Can cats eat pepperoni?

Can Cats Eat Pepperoni Safely?

Oh no! My cat just ate some pepperoni off the pizza. Should I be concerned?

Yes, I know. Not my brightest moment. But I think we’ve all been there before. You take one look away, and suddenly your cat has a mouthful of what’s on your plate. 

Luckily, my cat is doing just fine. But it made me wonder if cats can even eat pizza? What about pepperoni pizza?

This led me down a full-on rabbit hole (like Alice in Wonderland) which I’m now here to share with you. The short answer is that while not technically toxic, cats really shouldn’t eat pepperoni.

So, I will share all my findings with you about exactly why pepperoni isn’t the meal of choice for your dear kitty.

What is pepperoni?

What is Pepperoni?

Pepperoni is a dried sausage, quite like a spicy salami. You’ve probably eaten pepperoni a lot in different foods like pizza rolls, calzones, subs, and Italian salad, to name a few. 

Most pepperoni is made from pork or a pork-beef blend, with cuts from the shoulder and belly of their respective animals. These parts have a high fat content, which gives pepperoni its unique texture and flavor. The ground meat is then mixed with spices and cased in collagen casings, dried, and sliced as needed.

Though your cats may like pork or beef, its high fat content is generally not advised for cats’ sensitive stomachs. Lots of high fat foods can lead to obesity in cats, as well as other issues like high cholesterol, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Harmful pepperoni ingredients

Cautionary Pepperoni Ingredients

Pepperoni is often mixed with many spices before casing. Some common spices found in different types of pepperoni include:

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Mustard Powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Cayenne

Makers of pepperoni often use a different combination of these spices to create different flavors. However, some home pepperoni makers also use less common ingredients like garlic or onion powder, both of which can be very harmful to cats. 

Other ingredients commonly found in pepperoni include:

  • Sodium nitrate
  • Lactic acid

Clearly, there’s a lot more in pepperoni than meets the eye. Here’s why these ingredients cause issues for your cats.


While cats are okay with a bit of salt (they do need sodium to live, after all), too much salt can be a big problem. Even just a few grams of salt can cause health problems like vomiting, diarrhea, overdrinking of water, muscle weakness, and fatigue.

Black Pepper

Black pepper is considered toxic to cats, so they should definitely not be eating this. A little bit may not do much harm, but a lot may cause your cat to start sneezing, coughing, vomiting, or having diarrhea.

Note that bell pepper is a completely different thing. Though not the best thing in the world for them, your cat is perfectly fine to have a tiny bite of bell pepper as a treat.


Generally, it isn’t recommended to feed your cat paprika. While paprika by itself is not harmful, the spicy variety is more common, and is harmful to cats. Never give your cats anything spicy.

Since paprika isn’t always advertised as sweet or spicy, I recommend not giving it at all. Too much can cause vomiting and diarrhea, too.

Fennel Seeds

Believe it or not, cats are actually fine to eat fennel seed. In fact, they’re sometimes given on purpose to relieve gas and upset stomach in cats and dogs. The results are not clear and some say it doesn’t actually help much. Just like anything else, too much can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Mustard Powder

Mustard is a definite no for cats. While the mustard plant itself is not labeled as toxic, many places do list mustard seeds as toxic. Either way, eating mustard is known to cause serious GI upset in cats, so they shouldn’t be fed this at all.


Did you know that cats aren’t actually able to break down cinnamon? That’s right. They completely lack the enzyme for it. This means eating too much cinnamon can cause some serious health issues in your kitty. Cats will struggle with indigestion after eating cinnamon, and may even show redness and irritation in their mouths after eating it. So keep the cinnamon far away from them!

Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are filled with capsaicin, which makes them spicy. Though cats don’t feel spice the way humans do, spicy foods can still cause burning and discomfort in your cat’s mouth and throat. It may also cause an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Never, ever give your cats red pepper flakes.


Cayenne is even stronger than red pepper flakes, so this is definitely a must-avoid. Capsaicin at this level can cause major irritation to your cat’s mouth, throat, and stomach and make them very sick.

Sodium Nitrate

Sodium nitrate is often used in foods to enhance color. This is the ingredient that gives pepperoni its famous, bright red color! Though it makes your food look pretty, sodium nitrate is not recommended for cats.

Many studies are conflicted on whether it actually does harm. Some studies say it can cause a carcinogenic effect once eaten, while others say there isn’t enough research to say that for sure. Because sodium nitrate can even be found in cat food, we recommend looking at your cat’s food label to make sure this isn’t in there, just in case.

Lactic Acid

Based on current research, there isn’t actually anything wrong with lactic acid. In fact, it’s often found in pet food, and some cat owners even add it as a supplement to their cat’s diet to aid with oral health. Some studies say it can cut down on tooth plaque.

No matter what, you should talk to your vet before introducing any supplements to your cat’s diet. Some cats may be more prone to lactic acid buildup, which happens when their bodies can’t get rid of extra lactic acid. They may show symptoms like vomiting, upset stomach, possible seizures, and extreme cases can even result in death. Always talk to your vet if you suspect any health concerns with your cat or their diet.

foods that contain pepperoni

Foods That Often Contain Pepperoni

While the most common food that has pepperoni is pizza, there are a few other foods that sometimes contain pepperoni:

  • Pizza rolls
  • Loaded potato skins
  • Stromboli
  • Cheese boards
  • Chip dips
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches

Really, pepperoni can be put on anything, especially pizza-themed or Italian foods. Don’t give your cats any treats from these meals, as pepperoni is ultimately not good for them even in small quantities. When in doubt, check the ingredients of any treat you’re looking to give your cat.

possible health issues

Possible Health Problems

As mentioned above, some of the ingredients in pepperoni can cause major health issues in your cat. Common symptoms that you may see after giving your cat pepperoni or its ingredients include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Oral irritation (red, irritated mouth and throat)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Seizure
  • Muscle spasms

If your cat gets into any food they shouldn’t and starts showing these signs or symptoms, take them to a veterinarian immediately. Even in the case of vomiting or diarrhea, cats can become dehydrated quickly and will need medication or possibly fluids to combat these symptoms.

Final Thoughts

While it wasn’t exactly the best for my cat to eat some pepperoni, I’m honestly a little glad she did, because it led me to some pretty interesting findings. Hopefully, this information can help you when deciding what treats to give your own cats in the future! 

If you’re interested in learning more about cool cat-related things, check out some of my other articles, like my list of Kooky Cat Puns and Silly Cat Jokes.

Thanks to Lex Leigh for This Article!

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