The short answer is that, yes, cats can eat raw chicken—although it’s not quite that simple. Feeding raw meat, such as chicken, to your cat is considered by many to be a more natural diet for them with health benefits. It is important to remember however, that there is a lack of good quality research in this area and many of these reported benefits have not yet been proven. Pet owners should weigh the benefits and risks before transitioning their cat to a new diet including raw chicken.
If you do choose to try a new raw diet, we have some tips and precautions for doing so. Keep reading to learn more about feeding raw chicken to your kitty.
Some Potential Health Benefits of a Raw Food Diet
The best food for your cat will be balanced and contain all the nutrients they need to thrive. Most cats enjoy raw meat and this can be helpful for picky eaters. The higher water content can also help keep them better hydrated and may reduce the risk of urinary tract problems. Feeding raw meats such as chicken may also mean your cat feels more full and is therefore less likely to put on excess pounds, reducing the risk of obesity. Other reported benefits include better skin, coat and energy levels but unfortunately there is currently a lack of studies to back up many of these claims.
Potential Risks of Feeding Raw Food
Along with the benefits of a raw food diet, there are some risks involved that all pet parents should be aware of before deciding to change their pet’s food.
Parasites & Bacteria
When humans eat raw meat, they are susceptible to parasites and bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. The same is true for cats and other animals that consume raw meat. You can take precautions to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria but there is still a risk. These bacteria can cause illness in your pet and can also be passed to humans from handling the raw meat, as well as contact with your cat’s mouth, coat ( where they have been grooming themselves) and feces. If there are small children, elderly or people who are immunocompromised in contact with your cat, these bugs have the potential to be particularly dangerous.
Preparing a raw food diet at home can lead to nutritional deficiency. Cats need much more than just raw chicken meat to stay healthy. If you plan on feeding your cat a raw food diet prepared at home, be sure to talk to a veterinary nutritionist beforehand to find out what you need to do to ensure they get all the proper nutrition.
Feeding Your Cat Raw Chicken
Raw chicken should not be the only food you feed your cat as it does not offer all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Preparing their diet from scratch can be difficult as you can’t be quite sure that it’s balanced unless you follow a veterinary approved recipe and include the proper number of supplements. It’s usually best that you purchase a specially designed, commercially available food that includes raw chicken if you intend to feed them a raw food diet.
Chicken liver is often fed as a treat for its nutritional properties as well as flavor. It can be fed in small amounts but should be done safely. You should also still take all the precautions of preparing and feeding raw meat, as there is a risk for salmonella and other bacteria as well as parasites. Still, chicken liver is chock full of nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A and B. However, it should be fed only in small amounts to avoid diarrhea and vitamin A toxicity.
Some vets and other experts like to weigh in on the other organs of the chicken, like the fat, skin, kidneys, etc. Fat and skin contain a lot of nutrients as well but are also very high in calories, which can lead to weight gain and can contribute to health problems such as digestive upset and pancreatitis. Kidneys and other organs are typically just as safe as feeding liver and also include many nutrients but are harder to come by in stores. Still, they are usually included in many commercially available raw food diets.
You should never allow your cat to chew on cooked chicken bones. Cooked bird bones break and splinter easily, making them dangerous if chewed or swallowed. They can cause damage to the soft tissues of the mouth or the digestive system as they pass through.
Transitioning to Raw Food
Transitioning to a new cat food can cause stomach upset, no matter what type of diet you are changing to. You also run the risk of your cat refusing to eat the new food. The first step is to keep portion sizes small and to gradually mix these portions in with their existing food. Over time, you can increase these portion sizes as they adjust to eating a different type of food and learn to like something new.
Just like when handling any raw meat, you should practice safe handling. Reduce the risk of bacterial contamination by washing your hands before and after working with the meat, sanitizing all surfaces, and cleaning the utensils you use. Be sure to also sanitize their food bowls immediately after feeding.
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Cats can eat raw chicken as part of a complete and well-balanced diet. If you decide to introduce raw chicken ( or any raw meat) to your cat’s diet , speak to your veterinarian first to make sure it’s suitable for your feline, and follow our safety tips and precautions.
Feeding a commercially available raw food diet that is specially formulated for cats will offer a more balanced nourishment with all the nutrients they need, so you don’t have to worry about them remaining healthy should you choose to transition them to a raw food diet.
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