Is it safe for cats to eat raw chicken?

Is it safe for domestic cats to eat raw chicken? Yes and no is the answer. Yes, because chicken is meat and we all know by now that domestic cats are obligatory meat eaters. So, at a basic level chicken is a good diet but it is not balanced and complete. You can’t just chuck a load of raw chicken legs at a domestic cat and assume that your job of feeding your cat is done. It isn’t. They also need amino acids, fats, vitamins, and minerals to thrive. Chicken does contain arginine and taurine, however.

Savannah cat eats raw chicken at A1 Savannahs
Savannah cat eats raw chicken at A1 Savannahs. Photo: Michael
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There are other issues which I touch on below. One way to make the raw chicken complete and balanced is to ensure that it is part, and only part, of a cat’s complete diet. This means that in addition to raw chicken your cat should be provided with high quality, commercially manufactured wet cat food (ideally) or dry cat food. These foods are complete and balanced if they are high quality. The nutrients that a domestic cat needs and which are missing in raw chicken can be found in these commercially prepared foods.

Another way to make raw chicken complete and balanced would be to add a supplement and you can buy these online. The point is that you have to ensure that your cat is on a balanced diet containing all the required nutrients. It is safer to purchase a commercially prepared raw food.

Another negative issue is that chicken is a volatile meat, prone to harbour bacteria and pathogens. Careful storage is required to ensure that you don’t poison your cat! I can remember, though, Martin Stucki, who at one time owned A1 Savannahs with his wife in Oklahoma. He would regularly drive down to Ponca City to buy boxes of frozen, raw chicken legs. On his return to his farm which contained a Savannah cat breeding cattery, he threw the frozen chicken legs at the cats. The frozen chicken thawed out quite quickly in the hot Oklahoma climate and the cats feasted on it.

Cat Eating Raw Food
Cat Eating Raw Food – Chicken neck – Photo by Hotash (Flickr)

Of course, he would have to remove the devoured or partially devoured chicken legs before bacteria developed in order to prevent the cats being potentially poisoned if they returned to the meat later on.

There is another potential hazard which is bones. Dr. Bruce Fogle, the celebrated veterinarian and author suggest that cats should eat bones because it is good for their teeth. Poor oral health is a significant health problem in domestic cats. Wild cats have better gum health. But some people would argue that shards of bone can damage the mouth and intestines of a cat. I think this is a moot and discussable point. I think it is okay for domestic cats to eat bones but some caution needs to be exercised.

My cat eats mice. He eats the whole mouse including all the bones. These bones are much smaller than chicken bones and therefore I would suggest that there is a zero risk of fragments harming him. There is a greater risk from chicken bones but Martin Stucki thought this risk to be minor and he was a very experienced and clever Savannah cat breeder when he was in the business. With his wife Kathryn, he now owns and runs a hotel in Montana!

You will find that veterinarians disagree with cat owners feeding their cats a raw diet mainly because they believe that people are unable to properly store these foods to ensure that they don’t poison their cats. Another probable reason is because they sell and wet dry cat foods at their clinics and they don’t want to lose business.

The bottom line is that it is safe for cats to eat raw chicken provided you do two things, as mentioned, namely (1) you prevent pathogens emerging in the chicken which might poison a companion cat and (2) you ensure that the raw chicken is part of an otherwise complete and balanced diet and/or a supplement is added containing additional nutrients essential to a cat’s health and welfare.

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