Salt, or sodium, is an essential mineral for both humans and cats (and other living beings too). But it gets a bad rap because it is not that difficult to overdo, whether you’re human or kitty. And too much salt can cause a variety of serious issues. Humans can suffer high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, and an overdose of sodium can be fatal to cats. But before that sends you into a panic (hide the salt shaker from Mittens!), let’s look at a few facts.
Is Salt Toxic to Cats? Not in the Proper Amounts
As I mentioned at the start, salt is essential for felines. In fact, it’s in cat food! Cat food companies formulate their recipes to be both nutritious and palatable, and salt plays a part in both of these elements. For the record, dried food contains more salt than canned or pouch food…just like more highly processed human food tends to contain higher levels of sodium.
If you are feeding your cat food you bought in a store, they are getting the amount of salt they need in their diet. Can they get more than what’s in their food without getting sick? Of course, in tiny amounts of treats. But like with anything, don’t overdo it. A cat should consume about .5 grams per 1,000 kcal — but keep in mind that an 8 lb. cat should have around 200-250 calories a day, so adjust that accordingly. Also, you probably don’t know just how much salt your cat food contains, so factor that in generously.
How Much Extra Salt Can Cats Consume?
It’s easy to overdo the treats (both for humans and cats). When people hand out treats to cats, they tend to forget that cats are less than one tenth their size. Anything over and above a cat’s daily meals should be portioned out with that in mind. Especially when it comes to tastes of people food.
So will a tiny bit of bacon or ham harm your cat? Of course not, as long as you emphasize tiny. And it should be an occasional, not an everyday occurrence. But always be mindful of other ingredients in any human food that are not good for cats, such as garlic and onions. And always consider options. Do you brine your turkey? Maybe you can separate the giblets and boil them plain for your cats to have instead.
What if you want to make something for your cat using chicken broth (as my human occasionally does)? Always check the ingredients and sodium levels if it’s store bought. If the broth is just a small part of the recipe, low sodium is generally okay. But if you are really concerned, no-sodium-added bone broth, or making your own broth is best.
And in any case, put away any tasty, salty items where your cat can’t get to them. That way they can’t help themselves to the goodies and make themselves sick.
With salt, as with everything, moderation is the key. Of course we cats don’t know about this moderation thing, so it’s up to you to figure it out for us!
When Is a Cat Most Likely to Suffer Salt Toxicity?
Other than stealing and eating a bag of potato chips, your cat is most likely to get sick from too much salt by ingesting household items. Here’s a partial list of common things that contain salt.
- Himalayan salt lamps
- Water from a saltwater fish tank
- Paint balls
- Table salt
So maybe you should put away that salt shaker! But out of the above items, salt lamps and Playdoh would be the primary ones to tempt your kitty because they are most likely to be out around the house. A lot of people love the ionic and calming benefits those Himalayan salt lamps offer, but some cats really get addicted to licking them — and then wind up at the emergency vet clinic. And don’t let your kids leave Play-Doh sitting around either. Always put it back in the container when they are done playing with it, and keep their creations away from your cat. If you have a saltwater aquarium, make sure your cat can’t get into it.
All the above items should be kept far from your cat’s reach, if they are in your house at all. My human would love to have a salt lamp, but she never will because it’s not worth the risk to her.
Signs Your Cat Has Salt Toxicity
If you caught your cat stealing a package of ham or licking your salt lamp, here are signs it has made them sick:
- Excessive thirst or litter box use
Tremors, seizures and death can occur, but hopefully you will have sought help for your cat before it gets to that point. Call your emergency vet clinic for advice and be ready to take your cat in if they need it. Minor cases of salt poisoning can be resolved by giving your cat more water to balance their sodium levels. But if it’s severe, they made need IV fluids.
If you are really careful about what human treats you give your cat and keep anything containing excess salt away from them, you should never have to worry about salt toxicity. Like most things, common sense goes a long way to prevent problems. And since that’s not a concept a cat understands (along with moderation), it’s up to you to take care of it.
Have you ever faced salt poisoning with your cat? Let’s discuss!
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