Among all the meats that are fed raw to dogs and cats, pork has received the most undeserved bad reputation. Our veterinarian colleague shared with us that her clients are afraid to give pork to their pets because they all have heard something from somewhere about pork being bad.
But what is the truth? Can you give pork to your cat? Is raw pork dangerous to pets? And if you feed it, are there things to keep an eye on?
ANSWER: There is no reason to exclude pork from your cat’s diet. You’ll be surprised at how many commercial cat foods contain pork. Cat nutrition organization feline-nutrition.org lists pork among allowed meats for raw feeding.
We don’t say that pork is the best—it isn’t. One could determine this from the fact that wild cats do not hunt wild boars. At the same time, it shouldn’t be viewed with suspicion.
IMPORTANT: Your cat’s diet must also include other meats and animal organs. Feeding pure muscle meat exclusively is almost as bad as not giving meat to your cat at all.
Ham and other salted meats shouldn’t be given to cats—not because of pork, but because of sodium. A medium slice of ham, for example, exceeds an average cat’s daily sodium requirement by six times.
What are the concerns when feeding pork to your cat?
While pork is relatively safe for cats, there are some concerns about raw pork as a part of a cat’s diet—and in a dog’s diet, too, for that matter. Things that you should pay attention to are trichinosis, high fat content in pork, and possible allergic reactions.
The most common reason why people are scared of raw pork is a roundworm parasite, trichinosis, which can be ingested by eating contaminated meat, such as raw pork or wild game.
Trichinosis (often called trichinellosis) is a major health hazard for humans, though not that major for cats and dogs. To be more precise, it used to be a big concern in the mid-20th century, but it isn’t now in most parts of the world, since a lot has been done to reduce it.
In the United States between 2008 and 2012, 10 human cases of trichinosis were registered linked to consumption of commercial pork (cdc.gov), out of 90 cases total. Most others were associated with wild game, such as boars, deer, and bear. In Canada, there have been no confirmed cases since 1980 (usda.gov). In the European Union, there have been several outbreaks in the latest decade (eurosurveillance.org), though most were related to wild boar meat or pork of unidentified source. The incidence in the EU varies from country to country, with some countries, such as Sweden, Belgium, and the Netherlands, declared as trichinosis free (foodsafetywatch.org).
You can learn about the most recent outbreaks of trichinosis in different parts of the world at the “International Commission on Trichinellosis” website. Most of them, though, are related to wild game meat or pork from an unidentified source.
IMPORTANT: You must feed only human-grade pork to your cat. This applies to all meats, not only pork.
Besides trichinosis being rare nowadays, it also isn’t as big a concern in veterinary medicine as it is for human doctors. Most infestations go without signs and known health concerns. No signs means that most cases slip by pet owners unnoticed and do not require specific treatment. Adult forms of trichinella are killed by most common roundworm medicines. However, the larvae, which are encapsulated in muscle tissues, are not.
In addition, mice and rats are also hosts of trichinella. Therefore, outdoor cats who hunt are more likely to get trichinosis from their prey rather than from pork.
Do you need to cook pork before serving it to your cat? Cooking it in a pan won’t kill trichinella. It requires a temperature of 130°F (55°C) throughout the meat for at least thirty minutes. That means you have to put it in an oven for more than an hour. This is only okay if your intention is to serve Xmas roast to your cat.
Does pork contain too much fat?
Pork is indeed one of the fattiest meats out there, or at least among the commonly used ones. However, it isn’t a problem if you serve only lean cuts to your cat or dog.
Is your cat allergic to pork?
Pork does trigger allergies in a few cats. However, your cat either has it or doesn`t have it. That’s the only concern. If your cat develops an allergic reaction to pork, then don’t feed it.
Note that adding a new ingredient into your pet’s diet can cause allergy-like signs regardless of allergies. This is called gastrointestinal upset, which happens because your pet’s gastrointestinal system isn’t used to digesting the new ingredient. The best practice is to introduce new food gradually into your pet’s diet.
Other concerns about feeding pork to your cat?
There are other concerns and popularly mentioned reasons not to give pork to cats—and dogs, too, for that matter. Such reasons include: pigs don’t sweat and release toxins; they live in the mud and eat almost anything.
Some of them are exaggerated disadvantages, some are imagined ones, and some are complete lies. For example, commercially-grown pigs consume a carefully selected diet and do sweat. After all, if some of them lie in the mud all day, so what? Do they kind of soak it up? We don’t think so.
The only thing we can’t argue against is religion. Even cat owners who don’t eat pork for religious reasons do not all agree whether cats should follow the same practice.
However, foremost is the fact that cats can absolutely live without pork. There is a variety of meats, such as chicken, rabbit, beef, lamb, and more. Yet still, pork is a good, safe addition to your cat’s diet in rotation with other meats, meat organs, and even commercial cat food.