In the past decade, the word “spam” has earned a negative connotation as unsolicited and unwanted email or marketing calls. The term came from a product that has been both bullied and beloved for nearly a century. Spam, the ham-based product that can be eaten straight from the can or prepared in many ways, has been at the center of many jokes over the years. As much as people poke fun, however, the product has stood the test of time and is still popular almost one hundred years since its creation.
Many cat owners have experienced eating a quiet meal on the couch in front of a movie and having a small paw gently reach up and snag a morsel from the plate. Unfortunately, our best friends don’t know if they’re retrieving a treat that is healthy for them or not, so we have to know what to do if they manage to grab something unexpected.
Fried, cubed, or served with pineapple, Spam can be used similarly to ham. After being served to GIs in World War II, Spam remained quite popular in Hawaii. Spam even inspired a famous Monty Python sketch that became the musical Spamalot, adapted from the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Can Cats Eat Spam?
In a word, yes. If a cat eats a small amount of Spam, he should be alright. He may have some digestive disturbances or be thirsty, but Spam is not toxic to cats. Spam is not suitable for a regular feline diet.
What Is Spam?
Spam is a processed meat product first introduced in 1937 when the country had been in the throes of the Great Depression for nearly a decade. Hormel produced Spam to meet the need for a low-cost meat product. It is still popular today, even if it brings the occasional chuckle when mentioned. Spam is made of pork with ham meat added, salt, water, potato starch, and sodium nitrate, a common preservative used in cured meats.
Is Spam Good For Cats?
Processed meat has different characteristics than unprocessed l meat. Even in human diets, processed meats have different effects on the body than unprocessed meats. There are slightly more calories and fat and less protein and cholesterol per serving than unprocessed meat. The most significant difference and health concern is salt. Processed meat has four times more salt and non-salt preservatives than unprocessed meat. This increases the incidence of cardiovascular problems in humans.
Excess salt does pose a threat to your cat’s health. Although it would be unlikely for your cat to ingest a toxic amount of salt from a commercially prepared diet alone, there are other ways your curious feline could accidentally take in a poisonous amount of salt. As little as a teaspoon of salt could be dangerous to your cat. Aside from his food, cats could swallow a toxic dose from items such as seawater (don’t try to induce vomiting with sea water), homemade salt play dough, livestock mineral blocks, or salt lamps. While Spam alone probably won’t cause acute salt poisoning, eating Spam over a long period of time will definitely put your cat’s sodium intake over the recommended amount for him to be healthy.
The effects of true salt poisoning in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, excessive thirst, excessive drinking, weakness, trembling that may begin in the face, stiffness, rapid breathing, convulsions, coma, and kidney damage. If you suspect salt poisoning, call your vet immediately for help. Be prepared to take your cat and a sample of the ingested material to the vet immediately.
My Cat Just Ate Spam. What Do I Do?
If your cat has eaten Spam, the first thing to do is assess how much he has eaten and whether or not he’s showing any signs or symptoms of discomfort. Ingesting a small to moderate amount of Spam may cause some intestinal discomfort but likely won’t cause serious harm. If you see any symptoms similar to those of salt poisoning, call your veterinarian immediately. Don’t try to induce vomiting on your own.
Feline Friendly Alternatives
If your cat loves people food, there are safe alternatives you can offer him. If it’s your meal he wants you’re willing to share, he can safely enjoy a few bites of a healthy, seasoning free fish like salmon or tuna. Most natural meats are safe in small amounts so long as they aren’t cooked with spices, oils, or salt.
Treats made specifically for cats are available online and from your local pet store. Cat treats should only be fed on occasion and are not a complete diet, but treats are made with supplements that can augment a balanced diet. In addition to tasty treats, you can buy treats with specific purposes, such as cleaning your cat’s teeth, supporting urinary health, and holding medication to make it more palatable.
If your feline friend happens to ingest a few bites of Spam, he should be just fine. If you want to be able to share dinner with him more frequently, consider offering bites of natural meat thoroughly cooked without spices or oils. Even then, a bite is enough. For his basic everyday diet, choose a wet or dry or fresh commercial cat food that meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards.
The best treat you can give your cat is time with you. Whether he prefers to lie on the back of the couch as you watch TV in the evenings or wants to chase the toy mouse you throw, the gift of attention is the best gift of all. Time spent brushing your cat gently not only strengthens the bond between you but leaves his coat healthy and glowing. If you choose to feed cat treats, limit the number per day to help him stay fit and active.