Cats are carnivores and should always be fed accordingly. However, raw meat does have potential health and safety hazards that every owner needs to know about and understand. While the meat itself is likely to be safe, the bacteria that attaches itself to uncooked meat (the wings, breasts, etc.) can be prone to bacterial infection.
While raw chicken is an excellent source of protein, kittens and older cats, in particular, are far more at risk of developing health problems. Food poisoning is significantly more likely to occur when immune systems are underdeveloped or compromised in some way. You may also be interested in learning about human foods that should not be fed to a cat.
Should Cats Eat Raw Chicken?
Although the jury is still out regarding whether raw chicken is a prudent dietary choice, cats are ideally physically suited to eating raw meat.
A cat’s teeth are designed for tearing raw meat that has been captured in the wild. This includes chicken, birds, rodents, lizards, etc. Cats can even tear through the toughest of bones.
Health Risks of Eating Uncooked Chicken for Cats
Raw chicken (and raw meat in general) is home to an assortment of bacteria. Bacteria often grow on the outer layers and can coat the meat. Once the meat is torn and cut, the bacteria can grow further.
Although basic cooking can eliminate these concerns, raw chicken that has not been treated and properly secured for animal consumption is often bloody and riddled with disease.
While most bacteria can be removed through washing, there is always a risk that something will be missed. This is the distinct disadvantage that comes with anything that is raw or not cooked thoroughly.
- Raw chicken can also present a risk of food poisoning. Although cats are capable of digesting raw chicken, their digestive systems are not equipped to deal with food poisoning.
One of the most obvious bacterial diseases associated with raw chicken is salmonella. This can lead to an infection in cats known as salmonellosis. Lethargy, weight loss, and mucus in stool are common symptoms of salmonella poisoning.
- Kittens and senior cats can fall victim to salmonellosis easier than a healthy adult cat. Underdeveloped or weakened immune systems increase the likelihood of infection and illness.
Another disease that can be acquired through the consumption of raw meat is Listeria. Found in poultry as well as beef, symptoms of infection may include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy. Listeria can prove fatal if not diagnosed and treated promptly.
Raw chicken can also lead to campylobacteriosis. Primarily associated with the consumption of raw or uncooked poultry, this bacterial infection can cause fever and vomiting. Typically seen in feral cats and felines that reside in kennels, campylobacteriosis is usually the byproduct of a cat eating food that is unclean and uncooked. Raw chicken could potentially fall under that category.
Raw meat that has been minced should be off-limits to your cat. The grinding process mixes the bacteria which spares no meat, thus ensuring that almost every aspect is contaminated. Designed for proper cooking, raw chicken (pre-packaged) is not safe under any circumstances.
The final health concern is bones. If the chicken is in true raw form, the presence of bones can pose a choking hazard as well as internal damage. Cats have a natural tendency to consume eat food based on smell alone. By the time a foul object is in their mouth or throat, it is often too late to rectify the situation. Bones can become a problem if they are concealed by large pieces of meat.
Which Part of a Raw Chicken Is Safest for Cats?
Although there are many safety risks involved with serving your cat raw chicken you can take steps to ensure a positive feeding:
- To reduce the potential choking and internal damage hazard, you can grind the bones. A valuable source of calcium, bones that have been ground to a fine powder can be easily consumed and digested. It is best to locate the bones, remove them, and then grind them rather than attempting to crush them while still in the meat.
- Just like any form of meat, fat is always part of the equation. Trimming fat and providing lean muscle can increase the overall health value. Complete with protein and minerals, solid meat makes for a much better meal even if it is raw.
- Giblets can make for a safe and savory part of a raw chicken meal. Giblets provide moisture that your cat needs in addition to an appealing texture.
- Raw organs are safe in small amounts. A chicken liver, for example, contains an ample amount of protein, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and other vital nutrients.
When you prepare raw chicken for your cat, your objective should always be to recreate a meal that your cat would find in the wild, only safer. Cleaning the meat, grinding bones, eliminating fat, and keeping the giblets can ensure a better taste and a healthier overall product.
- Purchase chicken that is specifically intended for pet consumption. This type of frozen product is preserved for freshness, thus limiting the likelihood of food poisoning or bacterial illness.
What are the Health Benefits of Raw Chicken for Cats?
Although raw chicken is not as nutritious as canned wet cat food, there are several benefits to your cat’s health.
The main advantage of raw chicken is the high level of protein. Cats are carnivores, so their diet demands a large amount of protein. Low in carbohydrates, raw chicken is also beneficial in that it is unlikely to cause digestive issues or lead to fatty weight gain.
- One of the more underrated benefits of raw chicken is oral health. Chicken wings, necks, and drumsticks can keep your cat’s teeth healthy. Bones are also beneficial for gum health. Although it is vital to crush bones significantly before serving, they will still have the same value even if they are reduced to a dust-like consistency.
Raw chicken is an excellent source of hydration. Because cats get a bulk of their hydration from moist cat food, chicken can provide similar value. Raw chicken has a much higher water content value than any standard dry cat food.
Raw chicken is also filling. Just a small amount will likely keep your cat full for many hours. This is useful because they will be less interested in eating less nutritious snack treats.
If your cat has a habit of consuming snack treats rather than meals, the introduction of a chicken dinner can be helpful. Additionally, a raw chicken dinner can potentially be good for weight control.
Feeding Advice and Tips
Raw chicken should never become a regular main course meal. When it is served as a meal, it should be given in moderation. Because the meat is raw, it will only take a minimal serving to fulfill your cat’s hunger needs. Too much raw chicken can cause constipation if too much is eaten.
There is always the option of cooking the chicken. This will kill bacteria and improve the taste. No salt or flavoring additives will be needed, and you should never add spices to your cat’s meal. A bland and plain chicken will more than satisfy your pet.
Adding tiny pieces of cooked chicken to your cat’s standard canned food is an option. This ensures that your cat receives the nutrients it needs while also enjoying a new, savory flavor.