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Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken? Everything You Need to Know!

There is quite a bit of controversy today concerning whether or not cats should eat raw meat. In the wild, cats of old would capture their prey and eat them on the spot. What about after thousands of years of domestication?

The question regarding the truth behind cats and raw chicken is not as straightforward as some would like it to be. Many lauded veterinarians will answer yes, while others give a staunch no.

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The Basis for Differing Opinions

The reason for all of this controversy surrounding feeding your feline raw meat is due to the risk involved. Feeding your cat a raw diet, including giving cats raw chicken, could increase the chance of getting sick from harbored bacteria.

Our bodies cannot eat food in such a way or deal well with salmonella or E.coli. However, we can’t think of our feline counterparts in the same way. A cat’s body can more easily eat and digest these damaging bacteria, allowing them to better process raw food.

Many of those cat-owners and veterinarians who support raw diets make another point. There is a risk of feeding your cat anything. That is why there are recalls every year from significant pet companies if a batch is too dangerous to serve to your cats.

While there is a risk that cats who eat raw chicken could contract potentially harmful parasites, the question is whether that outweighs the risk of feeding your animals heavily processed foods.

Many cat owners who support raw diets primarily do so because of their control over what their feline eats. There are no preservatives, fillers, or extras in a raw diet. As long as it is balanced, you know that what you are feeding your cat is what they need.

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Image Credit: Elena Rozhenok, Shutterstock

Raw Chicken Serving and Storage

One of the most important parts of feeding your cat raw meat, such as raw chicken, is to store it and serve it properly. Following these procedures helps ensure that when your cat eats the food, they aren’t also licking from a potential petri dish.

When you buy raw chicken, look into the brand that manufacturers it. It should have gone through a process of high-pressure pasteurization processing (HPP) or flash-freezing. Both of these freezing methods kill off any harmful bacteria that could reside in the raw food.

There is a reason that so many of our common processed cat foods contain chicken. It is a perfect source of balanced protein for cats to eat. So long as it has been frozen or treated correctly before serving, eating it raw makes many proteins and nutrients more digestible.

You can also serve chicken cooked if you want to give them something other than processed foods but don’t yet feel comfortable giving them raw meat.

Getting a fresh chicken is also preferable to anything else. If you can find it, get an organic chicken that’s been butchered. Shortly after that, serve it to your cat but don’t leave it out for longer than a couple of minutes. Typically, cats won’t eat raw chicken if it isn’t fresh, but it is still ultimately down to you to keep them safe.

If you have never tried to feed them raw meat before, start slowly and with very easy-to-chew pieces. Watch them for their reaction and ensure that they will digest it properly before integrating it into a full-sized meal.

Raw chicken meat on wooden board
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Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones?

Even if you decide to take on the risk of feeding your cat raw chicken, there are still some aspects you need to take care of before serving.

Bones are not inherently bad for cats. It is a bone puree that often gives wet food pate its staunch texture. However, if you don’t carefully vet bones, they can present a significant choking hazard for your kitty.

You should only feed your cat bones if there is still some meat on them, and they should be small enough that you could easily snap them in half with your fingers. Give them these small, meat-covered bones, and they should be fine. You should always stay close to your cat if they do have an issue with swallowing them at some point.

Most importantly, never feed your cat cooked chicken bones.

Cooked chicken bones easily splinter and turn into sharp shards instead of remaining more fibrous and chewable like raw bones.

The bones in a chicken’s neck or at the end of the wing (the wingtip) are often the best choices if you want to give them raw bones. These small bones contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They are also small enough to chew efficiently and to avoid getting lodged in their throats. It is still necessary to watch them while they eat, just in case.

Ginger kitty sitting by the food bowl
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Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken Liver?

The meaty part of a chicken is not the only choice for a cat indulging in some delicious raw chicken. Chicken liver can present another option to spice dinner up a bit. Again, so long as the chicken has been chosen and prepared carefully, then the chicken liver should be safe to eat. There will always be risks involved, but careful preparation on your part helps to mitigate them.

Chicken liver contains an assortment of B vitamins, calcium, protein, iron, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus, among other health benefits. However, this cut of meat is quite rich for cats, and feeding them too much of it can cause them to experience an upset stomach or diarrhea.

What about Other Chicken Organs?

Chicken liver isn’t the only organ that you can feed your cat. There are also organs such as the heart.

Again, too much of anything ceases to be good. However, a bit of an organ like the heart in a meal now and then is good for cats.

Typically, the more work that a muscle does, the more taurine it contains. Taurine is a little-known nutrient since humans don’t need much at all in our diet. However, for cats, it is essential. Feeding them hard-working organs like the heart gives them that extra taurine dose they need to keep them healthy.

Raw chicken hearts
Image Credit: Olha Solodenko, Shutterstock

Transitioning Your Cat or Kitten to Raw Chicken

The best place to start is with your vet. Talk to them about your diet goals for your cat and the best ways to make that happen.

Any animal that has been on one type of set diet for a while will not react well if they abruptly switch to something else. A cat’s digestive system needs time to adjust.

If you have a kitten you want to transition onto a diet with raw chicken, feel free to try it out slowly once they are weaned from their mothers. Give them small chunks that contain no bones at first. Gradually, you can work into larger pieces and begin to include small bones.

Raw chicken can be an excellent addition to a kitten’s diet since they need more of everything, including protein and calories, than adult cats.

However, kittens are also more susceptible to any bacterial issues since they are not as robust. If you are not sure that you know how to feed them raw meat properly, it is better to keep them safe and avoid it.

Risks of Raw Chicken and Chicken Bones

The primary risk associated with raw meat, including raw chicken, is that your cat will get a bacterial infection. If cats eat bones, there is also a risk that they will splinter inside of your cat’s digestive tract and could cause damage.

If your cat begins to demonstrate symptoms of digestive unrest, then call your vet with any concerns.

Symptoms could include:
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Red and runny eyes

If they begin to choke or demonstrate symptoms of pain or coughing or vomiting blood, then the bones could have splintered in their digestive tract. These symptoms are generally easily avoided by feeding them small bones that have not been cooked and still contain some meat around the exterior.

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In Summary

The choice is down to each cat owner about which risks they want to take when feeding their cat. Feeding them a processed diet can more easily lead to obesity and many more health problems as they age. Providing them a raw diet increases their risk of a bacterial infection if you or the producer don’t prepare it correctly.

The best thing to do is to talk with a vet you trust regarding your cat’s diet and how integrating raw meat could help or hinder them before making any final decisions.