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Home > Cats > Can Cats Eat Turkey? Vet Reviewed Nutrition Facts

Can Cats Eat Turkey? Vet Reviewed Nutrition Facts

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

Veterinarian, DVM

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

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It can sometimes be risky for us to leave a plate of turkey out on the side if we have cats roaming around, as the chances are it’ll be gone the second you turn your back. Cats are well known for loving poultry meat, but is turkey good for them? It’s safe to say that cats can eat turkey, and it is quite good for them.

Cats are obligate carnivores, unlike dogs, who are omnivores. This means they must eat meat to survive, and a cat’s body is specially designed and adapted to eat and digest meat. Turkey and other poultry are good meats for cats, and they contain all the essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids cats need to survive.


Is Turkey Good for Cats?

Turkey is beneficial for cats as it can provide them with essential nutrition that they can’t get from non-meat diets. Turkey, in particular, has two types of meat that are good for cats in different ways: white meat and dark meat. Both white and dark meat is still just turkey, but each has slightly different properties which can benefit cats in different ways. Let’s explore them below:

delicious sliced turkey breast on wooden board
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

White and Dark Meat: Turkey as a Whole

Turkey is featured in many commercially available diets for cats, both wet and dry. It’s relatively inexpensive to farm and packs a nutritional punch that’s lean and highly palatable.

Turkey contains several elements that cats need to survive, including minerals, vitamins, and amino acids such as taurine. Turkey has the following beneficial amino acids, vitamins, and minerals:

  • Selenium: Selenium promotes immune system health and protects against some forms of cancer.
  • Zinc: Zinc is needed in cats for growth, the correct function of the immune system, the promotion of wound healing, and the production of DNA.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is needed for a cat’s metabolism to function correctly, and it aids in the metabolization of other essential minerals, such as calcium.
  • Taurine: Taurine is probably the most well-known element of a cat’s diet, as it is so important. Without taurine, a cat cannot sustain a healthy immune system, correct heart function, pregnancy, vision, or digestion. Without this essential amino acid, these systems will eventually fail, leading to the cat’s death.
  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus is needed for the repair and maintenance of cells in the body and the production of new ones. Phosphorus is also used in the production of DNA and RNA.
  • Potassium: Potassium is vital to cats as it contributes to the normal function of nerves and muscles, as well as the healthy function of the heart.
  • B vitamins: B vitamins such as B3 and B6 are vital in the normal functioning of metabolism in cats. They help the immune system function, contribute to growth, and support energy production in the body.

There are different levels of each of these vitamins, minerals, and amino acids in white and dark turkey meat. Dark turkey meat contains more nutrients, such as taurine, and has one of the richest natural sources of taurine available to cats. Dark turkey meat contains up to 306 milligrams of taurine per 100 grams of dark meat, but white turkey meat only has 30 milligrams.

So, dark turkey meat is better for cats, right? Well, it’s not that simple. While dark meat does contain more taurine, vitamins, and minerals than white meat, it also has more calories and fat than white meat. So, for cats already on a complete and balanced diet, dark meat may provide too much extra fat or excess calories, putting them at risk of obesity.

sliced boiled turkey meat
Image Credit: Dmitrii Pridannikov, Shutterstock

Is Turkey Safe for Cats?

Turkey is safe for cats to eat if fed in moderation and prepared correctly. Too much turkey can cause excessive weight gain leading to obesity and diabetes, which is dangerous for cats in several ways. A small portion (around the size of the top joint of your thumb) is a suitable amount of turkey for a treat.

Owners should cook turkey to avoid potential bacterial infections, and most cooking methods are acceptable. However, don’t feed deep-fried turkey to your cat; the fat content is too high and can cause gastrointestinal upset.

You should remove any skin from the turkey before giving it to your cat, as turkey skin also contains high amounts of fat. It’s vital to always de-bone any turkey your cat eats, as the bones of birds are tiny and hollow. These bones are likely to splinter or break when your cat chews on them, which can cause injury to the mouth, esophagus, and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

In some cases, this can lead to perforation of the intestines or stomach, which is life-threatening and needs immediate veterinary attention and probably surgery.

Turkey without additional seasonings is safe, but turkey cooked with spices, onions, or garlic is toxic to cats and shouldn’t be given.

cat eating treat
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

Can My Cat Eat Turkey Bacon or Deli Turkey?

Turkey bacon and deli cuts of turkey aren’t the same as cooked turkey meat you’d make at home. Turkey bacon is full of salt, which is bad for cats to eat in high amounts. High sodium levels are toxic to cats and can cause problems such as vomiting, ataxia, tremors, and seizures. Deli turkey can also contain higher levels of salt, but some turkey from the deli counter can be prepared with spices or other seasonings such as garlic, making them toxic.

Deli turkey and turkey bacon also contain higher fat levels than plain-cooked turkey. If too much deli turkey or turkey bacon is fed to your cat, it can cause obesity and high blood pressure in cats, lowering their lifespan and decreasing their quality of life.

Can My Cat Eat Raw Turkey?

It’s best not to give your cat raw turkey (or any raw meat) due to the potential for infection. An infection caused by bacteria can make your cat very sick and is particularly dangerous to old, young, or immuno-compromised cats such as those with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Raw turkey can make your cat sick and affect humans; it’s better to stick to cooked turkey as a tasty treat.

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Final Thoughts

Turkey is a tasty and healthy treat for cats, and they can occasionally enjoy some shared from your plate. Making sure there are no bones present when giving your cat turkey is very important, and ensuring the turkey is cooked correctly is the best way to ensure your cat stays safe and thoroughly enjoys their treat. When cooked thoroughly, turkey has many health benefits for cats, such as providing an excellent source of taurine.


Featured Image Credit: JumpStory

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