Why You Won’t Find Pork in Your Cat’s Food Bowl


Many cat owners wonder why there are so many options for cat food using various types of meat like chicken, beef and fish, but no pork formulations. This seems strange considering that pork is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide. As an important part of human diets across many cultures, it may seem natural that pork would also appear in commercial cat food. However, there are some key reasons why pork is not used as an ingredient in cat foods. Exploring the specific nutritional requirements of cats and how pork stacks up can help explain this gap in the pet food market.

Cats are Obligate Carnivores

An obligate carnivore is an animal that depends exclusively on a meat-based diet to acquire all of their key nutrients (1). Cats are obligate carnivores meaning their bodies are designed by evolution to eat and digest only animal flesh (2). They lack specific metabolic pathways and cannot synthesize certain essential nutrients like vitamin A, arginine, taurine, and niacin from plant-based foods (3). Cats need a high amount of protein and fat in their diet, with moderate amounts of vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. Unlike omnivores like humans that can obtain complete nutrition from plants or meat, cats require animal-based proteins to survive.

(1) https://rawznaturalpetfood.com/obligate-carnivore-cats/
(2) https://www.britannica.com/science/obligate-carnivore
(3) https://hare-today.com/feline-nutrition/answers/answers-what-exactly-is-an-obligate-carnivore

Cats Need Specific Nutrients

Cats have very specific nutritional requirements due to their unique physiology as obligate carnivores. There are certain key nutrients that cats need in their diet that are not found in significant amounts in pork.

One essential nutrient for cats is taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that cats cannot synthesize on their own, so it must be obtained through diet. Taurine is critical for heart and eye health in cats [1]. Pork contains little to no taurine.

Another amino acid essential for cats is arginine. Arginine plays a vital role in ammonia detoxification for cats. Pork contains sufficient arginine but has lower levels compared to traditional cat food sources like chicken, turkey, and fish [2].

Cats also require higher levels of preformed vitamin A than most mammals, which is crucial for vision, growth, reproduction, and immune function. Pork liver contains some vitamin A but at lower levels than cat food staples like fish and beef liver [3].

In summary, pork lacks optimal levels of certain nutrients essential for cat health and wellbeing, like taurine, arginine, and vitamin A.

Pork Has Components Cats Can’t Digest

Cats lack some of the enzymes needed to properly break down and digest certain components found in pork, which can lead to gastrointestinal issues if fed pork regularly or in large quantities. Pigs have a different digestive system than cats, so pork contains compounds that cats’ bodies are not adapted to processing efficiently.

For example, cats lack sufficient levels of the enzyme amylase needed to digest starch and carbohydrates (Purina, n.d.). Pork contains more starch and carbs compared to other meats cats are adapted to eating, like poultry, beef, and fish. Eating large amounts of pork can lead to indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting, gas, and abdominal pain in cats.

Additionally, the connective tissue in pork is tougher due to a high collagen content. Cats produce less collagenase enzymes to break this down compared to dogs, making pork harder for their bodies to digest properly (Cooper Pet Care, 2022). Undigested collagen can irritate the digestive tract in cats.

Pork Spoils Quickly

One of the main reasons pork is not commonly used in cat food is because it spoils very quickly compared to other meats like chicken or beef. Pork’s high moisture and fat content makes it prone to bacterial growth and spoilage (Vargas, 2022). Fresh pork only lasts 3-5 days in the refrigerator before developing an off odor, slimy texture, and discoloration that indicates it has gone bad (Tasting Table, 2023).

To extend pork’s shelf life for use in cat food, preservatives and stabilizers would need to be added. However, there are concerns around the safety and health impacts of these chemical additives, especially for long-term feeding in cats. Many pet owners wish to avoid artificial preservatives in foods.

Religious Restrictions

Major pet food companies avoid pork to appeal to wider demographic. Pork is prohibited in Islam and Judaism, which are significant markets for the pet food industry. According to the Shulchan Aruch, it is forbidden to buy or sell food made with pork as a business (Star-K). While pets are not required to eat kosher, avoiding pork allows brands to reach Jewish consumers (CRC Kosher). Halal pet food made without pork follows Islamic dietary restrictions and is an emerging global trend (ISAHalal). By avoiding pork, pet food companies can appeal to wider religious demographics.

Safety Concerns with Raw Pork

One of the main reasons pork is not used in cat food is that raw pork poses safety risks due to parasites and pathogens. Pork has a higher risk of containing trichinosis, a disease caused by the parasitic roundworm Trichinella spiralis. Humans can also contract trichinosis by eating undercooked infected pork, but cats are at an even higher risk. Several studies have found the prevalence of Trichinella in domestic pigs to range from 0.013% to 6.4%.

Properly cooking pork eliminates the risk of trichinosis, but this poses challenges for pet food manufacturing. Cats have a need for raw meat-based proteins, so extensive cooking of pork to eliminate parasites makes it less appropriate as an ingredient in cat food. The high risk of pathogens means pork must go through more stringent safety processes compared to other meats like poultry or beef before being fit for cat consumption.

Manufacturing Challenges

Manufacturers face challenges creating cat foods with pork as the sole animal protein source. Cats need supplemental synthetic taurine added since pork is naturally low in this amino acid essential for feline health (source). Moreover, pork lacks sufficient levels of some vitamins and minerals critical in feline diets. Manufacturers must blend pork with other meats or add multiple vitamin/mineral mixes to create a nutritionally balanced cat food.

Additionally, the high moisture content of fresh pork makes creating shelf-stable dry kibble difficult. The industry continues innovating to overcome technical hurdles using pork in cat food.

Minimal Market Demand

Most cat owners don’t specifically seek out pork recipes for their cats. According to a 2019 survey on pet food purchase decisions, the top factors influencing purchases are quality/nutrition and brand trustworthiness, not specific protein sources like pork (Schleicher). Another survey in 2023 confirmed that most consumers prioritize quality over protein type when choosing cat food (Pet Food Processing).

Since pork isn’t a highly demanded ingredient, there isn’t enough consumer demand to justify the research and development costs for cat food companies to create pork recipes. With limited market potential, most brands choose to develop formulas using proteins with broader appeal like chicken, beef, and fish.


To summarize, there are several key reasons why pork is not commonly used as an ingredient in cat food. First, cats are obligate carnivores and require specific nutrients like taurine that are found in higher amounts in meat sources like chicken, beef, turkey, and fish. Pork lacks some of the nutrients cats need to thrive.

Pork also tends to spoil faster than other meats, making it challenging to use in commercial cat food manufacturing. The religious avoidance of pork products by groups like Muslims, Jews, and Seventh-day Adventists further limits the potential market size for pork-based cat food.

Safety concerns with raw pork also make it less than ideal for cat food, along with minimal market demand. While pork can be a component of homemade cat food under some circumstances, the reasons outlined above explain why it is rarely found in commercial cat foods.

In conclusion, this article has explored the key factors that contribute to the absence of cat food containing pork as a major ingredient. We’ve satisfied curiosity about this topic and revealed insights into feline dietary needs and the cat food industry.

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