- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
The chicken is one popular bird. Second only to pork, chicken is the most consumed meat in the world. A versatile protein, chicken can be found in tacos, sandwiches, nuggets and more. Poultry is a wonderful way to get the necessary nutrients we need to feel strong and energetic throughout the day. Do you find that your little cat wants to have a sample of your chicken?
We know that cats are carnivores. Images have graced our screens of wild cats eating birds for sustenance for ages, and it may seem natural to feed our cat our extra table scraps. However, domesticated cats sometimes process “human foods” differently than we expect. Many human foods are non-toxic and even beneficial to a cat’s diet, while other foods, even something as inconspicuous as chicken, can wreak havoc on their digestive system.
Before you consider feeding chicken to your cat as a meal replacement, here’s what you need to know about whether cats can eat chicken.
When someone says that their food “tastes like chicken,” it’s a compliment. Chicken breast is a great source of lean protein and is low in sodium and fat. Many fitness buffs eat chicken daily, using this food as a way to help build lean muscle and keep them satiated.
Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only source of vitamins and minerals. Chicken is filled with nutrients like selenium (which is great for your immune system), vitamin B6, and phosphorus.
Besides maintaining weight and building muscle, chicken is also linked to healthy bones and teeth. The phosphorus in chicken not only helps with bones, but it also works hard in ensuring your liver, kidneys and central nervous system are in working order as well.
Cats can indeed eat chicken, but it needs to be prepared properly. Gary Richter, DVM, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California and Holistic Veterinary Care tells Rover, “Cats are carnivores so animal protein is critical to their good health. Cat foods should be predominantly made up of animal products.”
According to PetMD, chicken in small amounts is fine, but shouldn’t be used as a steady meal replacement. It also should be as “naked” as possible, free of oils or seasonings, as those additions might upset your cat’s stomach. Experts suggest boiling plain chicken until it is cooked thoroughly, and not give cats extra fat trimmings as that could lead to pancreatitis.
Most importantly, do not feed your cat chicken if it has been cooked with onions or garlic, as those are toxic to cats.
Feeding your cat raw chicken has come up time and time again on the internet. However, raw meat is on ASPCA list of toxic foods for good reason. Raw chicken can have Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to both your cat and you. It can also cause a parasitic disease called toxoplasmosis and other infectious diseases.
Even though cats in the wild may eat birds, due to all of these potentially harmful outcomes, always cook chicken thoroughly before feeding any to your cat.
We may envision cats chomping on the bones as their ancestors did, but bones are also on the ASPCA toxic food list. This is because there is a high chance of bones being a choking hazard. Especially with birds or fish, sometimes small bones can get lodged in a cat’s throat or puncture their digestive tract.
If you’d like to experiment with some alternative treats, do so sparingly. Cats can be considerably cautious about new foods and may protest if their routine is altered. Here are some human foods you can let your cat try, according to PetMD:
- Plain thoroughly cooked chicken, beef or turkey
- Some whole grains like brown rice or barley
- Celery (they love the crunch!)
- Scrambled eggs
- Green bell peppers
- Spinach (Filled with vitamins A, C, and K!)
- Peas (Often found in many prepackaged foods for cats and dogs as a vitamin-filled addition)
- Pumpkin (Pumpkin is used often as a way to get fiber in your cat’s diet)
Veterinarians suggest that treats, even protein-filled ones, should only take up 10-15% of their daily diet. “The large majority of what cats eat should be a balanced diet,” Dr. Richter says. “In general, treats are not balanced and should not make up a significant portion of their daily intake.”
Introducing your cat to new foods may be enjoyable for both you and your furry friend, but one should never replace full meals with human foods. Properly formulated cat food has all the nutrients necessary for a cat’s well-balanced diet. Happy snacking!