your cat will be fine, and you can continue feeding them their usual healthy food.

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