Can Cats Eat Christmas Ham?

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  • Can cats eat Christmas ham?

    Cats can eat Christmas ham, but only in very small quantities. Ham is non-toxic, but it can cause issues due to the high sodium content. Another potential danger is if the ham has been prepared with garlic or onion, which are both toxic to cats. Ham is not nutritionally balanced, and large volumes can cause nutritional deficiencies. Treats of any kind should make up no more than 10% of a cat’s diet.

    Can all cats eat ham?

    Not all cats can eat ham, this includes:

    • Unweaned kittens
    • Cats on a food elimination trial
    • Cats on a hypoallergenic diet
    • Cats with chronic heart disease
    • Cats with a history of pancreatitis

    As always, it is recommended you speak with your cat’s veterinarian before introducing any new foods to a cat’s diet.


    Cats should only consume a small amount of ham due to the high salt content. One finely diced small slice of ham is more than enough. If you want to give your cat a Christmas treat, cooked turkey breast is a healthier option.

    Ham is much leaner than it used to be, but typically still contains a small amount of fat. This should be removed before feeding to a cat as fat can cause pancreatitis, which is a painful inflammation of the pancreas.

    Do not feed ham that has been prepared with garlic or onion due to the life-threatening risk of Heinz body anemia, which occurs when red blood cells are exposed to oxidative agents which cause changes (denaturation) to the hemoglobin chains within the red blood cells. Macrophages (a type of white blood cell) clear affected red blood cells in the spleen.

    Some cats can develop gastrointestinal upset from new and novel foods, watch for signs such as vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. If these do develop, do not feed any more ham to the cat and if symptoms persist, seek veterinary attention.

    Only feed ham that is within its use-by date.

    Feature image: Bochkarev Photography, Shutterstock


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio