Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken? Human Food for Cats · The Wildest

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Can My Cat Eat This?

Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken?

Careful — cooked chicken is way safer for your kitty.

by Dr. Amy Fox, DVM
December 4, 2023
Man feeding small white and gray cat a chicken wing.

If you have a cat, you may very well know that feeling when you think you found them the perfect food only to have them go on a hunger strike, push it off the counter, or maybe even try to bury it with imaginary dirt. So, it’s no surprise that cat parents are always on the hunt for the next delicious option.

As you research all the different diets available for cats, you are sure to come across raw food diets and their many health claims. It might make you wonder whether it is safe and/or healthy to feed your cat raw meat, such as raw chicken, as a treat or supplement to their diet. But raw chicken is not a good choice for cats for a number of reasons. First, raw chicken can contain pathogens that can make your cat sick, and can also make people or other pets in your home sick. Raw chicken may also contain bones, skin, and/or cartilage which can also pose risks to your cat. Read on to learn more about feeding chicken to your cat and why cooked chicken is often the safest choice. 

Nutrition facts about chicken for cats

Many commercial cat food diets are chicken-based since chicken provides lots of valuable nutrients for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they have nutritional requirements that can only be met through eating animal-derived foods, or whole prey if they are hunting. This includes a higher protein requirement than non-carnivores, as well as needs for specific vitamins and nutrients that come from animal sources. Chicken does provide some of these nutrients and can be a healthy part of a cat’s diet as long as it is complete and balanced

Raw meat, including raw chicken, is not recommended as a regular part of a cat’s diet, however. This is because raw chicken often carries pathogens like Salmonella that can make both cats, humans, and other pets sick. This is especially risky if the raw meat has not been treated to remove pathogens, or tested to ensure it is safe for raw consumption. The raw meat we buy in grocery stores is not treated or tested to this extent since it is expected that the meat will be cooked to a high enough temperature to kill any pathogens. There are some products for pets that are intended to be eaten raw and that undergo high pressure processing and testing to make them safer. These can be a safer option than buying raw chicken in the supermarket. Additionally, certain parts of the chicken like bones, skin, and cartilage can be dangerous for cats to ingest and should be avoided. 

Is chicken good for cats?

Chicken is good for cats and can provide them with some very important nutrients. Some of these include:

  • Protein:  Proteins are combinations of different amino acids used throughout the body in everything from muscles and bone formation to enzymes for vital cellular functions. Cats have a higher protein requirement than omnivores like dogs or humans. AAFCO feeding guidelines require adult cat foods to contain at least 6.5 grams of protein per 100 kilocalories. Some cats may benefit from higher protein diets, such as kittens and cats who are pregnant or nursing, as well as cats with certain health conditions. 

  • Fat: Fat provides a great source of energy for cats in addition to improving the taste and satisfaction of their meals. Chicken fat in particular is a good source of linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid which is important for good skin and coat, normal immune function, and growth. Too much can be detrimental, however, so ensuring the correct balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a cat’s diet is essential to good health. 

  • Arginine: Arginine is an amino acid that is required for normal biological functions. Some animals can synthesize their own arginine, however cats lack the enzyme to do so and must obtain arginine from their diet. Chicken is a good source of arginine.

  • Vitamin D: Cats also cannot synthesize vitamin D, unlike other animals and humans, so they must get it from their diet. Vitamin D3, the form that comes from animal sources, is easiest for their bodies to use, and this comes from meat like chicken. 

Can cats eat any part of the chicken?

No, it is not safe to let cats eat any and all parts of a chicken. It is important to carefully choose what cuts of chicken you offer to your cat. Avoid sharing anything with your cat that contains cartilage or bones as this can result in choking, obstructions within the digestive tract, and/or constipation. Also, skip feeding cats the chicken skin, which can be difficult to chew and digest and may cause vomiting or diarrhea. Chicken should be served plain, without added oils or seasonings, as some of these may be toxic to cats or may cause digestive upset

Is raw chicken completely safe for cats?

No, raw chicken is not completely safe for cats. While chicken has many beneficial nutrients for cats, it’s best when offered in a cooked form and as part of a complete and balanced diet. Raw chicken often carries the risk of pathogens that can make cats, humans, and other pets sick. These pathogens contaminate the meat when it is butchered and processed and are not a problem when the meat is cooked to an adequate temperature to kill the bacteria. But note that having raw chicken out in your cat’s food bowl or on the floors or counters can contaminate the environment with bacteria.

Also, cats who eat raw chicken can shed Salmonella and other pathogens. This means they may not have any signs of illness but can carry the bacteria and pass it along to others through licking, grooming, and/or contact with their poop. Anyone in the household with a compromised immune system is at especially high risk of getting these food borne-illnesses, whether that is a cat, a person, or another pet. The good news is that cooked chicken and chicken that is part of a commercial cat food diet still contains all of the same nutrients as raw chicken, but in a safer form.  

The bottom line: can cats eat human food?

Cats can eat many human foods — and if you look at the ingredient lists for many commercial cat foods, you may find that you and your cat have a lot of the same favorites in your diet. It’s extremely important that cats eat a commercial cat food diet that is complete, balanced, and intended as a daily diet. This is because cats have very particular nutritional requirements and commercial diets are specially formulated to meet all of their needs. If they eat too many table scraps or are eating a home cooked diet that is not balanced, they are at risk for nutritional deficiencies that can cause serious health problems. Even treats should be kept to less than 10 percent of their total daily intake to ensure they have plenty of room for their main diet and all of its important ingredients.

If you do share the occasional table scrap or treat with your cat, make sure it is a food that is safe for cats; many common human foods can pose a risk to cats. Check with your vet or contact a pet poison hotline if you are unsure whether or not certain foods are safe for your cat. 

Other foods that are good for cats: 

There are many fruits and veggies that cats can safely enjoy 

Foods that are dangerous for cats: 

FAQs (People also ask):

How much raw chicken can a cat eat?

Raw chicken poses health risks to cats, so they should not eat raw chicken. In general, any treats or table scraps should be less than 10 percent of their total daily intake.

Is it OK to give cats raw chicken?

Raw chicken can put cats at risk for infections like Salmonella and should be avoided. It also puts people and other pets at risk for exposure to these pathogens.

Why do cats like raw chicken?

Cats are carnivores and naturally prefer meat. They may not prefer raw chicken to cooked chicken. Because prey that they catch are warm, they may prefer warm, cooked meat.

Is raw chicken good for cats?

Chicken has many important nutrients for cats but it is safest to serve it cooked to avoid pathogens like Salmonella that can make cats very sick. 

Can cats eat chicken skin?

Cats should not eat chicken skin as it is very high in fat and is more difficult to chew and swallow.

Is raw chicken safe for cats?

No; raw chicken is not safe for cats. It often contains pathogens such as Salmonella that can make both cats and humans sick. Bones can also be dangerous.


Amy Fox

Dr. Amy Fox, DVM

Amy Fox, DVM is a small animal veterinarian in New York City. A lifelong animal lover, Dr. Fox studied biology in college and then worked as a veterinary nurse before pursuing veterinary school at Cornell University.  She has worked in many different settings including shelter medicine, emergency medicine, general practice, and animal cruelty and forensics. She is especially interested in nutrition, preventative medicine and care for senior pets. Dr. Fox also enjoys writing about veterinary medicine and teaching. In her free time she loves to cook, garden, and go for long runs. 

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