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Can Cats Eat Rawhide? Is It Healthy for Them?

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	Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo

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Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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

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Rawhide chews are usually given to dogs as a way to satisfy their urges to chew and keep them busy. Cat owners may be wondering if they can give rawhide to their cats too.

Rawhide is widely debated as being unsafe for dogs, with many pet food companies now providing safer alternatives. Since it’s potentially unsafe for a dog, it should not be given to a cat. But if you find that your cat is chewing on your dog’s rawhide treat, it’s not something that you need to be worried about. That said, you should stop the cat from chewing it and provide them with a cat chew that’s made specifically for them.

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What Is Rawhide?

Rawhide is a layer of horse or cowhide that has been heavily processed. The most common way to make it is to strip and bleach it. To remove the hair, the hide is soaked in sodium sulfide and other chemicals. Once the hide is stripped, it’s washed, bleached with hydrogen peroxide, dried, and formed into rawhide treats that you commonly see in pet stores. Rawhide is not classified as food for either people or animals, and it’s produced without any strict rules or regulations. There are many different ways that rawhide is made.

Most rawhide comes from the scraps of the leather industry. The hides are taken from the floors of slaughterhouses and put directly into a salt brine to preserve them. It can take weeks before the hide is processed, and the brine cannot totally prevent decay during that time.

Why Is Rawhide Dangerous for Pets?

Some dog owners will never experience a problem with their dog chewing rawhide. However, rawhide still poses risks that every pet owner should be aware of if they are giving this to their animals. Cats should not be given rawhide to chew because it is not designed to be a cat treat. It will also offer no nutritional value to your cat, so they are missing nothing by not eating it.

Choking

The biggest risk that rawhide poses to animals is choking. When rawhide is chewed for long periods, it can become gummy, soft, and slimy. When this happens, the animal can bite off pieces of the soft rawhide and swallow them. These can quickly lodge in the pet’s throat and cut off their air supply. If your cat is suddenly panicking, drooling, and pawing at their mouth while chewing rawhide, these are signs that a piece may be stuck in their throat.

Toxicity

Since various chemicals are used in rawhide production, you can’t be sure they are no longer present on the rawhide when you offer it to your dog or cat. Rawhide also can be contaminated with salmonella because it’s made from animal skin.

Intestinal Blockage

Rawhide isn’t digestible material. When it’s in the stomach, it swells instead of breaking down. Since rawhide is usually bitten off in chunks and swallowed, these pieces can swell in the intestines and cause a blockage. The most common way to remove a blockage is with surgery, which is an emergency situation.

Rawhide is hard to break down in the body, so swallowing pieces of it can lead to digestive distress and stomach upset.

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Do Cats Need to Chew?

cat is chewing on a treat_Marinka Buronka_shutterstock
Image Credit: Marinka Buronka, Shutterstock

Dogs have a deep desire to chew and can turn almost anything into a chew toy if you don’t give them enough of their own options. Cats aren’t often thought of as heavy chewers, but they do enjoy chewing. Sometimes they chew because they’re bored. Some cats chew as a way to comfort themselves or just as a habit. If you’d like to give your cat a safe chewing option, there are several things that you can provide that aren’t made of rawhide.

Chew sticks for cats are made with healthy, edible ingredients and serve as rawhide alternatives to keep pets happily chewing without the risks. You can also offer raw bones to your cat for them to chew, but never give them cooked bones. These can splinter and cause injuries to your cat’s mouth, stomach, and intestines. They are also a choking hazard and should be avoided.

Can Cats Eat Dog Treats?

Maybe you want your dog and cat to share a treat that isn’t rawhide. Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs, and some dog treats may include ingredients that aren’t healthy for cats. If your cat eats part of a dog biscuit or treat, that’s usually not a problem. But they should not regularly eat treats that are not made specifically for them.

Do Cats Need Rawhide?

giving orange cat a hemp chew
Image Credit: Tanya Dol, Shutterstock

There is no reason that cats ever have to eat or chew rawhide. There are plenty of other cat treat options available. If you’d like to give your cat a chew treat, you can find ones that are made for cats and are easily digestible.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require meat in their diet to survive. Cats can’t make certain nutrients, like taurine, in their bodies naturally. Taurine is an essential amino acid for a cat’s survival, so they need to eat meat to stay healthy and get the necessary nutrients.

Rawhide offers cats nothing in terms of nutrition. Cats should get everything that they need from their food. Cat treats can be offered to cats in moderation because the treats’ ingredients can be digested by cats and are safe for them.

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Final Thoughts

Cats should not eat rawhide. Not only is it potentially unsafe for them, but they also don’t need it in their diet. Cats get their nutrients from meat and will obtain no nutritional value from eating rawhide.

Consider getting cat chews instead. These are rawhide alternatives that are safe for your cat and made with digestible ingredients that won’t risk their health.

Always check the label on any treats that you plan to give your cat, to make sure they are safe for them. It’s okay if your cat happens to eat a dog treat every once in a while, but they should not eat dog treats frequently. As always, check with your vet if you’re unsure of anything that you’d like to feed to your cat.

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Featured Image Credit: Lek in a BIG WORLD, Shutterstock

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