Friends, one of the questions I’m most frequently asked is: “Can cats eat beef jerky?” These inquiries come as no surprise, of course.
After all, cats have a taste for the finer things in life. So, it's natural that pet owners would want to share their favorite snack with their beloved furry critters. Whenever someone asks me this question, I’m reminded of my own experience with one particularly memorable cat back when I was a much younger Old Trapper.
The Good Years
You see, there was a time when I disappeared into the wildest parts of this great country for a short couple of decades and never encountered another living soul. I call these The Good Years and often think back on them fondly.
During this time, I kept my routine simple. On a typical day, I’d rise before dawn, read the collected works of James Fenimore Cooper over a light breakfast, and then spend the rest of the day tending to my lines. When night fell, I’d return to my humble log cabin for a dinner of beef jerky and a bit of sleep, only to begin again the next morning.
One afternoon as I started my long trek back to the cabin from the river where my lines were set, I was overcome with the eerie sensation that I was being watched. Years spent in the woods had heightened my senses to the point where I was practically a hound dog. One quick sniff of the air revealed the fetid presence of my one true nemesis: the surly cougar. I knew instantly that I’d be lucky to escape this encounter with only a healthy dose of scrapes and bruises.
Cougars are cowards who primarily attack from cover. Unfortunately, I found myself positioned amidst a dense stand of trees, which offered the beast maximum concealment. While I consider myself a crack shot, I also knew there’d be little time to unsling my rifle and fire on the animal before he was upon me. My only chance was to run.
Suddenly, I saw a flash of movement directly overhead as the panther leaped down upon me. I quickly dove away as the animal’s claws lashed out, grazing my trusty possibles bag. I rolled to my feet and found myself facing the cougar with only a few short feet between us. The animal was massive, at least as heavy as I was, and coiled for a renewed attack. As the animal snarled and roared, the smell of its breath curdled my stomach.
I watched the animal’s muscles tense as it prepared to leap again. It could cross the space between us nearly instantly and would rip me to shreds almost as fast. I knew I’d only have one chance to escape, so I had to make it count.
Drawing on every piece of frontier wisdom I’d ever gained, I decided to attempt an ancient native misdirection technique I’d once heard whispered over a campfire. Breathing in a ragged gasp of air, I pointed behind the massive cat and shouted, “WHAT’S THAT?”
The cat tilted its head inquisitively and turned to follow my pointed hand. At that moment, I was off.
I’ve never run so fast or so hard in my long, long life. My lungs burned as I powered through the dense forest, leaping downed logs in a single bound. I couldn’t let up because, behind me, the beast was in pursuit—screaming in anger and humiliation.
I don’t know how long I ran for. It might have been minutes, it might have been hours. But I felt the cat’s hot breath on my back the entire time. Finally, I emerged from the forest into the clearing where my small cabin sat. Somehow I increased my pace to cover the last few yards to safety. I risked a glance over my shoulder only to see the big cat emerge into the clearing behind me. It, too, increased its pace in a desperate final bid to overtake me.
In an instant, it seemed, I was at my door, fumbling with the latch. Somehow, my instincts told me I’d run out of time, so I turned to see the cat, in full sprint, bearing down on me. At that moment, I was suddenly possessed by a sense of calm in the face of near-certain doom. I knew precisely what I needed to do. Reaching quickly into my possibles bag, I extracted a handful of my precious beef jerky and tossed it into the cat’s path. It might as well have been a brick wall because the cougar screeched to a halt and sniffed the smoked meat at its feet. In one quick bite, the big cat devoured the beef jerky, then, after a short pause, looked at me inquisitively as if to ask, “is there any more?”
Jerky Treats for Cats
Sensing an opportunity, I fumbled for more smoked meat snacks and held it in my outstretched palm. With one cautious footstep after another, the big cat moved towards me until he was close enough to touch. Then, he extended his massive head and sniffed the jerky before gently taking it from my hand, chewing contentedly.
As I continued feeding the cat beef jerky while scratching him between the ears, I knew I’d made a new friend. In fact, he became something of a pet and lived with me for many years to come. I began by calling him simply “Cat” before settling on his final name, “Sir Catrick of Kittyton, Esq”
One day, Sir Catrick wandered into the woods and never reemerged. Over the subsequent days and weeks, I searched for my friend far and wide, but could never pick up his trail. I imagine he disappeared into the forest like the morning mist and is now roaming the woods in search of his next home. After all, big cats just aren’t meant to be pets.
Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky? An Answer
So, to return to the original question, can cats eat beef jerky? I don’t know. You should probably ask a licensed veterinarian. But, I don’t recommend sharing too much, because beef jerky is a precious commodity and you’re probably not in a life-or-death struggle with your orange tabby today.
But one thing’s for sure: I’ll always fondly remember one cat—a cougar I called Sir Catrick of Kittyton, Esq.—who loved beef jerky. I hope you meet one like him soon.