How Much Human Food Is Too Much to Give Cats as Treats?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, shares information on how much ham cat's should eat, and how to calculate what percentage of treats should make up a cat's diet.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: March 30, 2012, 12 a.m. EST

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Q: My fiancé insists on giving our 15-pound, 8-year-old Domestic Shorthair cat Squeaks one, two, maybe three slices of cured ham a day. Our cat enjoys the ham very much and can be quite vocal about it. I object to this particular food because it has a lot of added salt and sugar. I think our cat should eat cat food with an occasional slice as a treat.  

This habit has gone on for most of the cat’s life. Needless to say, my concerns fall on deaf ears. At least Squeaks also eats 3-6 ounces of cat food as well, depending on whether he’s caught a meal himself. How good/bad is ham for a cat, and how much constitutes a “treat?”  I can’t help feeling this food is harming him.

A: I ran your question by my colleague Sally Perea, a board certified veterinary nutritionist at P&G Pet Care, and here’s what she told me: You are right to be concerned about both the type and amount of treats and human food that you feed to your cat daily.  

If fed in limited amounts, the additional sodium content in most ham meats is OK for healthy cats. For cats with any history of kidney disease, heart disease or high blood pressure, however, high sodium treats and human foods should be avoided. To stay within a reasonable amount for daily treats, a good rule of thumb is that the daily treats should provide no more than 10% of the daily caloric intake.

For example, if your cat eats 250 kcals per day, the amount of ham should be no more than a 25 kcal portion per day. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, regular sliced ham has 163 kcals/100 grams or 46 kcals/28 g slice. So, for most cats, this would mean limiting the amount fed to no more than one half of a slice per day (or about 15 grams).
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How Much Human Food Is Too Much to Give Cats as Treats?

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Reader Comments

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

7/4/2012 11:43:50 PM

Excellent advice.

Cat Editor    Irvine, CA

4/9/2012 11:27:34 AM

Linda from West New York, Thank you for your question on how to feed your 1-year-old Russian Blue. First of all, I wouldn’t add any salt to your cat’s food. Also, it’s OK to give your cat a little bit of plain meat along with her canned food, but feeding your cat people food over a commercial cat food might cause a taurine deficiency, which can cause serious health problems. To prepare her for her cat hotel stay, gradually decrease the amount of chicken and salmon you are cooking for her and increase the amount of canned food, in which chicken and salmon are the #1 ingredients. Since you know for sure she is eating her dry food, make sure the boarding facility gives her that in addition to her canned food. Wishing you and her a long, happy and healthy life!

Jennifer    Norfolk, VA

4/8/2012 9:50:53 PM

I think the main point here is that if you want to, giving your cat the occasional treat (within reason, not talking chocolate or candy bars or anything) is okay, but the vast majority of their diet should be food made for them. I fed one of my old cats cheese every big once in a while when I was young, but my mother always made sure I didn't go overboard with it. :)

Drekka    Glenn Falls, NY

4/8/2012 9:28:42 AM

Ham to a cat? Not good!

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