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

Vet approved

	Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

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Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need animal products to meet their nutritional requirements. Although cats would not hunt and eat cows in the wild, beef is considered a good protein source for cats. In general, cats need high amounts of protein in their diets, along with moderate amounts of fats and a minimal amount of carbohydrates.

It is unusual for cat owners to feed beef directly, but it can be found in commercial cat foods and if minced or broken down into small enough pieces, it can be fed to your cat as part of a homemade diet or as an additional treat.

If you are considering adding beef to your cat’s diet, and it has never eaten it before, it is best to start with a small amount, but there is considerable debate over whether it is safe to feed raw beef to cats, and it is generally better to ensure that it is cooked first to avoid parasites and bacteria that might be found in raw meat.

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A Healthy Diet for Cats

Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that they cannot obtain all the nutrients they need from plants and that they rely on nutrients only found in animal products. While it is possible to feed dogs a vegetarian diet and ensure they get all the nutrients they require, albeit with a lot of careful planning and research, this isn’t possible with cats.

Even though cats would, in the wild, get all of their food from prey animals including all parts of small mammals and other small animals, most pet cats are fed a diet that includes a combination of animal and plant-based food. Only small amounts of non-animal ingredients would be found in a wild cat’s diet and these would generally come from the content of their prey’s stomach rather than any plants or vegetation that they would otherwise eat.

hepper nom nom bowl white cat eating himalayan persian

Can Cats Eat Beef?

In the wild, cats would hunt small animals like rodents. They may also eat moles and rabbits, as well as small birds. Some may even eat small lizards, and they may, if presented with the opportunity, eat fish and aquatic animals, although this would not form a bulk of their diet. Domestic cats have access to a much wider range of meats and animals and their bodies can properly process the food and digest the vitamins and minerals it contains.

Chicken and fish, for example, are two of the most common meat ingredients in cat food, but wild cats would rarely take on full-sized chickens and would not hunt for fish regularly. Similarly, beef meals are quite common, even though, in the wild, cats would never have the chance to eat cows.

Like any food type, beef may not be suitable for certain individual cats who have a food allergy to beef. Signs of a food allergy typically affect the skin causing itchiness, rashes and hair loss, or the gastrointestinal tract. If you have any concerns after feeding your cat beef, consult with your vet for advice.

On the whole, however, cats can safely eat beef. The meat does have many health benefits to offer a domestic cat.

Beef Health Benefits

Aside from being safe for cats to eat, beef offers several potential health benefits:

  • Iron – Iron is needed to form hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cells that carries oxygen and removes carbon dioxide.Iron is found in large quantities in beef and other red meat.
  • Zinc – Zinc aids in cell production and growth. It is also used by the body in wound healing and recovery as well as in supporting the immune system and therefore helping to prevent illness.
  • B Vitamins – Beef is a good source of important, water-soluble B vitamins.
  • Taurine – Taurine is only found in animal proteins and is an essential amino acid that cats must get from their diet. Taurine is critical to a cat’s health. It is known to support vision, heart health, and it is also vital to pregnant and nursing mums.

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How to Feed Beef to Cats

cat eating beef
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The most common way to feed beef to cats is as an ingredient in commercial cat food. It is one of the most common meat ingredients after chicken and fish ingredients. Alternatively, you can prepare beef yourself. The easiest way is to buy ground beef and then boil it. Do not add salt or any other seasonings, and avoid frying the meat because the oil or other ingredients may not be good for your cat. Slow boil the meat, with a lid on, for around 45 minutes, let it cool, and then serve it.

It is important for all cats to be fed a balanced and nutritionally complete diet,  appropriate for their life stage. If you are feeding beef as part of a home-cooked diet then we would advise that their meal plan is formulated by a veterinary nutritionist to get the right mix of ingredients. If extra beef is an occasional treat, then ideally it would account for no more than 10% of your cat’s daily intake of calories. Try serving a small amount the first few times you feed it.

Top 5 Foods to Avoid Giving Cats

1. Raw Meat

Some owners do feed their cats a raw food diet that includes raw meat, but there are concerns about doing so. Raw meat can contain harmful bacteria and parasites, and these can cause your cat to get really sick. Generally, it is best to cook meat before feeding it because this will remove any risk of salmonella or other diseases.

raw beef meat in a bowl
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay
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2. Alliums

The allium family includes onions, garlic, and chives, and all of these are considered toxic to cats. They can damage red blood cells and lead to anemia. While a small amount of these may not cause a problem, many human foods include concentrated forms of garlic and onions, so always contact your vet if your cat has eaten garlic or onion-flavored foods.

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3. Chocolate

Chocolate is another ingredient that is toxic to cats, as well as to dogs. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea and may lead to an increase in body temperature as well as, in extreme circumstances, tremors, seizures, and dehydration.

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4. Raw Dough

Most people know not to give alcohol to cats, but raw dough can lead to the same effects because the dough not only expands in the cat’s stomach but also ferments to create alcohol. If your cat has had a small amount of alcohol, which is found in a host of other products, you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

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Image Credit: webandi, Pixabay
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5. Grapes and Raisins

Scientists aren’t sure why, but grapes and raisins (which are just dried grapes) can cause serious illness in cats. They can lead to kidney failure in the worst cases, and even in mild cases, they will tend to lead to vomiting. If your cat has ingested grapes or raisins, you should contact your vet straight away.

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Most owners want what’s best for their cats, and this includes feeding them a healthy diet with the occasional treat. Cats are carnivores and they should get the majority of their protein and other nutrients from animal sources. While a cat wouldn’t be able to bring down a cow in the wild, and therefore wouldn’t eat beef naturally, this meat is not only safe for cats to eat but offers several health benefits that make it a good addition to a cat’s diet.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixababy, Pexels