Can Cats Eat Hot Dogs? (Solved & Explained!)

It’s a beautiful sunny day and you are ready to fire up the grill and cook hot dogs for your family. As you’re honing your skills as a grill master, you look down to see your cat staring at you longingly, begging for one of those chargrilled dogs. Are hot dogs safe for your cat to eat?

As a general rule, cats should not eat hot dogs, cooked or raw. While grazing on the hot dog won’t kill your cat, it can cause gastrointestinal distress and other issues. Unlike wild meats that are in many cats’ diets, hot dogs are highly processed and contain many ingredients that can be harmful to your feline friend. 

Keep reading for a closer look into why your cat should not eat hot dogs. 

hot dogs and sausages on grill

Can Cats Eat Hot Dogs?

Many pet owners like to share foods they enjoy with their pets, and cats are no exception. It’s difficult not to give your feline companion a tiny nibble, especially when they stare up at you with those hungry eyes. After all, if it’s safe for you, it must be safe for them too, right? Wrong.

Despite the fact that we, as humans, often eat foods that aren’t very nutritious for us, like hot dogs, our bodies have systems for breaking down processed foods. Your cat does not. 

While a hot dog may seem like a harmless stick of meat, no worse than the occasional bird or rat your cat drags in, it is actually very different from anything she would naturally find in her diet. 

Why Should Cats Not Eat Hot Dogs?

Cats are carnivores, as well as skilled hunters, as many cat owners have experienced first-hand. To you, eating a dead rat or pigeon probably seems appalling, and eating a hot dog seems like a safer, healthier choice for your cat. After all, hot dogs don’t carry diseases as rats and pigeons do. 

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However, the meat your cat eats in the wild is fundamentally different from the processed meat in a hot dog. The human body has evolved to be able to digest the processed foods that we eat today. Because cats do not regularly eat processed foods, their bodies do not have the same capabilities. 

Furthermore, a hot dog is not structurally similar to other meats we eat, such as steak or chicken. It’s actually a combination of several different animal parts mechanically separated from the bone, as well as numerous preservatives and chemicals. 

What’s In A Hot Dog That Is Harmful To My Cat?

In a nutshell, hot dogs are made out of the following:

  • Base protein, usually pork or beef
  • Lots of salt
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Spices (varies based on the brand)
  • Starch
  • Corn syrup
  • Beef or chicken stock

At a glance, it’s clear that hot dogs are not designed for cats to eat. Particularly concerning are the levels of salt, corn syrup, starch, and spices that hot dogs contain, as these are not ingredients that you would find in any type of cat food. In fact, if consumed in large amounts, it could poison your cat. 

Keep reading for more on what’s in a hot dog that is harmful to cats. 

Hot Dogs Contain Way Too Much Sodium For A Cat’s Diet.

Too much sodium in a cat’s diet can be even more detrimental than it is in humans. Any amount of salt in a cat’s diet will cause dehydration to some extent. In most cases, this can be remedied by simply drinking water. However, excessive salt intake can lead to hypernatremia (salt poisoning) in cats. 

Hot Dogs Contain Nitrates and Nitrates That Cats Cannot Digest.

Manufacturers frequently add nitrates and nitrites to the processed meats used to make hot dogs. The addition of nitrates and nitrites gives hot dogs a meat-like appearance by coloring them red or pink. It also extends the shelf life of hot dogs by limiting the formation of hazardous bacteria.

Furthermore, the amount of these compounds in hot dogs cannot be metabolized by a cat’s digestive tract, making hot dog consumption exceedingly harmful for cats.

Hot Dogs Contain Seasonings And Artificial Flavors That Are Harmful To Cats.

Manufacturers season hot dogs with onion and garlic to make them tastier and more appetizing to humans. We also typically serve hot dogs topped with condiments like ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, and onions. While these toppings and seasonings make hot dogs more delicious for us, they make them more unhealthy, and even fatal, for your feline friend.

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While mustard can cause serious gastrointestinal disorders in cats, onions and garlic toxic to cats in even small amounts. 

Hot Dogs Have Too Much Fat For A Cat’s Diet. 

Like humans, cats need some amounts of fats to remain healthy. However, the fat content in hot dogs are in excess of what your cat’s body can digest. According to the US Department of Agriculture, an average plain hot dog in a bun contains 18.6 grams of fat and 11.4 grams of protein.

Due to your cat’s body structure and composition, they need more proteins than fats in their diet. A hot dog’s high fat content can cause an increased risk of heart disease, indigestion, and obesity in cats. Consequently, you should avoid letting your feline friend nibble off your plate at the next barbecue.  

Can Stray Cats Eat Hot Dogs?

The stray cat down the street may have a stronger stomach and eat lesser quality foods than your cat, who exclusively eats wet and dry foods developed specifically for their needs. However, eating hot dogs can produce the same complications in stray cats as it does in house cats. 

Realistically, if a stray cat has to choose between starving and eating a hot dog found in the trash, the hot dog is better than nothing. 

Final Thoughts: Can Cats Eat Hot Dogs?

At the end of the day, you, as the pet owner, must make your own choices about your pet’s life. However, if you want to help your cat live their healthiest life, hot dogs should not be a component of their diet.