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

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	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


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

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Turkey is often touted as a fantastic low-fat protein source for people. It’s tasty and packed with nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, and tons of B vitamins. But is it safe for cats to eat? Turkey is safe for cats to consume, and it’s often included in commercial pet foods. There’s nothing to worry about if your cat eats a few bites of plain turkey; when properly prepared, it can make a fantastic homemade snack for cats.

However, cats should only be allowed turkey as an occasional treat to prevent weight gain, which can lead to the development of quality-of-life diminishing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. And they should only be given turkey that’s been prepared without harmful ingredients such as garlic and onions.

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Can I Share My Turkey Dinner With My Cat?

Feeding cats human food, like turkey pot pie or turkey stroganoff, is not a great idea. Dishes like these almost always contain ingredients that are either unhealthy or toxic to cats. Human food often features ingredients such as salt, sugar, and dairy products.

Dairy products aren’t toxic to cats but can often cause gastrointestinal upset, as many cats are lactose intolerant. Human food is often high in calories and sugar, which can lead to weight gain. Cats carrying extra pounds often live shorter lives than those who maintain healthy weights. And many human dishes feature seasonings such as garlic and onions that are toxic to cats.

Homemade gravy in a sauce dish with turkey for
Image Credit: Elena Veselova, Shutterstock

What Should I Do if My Cat Eats My Turkey Pot Pie?

If your cat steals a bite or two of a turkey dish, there’s probably nothing to worry about. Make sure your cat can’t secretly scarf down anymore and survey the damage to determine how much they ate. Determine if there was anything in the dish that could be potentially toxic to your pet.

If you were eating a product that came ready to eat, look at the ingredient list. If you made the meal from scratch, think about all the products included in the dish. Evaluate each ingredient for its potential to harm your pet. Contact your veterinarian if you discover your pet has eaten a potentially toxic ingredient or if they begin showing signs of illness such as weakness, diarrhea, or vomiting. Due to the potential for serious health problems, it’s simply best to avoid giving cats human food.

What About Deep Fried and Rotisserie Turkeys?

Neither of these options qualifies as feline health foods. When served with the skin, deep-fried turkey often contains far too much fat for cats to consume regularly. Rotisserie preparations are often relatively high in sodium.

And deli meats are usually high in salt and frequently contain preservatives such as sodium nitrates, which aren’t great for humans or cats. But your companion will probably be fine if they enjoy a few small bites of deep-fried turkey or deli meat. Just remember to remove the skin before serving cooked turkey to your cat. Also, never allow your pet to nibble on bones since they can splinter and cause obstructions and injure your pet’s mouth.

Image Credit: pixel1, pixabay

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But I Thought Cats Could Eat Turkey!

You’re right! They can, but only if it’s prepared in a feline-friendly way! Cats can safely have a bit of plain baked turkey as long as it’s free of gravy and other toppings. There are several ways to make tasty (and healthy) turkey treats for your cat.

Baked Turkey

To make a yummy treat for your cat, just throw a small portion of turkey in the oven and let it bake until done. You can set the temperature to 325 ºF and cook for about 13 minutes per pound.

Avoid adding seasonings such as salt, sugar, onions, or garlic. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, or better yet, use a thermometer to ensure the turkey has reached an appropriate temperature (around 165ºF).

It’s best to remove the skin before serving turkey to your cat; it’s high in fat, which can cause digestive problems in some cats. Debone the meat to keep your cat from injuring itself on a bone splinter. And chop it into feline-friendly serving sizes before allowing your cat to dig in to prevent your companion from taking a huge bite and choking.

Ground Turkey

If you have low-fat ground turkey at home, there are a few easy ways to treat your cat. Ground turkey tends to be high in fat, so make sure to limit the amount you give your pet. Look for products with the lowest possible fat percentage, usually around 10%. Make a tiny patty with plain ground turkey without salt, pepper, or other seasonings. Throw the mini-patty into a frying pan and cook until the center is no longer pink. Avoid using butter or oil during cooking to keep the fat content under control. Put the cooked meat on a paper towel to allow the residual fat to drain, and give it to your buddy once it cools off.

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Turkey is fine for cats to eat. It’s a tasty, low-calorie, high-protein meat packed with nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins. But cats should only eat turkey prepared in feline-friendly ways, and it shouldn’t contain broth, salt, onions, or other seasonings.

Plain-baked turkey is the healthiest option for cats, but it should only be served as an occasional treat. Your cat will benefit more from regularly eating well-balanced cat food that contains all the protein (inclusing turkey), fat, vitamins, and minerals required to live a healthy life.

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Featured Image Credit: Alexander Prokopenko, Shutterstock