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Home > Cats > Can Cats Eat Raw Beef? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Can Cats Eat Raw Beef? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Can Cats Eat Raw Beef

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Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

Veterinarian, BVSc MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The cat world is divided when it comes to feeding raw meat; some cat parents feel it’s the healthiest option, others are completely against it, but what do our veterinary-approved sources say? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simply yes or no. Most vets opposed to raw feeding, list contamination risk and nutritional imbalance as their main concerns, whilst other vets are quite enthusiastic about the health benefits a nutritionally balanced raw diet may provide.

In this post, we’ll dive deeper into what the experts have to say about feeding raw food to cats.

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A Cat’s Nutritional Needs

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need animal-based protein in their diets to stay healthy, along with the essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals they need to thrive. Cats cannot be vegetarian or vegan because only animal tissue contains the right type of proteins they need (at high levels) — cats cannot derive this from plant matter.

A cat’s nutritional requirements can be fulfilled by feeding them a complete and balanced diet produced by a reputable cat food brand suitable for their age and, in some cases, any health issues your cat has (e.g., a formula that supports kidney function for cats with kidney disease). Although it can be difficult to think of a dry kibble food as being ‘meat’, it is formulated using animal-based protein, so provides the same nutritional components as the meat it is derived from.

Recently, however, many cat owners, nutritionists, and vets are looking to eliminate the processing component of commercial foods, and create balanced diets using the raw ingredients themselves. This is being achieved with commercially created raw diets, or home-prepared raw meals.

Currently, there is plenty of scientific evidence to prove that commercially formulated diets meet all the nutritional requirements of cats, without the safety risks associated with feeding raw food. However, there is mounting anecdotal evidence to support that raw diets have the potential to provide cats with benefits such as improved health and enrichment.1

homemade cat food with pork and potatoes cats eating
Image by: Florian Bollmann, Pixabay

Can I Feed My Cat Raw Meat?

This is a very controversial topic in the cat community. Those in favor of raw cat food often do so because they aim to mimic the diet a cat would eat in the wild, but experts warn about the various dangers of a raw food diet, including:

  • The risk of infectious diseases to both humans and cats
  • Swallowing bones that may cause damage or obstruction
  • Nutritional imbalances caused by improperly prepared raw diets

In addition, there’s a lack of scientific evidence to support that raw food is better for cats than non-raw diets. Let’s explore each of these issues in more depth.

Infectious Diseases

The risk of humans or cats contracting infectious diseases is one of the biggest dangers of a raw food diet. Studies have found that commercial raw pet foods can contain harmful pathogens including Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella, emphasizing the importance of careful handling of such products and educating consumers about the potential health risks for both humans and animals.2

Furthermore, even though healthy cats can sometimes resist foodborne pathogens, it’s still possible for them to contract diseases, like Salmonella, from raw cat food, which can be transmitted to humans. Clinical signs of Salmonellosis are rarely seen in cats, but they may include diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, and lethargy. Humans and cats with vulnerable immune systems are especially at risk of salmonellosis and other infectious diseases.


Foreign Bodies

If raw food contains bones, cats could swallow these, which could potentially lead to choking or intestinal obstruction. This doesn’t happen in every case, as tiny bones pass through the gastrointestinal tract without issue, but larger or sharper bone pieces could be more dangerous.

Wagyu Beef on wooden plate
Image by: Kankitti Chupayoong, Shutterstock

Nutritional Imbalances

If you prepare your own raw cat food at home, it can be incredibly hard to get the nutritional balance just right. This can result in your cat suffering from nutritional deficiencies, which is why commercially produced, complete, balanced, and high-quality cat foods are the safest (and less time-consuming) options.

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Can Cats Eat Raw Beef as a Treat?

As vets at VCA Animal Hospitals explain, it’s best to avoid feeding raw meat to cats all together due to the risk of infection. If you do give your cat a bit of raw beef now and again ensure that you only feed high-quality meat from a reputable source and are stringent about hygiene (the FDA has some health and safety tips for handling raw meat).

You’ll also want to make sure the beef is plain and not seasoned with any salt, herbs, spices, or sauces. Furthermore, if you decide to feed raw beef even as a treat, remember that there’s always a risk involved for you, your cat, and other people who live with you.

The important thing to remember when considering transitioning your cat onto a diet that more closely resembles that of their wild counterparts is that when a feline eats its prey, they are not just consuming the muscle meat. Depending on the type of animal they are eating (mammal, bird, reptile etc), they may ingest small bones, cartilage, skin, and organs, which is where they obtain all the nutrients they need. Feeding your cat a diet of raw meat alone does not reflect their natural diet, which is why any raw food diet needs to be carefully formulated to include or mimic ALL the ‘bits and pieces’ a cat would eat in the wild.

What About Ground Beef?

Ground or minced beef (or any ground meat) poses the highest risk of bacterial contamination when raw feeding. Any dangerous pathogens are generally isolated to the outer surface of the meat, which is why it is safe for humans to eat rare steak – provided the outer surface has been seared at a high enough temperature, bacteria should have been killed.

When meat is put through a grinder, the outside surface is blended with the inside, meaning that any pathogens are now mixed through the meat. This is why it is important to always thoroughly cook ground meat before serving it, and why ground meat should not be included in a raw diet.

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Conclusion

Feeding cats raw beef, or, indeed, any kind of raw meat, is generally not recommended, largely due to the risk of infectious diseases that can be contracted by your cat, you, and other members of your household. However, as the popularity of raw feeding increases, and the amount of anecdotal evidence of its benefits increases, we may see these recommendations change. If you’re really wanting to consider a raw food diet for your cat, we strongly recommend asking your vet’s advice before you go ahead.

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Featured Image Credit: Zichrini, Pixabay

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