Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken?

Have you ever been in a situation where you ran out of cat food for your feline pet and didn’t know what else to give her? Then a brilliant light bulb lit up above your head and you thought why not give her some raw chicken instead? 

And then immediately after that you thought can cats eat raw chicken? I had the same question floating in my mind a few days ago, and decided to do some research. As usual, I discovered some interesting things.

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The short answer to this question is yes. Cats are carnivores, after all. Chomping down some raw meat shouldn’t be too much of a problem for them. If your feline companion were in the wild, she would be subsisting on a steady diet of small rodents and birds. She would be fully capable of eating the meat from these animals as well and their bones.

A cat’s digestive system is well optimized for digesting meat. For starters, it is fairly short in length and has a highly acidic internal environment. This makes it well suited to digesting whatever raw meat goes in in a period of 12 hours. Also, because of this short length, there’s probably too small a window of time for bacteria to build a home in the cat’s digestive tract and wreak havoc.

So yes, cats can eat raw chicken. A chicken would be well within the range of normal prey for a cat if it were wild. However, there are lots of details when you look closer.

The Health Benefits of Chicken for Cats

It’s understandable that you might want to give your cat a paleo diet similar to the one her ancestors had in the Palaeolithic times. After all, you probably consider your cat to be family, which means you’ll want to give her the same kind of diet you’re having. That said, you’re probably wondering if there are any tangible health benefits for cats when they eat raw chicken.

1. Pure Source of Protein

For starters, chicken isn’t the worst food a cat can have. It doesn’t have carbohydrates like corn. It’s a pure source of protein. However, it isn’t the most ideal source of protein for a cat. In fact, you would be making a serious mistake if you fed your cat a diet consisting mainly of chicken.

Raw chicken has plenty of animal protein, granted. It has a majority of the requisite amino acids for a cat to survive. It also contains very few carbohydrates. Cats typically have major problems when it comes to digesting carbohydrates, unlike humans. Too many carbohydrates in your cat’s diet will lead to digestive problems, diabetes, and even obesity.

2. Strong Bones and Gum

The bones are also pretty good for your cat. They keep your cat’s gums and teeth in tip top shape. The best parts are the drumsticks, the neck, and the wings. Chicken also has higher water content than most other food your cat is going to eat. That means your cat will get plenty of hydration from eating raw chicken. If all of that doesn’t leave you confused, at least you can be happy in the knowledge that giving your cat a full chicken is bound to keep her feeling full for a long time.

Are there Any Risks?

So we know that eating raw chicken has some major advantages for your cat. Are there any risks? Is there a reason why you shouldn’t ideally be giving your cat any raw chicken to eat? Well, the chicken is definitely going to make your cat full. However, it isn’t a good idea to make it the main part of your cat’s diet for a few reasons.

1. Lack of Nutrients

Raw chicken doesn’t have every one of the essential nutrients that your cat needs to stay healthy. It definitely has a lot of amino acids, but it doesn’t have taurine, which is perhaps the most important amino acid that a cat needs. If a cat doesn’t get enough taurine in her diet, she’s bound to experience some serious health conditions, including severe digestive and reproductive issues.

2. Risk of Food Poisoning

There’s also the risk of food poisoning. Raw chicken shouldn’t be a problem for cats. Natural food shouldn’t be a problem for cats at all. However, the chicken we buy is hardly natural. It is reared in crowded and unhygienic conditions and is likely to harbour two dangerous bacteria: listeria and salmonella.

3. Hard to Digest

We did say that a cat’s digestive tract is short and highly acidic. That means it should be very hard for a cat to experience food poisoning. However, that doesn’t mean a cat is completely poisoning proof. When a cat eats raw chicken that has been contaminated with salmonella, she could easily experience salmonellosis.

4. Diarrhoea

A cat suffering from salmonellosis will exhibit symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, and an intense fever. She could even undergo weight loss and extreme lethargy. Her stool will contain mucous and she might have a skin disease.

5. Salmonellosis Risk

Your cat is at an increased risk of contracting salmonellosis if she’s very young or very old. That’s because at these stages of her growth and development herd immune system isn’t particularly strong. The same goes if your cat has a weak digestive tract.

Your cat can also contract listeria if she eats contaminated meat. Listeria bacteria are known as listeria monocytogenes. The bacterium is commonly found in cattle and poultry, and can also be found in some amounts in water and spoil. Listeria shares many symptoms with salmonellosis. These include diarrhoea, nausea and lethargy. Listeria is a serious disease. If left untreated it can lead to the death of your cat.

So How Do We Handle It?

I hope I didn’t scare you with all of that. Raw chicken is an okay food for your cat, if it’s wild, free ranging chicken. But we all know those are very hard to find in the modern world. To help the situation, you can cook the chicken before giving the chicken to your cat. This will kill all those harmful bacteria that pose danger for your cat. It will also make the chicken much tastier for your cat. I know that sounds counterintuitive. Cats should enjoy raw meat more than cooked meat, right? However, cats have lived with us for so long that they’ve developed a taste for cooked food, just like us!

If you still want to give your cat raw chicken, go easy on the bones. Giving her too many raw bones might lead to constipation. You could also give raw chicken to your cat as a regular treat. Maybe you can even give it to her when she’s been particularly well behaved. She will definitely appreciate a bite every now and then. Whatever you do, however, remember not to give it to her too frequently; and definitely don’t give it to her as the main diet.

Wrapping Up

I think anyone who is a pet parent knows just how picky cats can be with their food. They are the finickiest of pets and won’t eat just anything.

You should try to cook the chicken before you give it to her, though. This is for her good as it will protect her from infections like salmonellosis and listeria. Better yet, you could give her chicken flavoured cat food which has been made to be especially safe for her.

Rebecca Welters

Yes, I am that weird cat lady with 200 cats and live in the darkest corner of the city where no one dares to go! Joking! But I am a cat lover and have 2 Ragdoll cats called Toby, he's 3 years old and Dory, she's 8 years old. I'm 36 years old and live in the quiet town of Washington.

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