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).