Can Cats Eat Pepperoni?

Pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in the US, with approximately 50% of all pizzas containing slices of this delicious cured meat.

We love it so much that we often want to share it with our beloved pets. But can cats eat pepperoni, or is it bad for them?

In this article, we examine what is in pepperoni and how the ingredients may affect your kitty. Read on for all the spicy details.

What Is Pepperoni?

Pepperoni is a type of dry-cured sausage made from pork, beef, veal, chicken, turkey, lamb, horse meat, and even fish.

The main ingredient is usually pork, but other meats are used as well. Other common ingredients include salt, sugar, spices, herbs, garlic, onion, and paprika. Some types contain milk products such as cheese, cream, butter, and eggs.

How Is Pepperoni Made?

The process of making pepperoni begins by mixing ground meat with seasonings and curing agents like sodium nitrite (a preservative) and/or sodium erythorbate (an antioxidant).

This mixture is then stuffed into casings which are made from animal intestines and tied together. After being smoked, dried, and cooled, the sausage is ready to be sliced and packaged.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service have established guidelines for the amount of each ingredient that should be present in pepperoni.

They require that there must be at least 95 percent lean meat content, no more than 2.5 percent fat, no more than 0.5 percent water, less than 1 percent ash, and no more than 0.1 percent cholesterol.

Is Pepperoni Bad For Cats?

Though cats may love the look and smell (and even taste of pepperoni), these little discs of cured meat are actually pretty harmful to them. They contain a really high salt content, preservatives that can be toxic to cats, and lots of spices and flavorings that can cause gastrointestinal issues. 

Why Can’t Cat’s Eat Pepperoni?


Firstly, a single slice of pepperoni contains around 683 milligrams of sodium. That is a whole lot of salt, and it is what makes us humans love the taste so much! However, this amount of sodium can give cats salt poisoning, especially if they eat a large amount.

An adult cat only needs around 21 milligrams of salt per day – so you can see how far over the limit the sodium content in a slice of pepperoni would take them. It is around 30 times their recommended daily amount! Just a bite of pepperoni would cause them severe abdominal pain


Secondly, pepperoni contains preservatives in the form of nitrates. These cure the meat and stop harmful bacteria from developing in it since it is technically uncooked.

The curing process gives it that distinct taste which makes it such a popular topping on pizzas. Nitrates are toxic ingredients for cats and will make them feel very unwell indeed.

Spices and Flavorings

Finally, pepperoni contains lots of herbs and spices which give it that fiery flavor we love.  Chili pepper is one such ingredient that is often found in slices of pepperoni as it creates the spiciness of pepperoni.

Powdered pepper and black pepper are also very often present. They can cause harm to cats and negatively impact their taste buds.

Garlic is toxic to cats, and it too is often included in the mixture for pepperoni in the form of garlic powder which will cause your feline friend to become very sick.

What Will Happen If My Cat Eats Pepperoni?

If your cat eats too much pepperoni, they could develop severe salt poisoning due to the amounts of salt in each piece of pepperoni.

Signs Of Salt Poisoning Include

Drunken walking, experiencing small seizures, tremors, and excessive urinating throughout the day. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, it could be due to the amount of sodium in pepperoni. You should call your vet immediately.

Common Symptoms Of Nitrate Poisoning In Cats Include

Loss of appetite, extreme lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, and dramatic weight loss. If you detect any of these symptoms in your furry friend, you should call your veterinarian immediately. 

Symptoms Of Garlic Exposure In Cats Include

Weakness and fatigue, lack of appetite, producing a dark, red-wine colored urine. If your cat displays any of these symptoms or behaviors, then you should contact your vet immediately.

Exposure To Chili Pepper Can Cause

Damage to your cats’ red blood cells, and this, in turn, can create other auxiliary effects in her body. This can manifest as an upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Should I Worry If My Cat Ate A Slice Of Pepperoni Pizza?

Small amounts of pepperoni are not too dangerous for cats, and if your kitty managed to chomp a few bites but seems to be doing OK, then you are probably safe.

Different brands of pepperoni will contain different levels of spice and toxicity for cats. What is more, the salt content in pepperoni varies from brand to brand, with some natural pepperoni containing very few herbs and additional ingredients at all.

The severity of your cat’s reaction to pepperoni will therefore depend on the brand and the amount that they eat.

Can I Give My Cat Pepperoni As A Special Treat?

Because cats love the smell and taste of pepperoni (much like we do), it can be tempting to want to give them a small amount from time to time as an occasional treat.

Whilst it is largely safe to give tiny amounts of pepperoni to your cat, you should still be aware of the slight risk it can pose.

The combination of harmful ingredients and high sodium levels can be very dangerous for cats with existing renal disease, heart disease, or kidney disease.

If you are a true cat lover, you are better off providing your cat with a lower-sodium diet and making sure that their regular food is as nutritious and appetizing as possible. 

What Should I Feed My Cat?

You should aim to give your cat a balanced daily diet that contains raw or cooked meat, as meat is the one food cats really need. We do not advise giving your cat cured meat as a regular occurrence.

Cats have an extremely sensitive digestive system compared to humans. Their stomachs are not designed to digest large amounts of food at one time.

Therefore, they need smaller meals throughout the day. If you feed your cat too many calories at once, he will experience indigestion, an upset stomach, or diarrhea.

Final Thoughts

It is not the end of the world if your cat eats a small amount of pepperoni. You can soothe an upset stomach by giving them a bland diet of boiled chicken until the symptoms subside.

Treating your kitty to specialized cat snacks will be a much kinder and more healthy treat than letting them munch on your favorite pizza topping. Plus – it means there will be more left for you!

Courtney Trent
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