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Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken?

Cat staring at raw chicken.

Eating raw meat isn’t a good idea for people because of the bacteria and parasites it can contain. Raw meat can make you very sick — but what about cats? Can cats eat raw chicken? The answer might surprise you.

Can cats eat raw chicken? The basics.

Cat at a table staring at a chicken bone.

Can cats eat raw chicken? What about cooked chicken and chicken bones? Photography © Annashou | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

If people get sick from eating raw chicken, what makes humans think, “Can cats eat raw chicken?” People might be tempted to feed their cats raw chicken thinking that our cats’ ancestors survived just fine from hunting and eating raw meat. So, the answer to, “Can cats eat raw chicken?” should be yes, right?

Well, the domestic cats in our homes aren’t equipped to process meat the same way that wild cats were. “The intestinal tracts of today’s cats and dogs are not the same as their wild ancestors, who tore animals apart and ate them raw,” Emmy award-winning vet Dr. Jeff Werber explains. “Today’s cats, after thousands of years of domestication, are not as equipped to handle raw meat.”

Can cats eat raw chicken? The risks.

Now that we’ve gotten a straightforward answer to, “Can cats eat raw chicken?” you might be wondering … “Why can’t cats eat raw chicken?”

The biggest risk to cats who eat raw chicken is parasites and intestinal infections. Raw chicken “brings the potential for parasites such as salmonella, E. coli, listeria and campylobacter,” explains Dr. Werber. He discourages feeding cats any kind of raw meat — including chicken.  

But can cats eat raw chicken as part of commercially available raw food diets?

If you’re asking, “Can cats eat raw chicken?” and you’re thinking in terms of a raw food diet, the answer is a little bit different.

Commercially available raw food diets that contain raw chicken are different and safer for cats to consume. These foods are usually manufactured utilizing flash-freezing or high-pressure pasteurization processing (HPP), that kills off harmful bacteria in raw food.

“For those of you who have been feeding your cats a raw diet without a problem, that is fine for your cat,” Dr. Werber advises. “Be cautious, though, about encouraging other cats to ingest raw food that has not been subject to the process of bacteria elimination.”

How can you prevent cats from eating raw chicken by accident?

As we all know, cats are sneaky. Know where your cat is while you’re preparing any food — especially raw meats, like raw chicken — to prevent your cunning kitty from running off with food from your counter or even your stove.

What happens if a cat eats raw chicken?

On another note, you might have searched, “Can cats eat raw chicken?” because your cat already accidentally ingested raw chicken.

If your cat eats raw chicken Dr. Werber encourages cat guardians not to panic. “Keep an eye on your cat,” he explains. “Monitor his/her behavior and eating/elimination activities. If you become alarmed, contact your veterinarian.” If your cat eats some raw chicken, he may experience vomiting or diarrhea. Any kind of intestinal upset is a good time to contact a veterinarian.

Can cats eat raw chicken on the bone?

Another common question associated with, “Can cats eat raw chicken?” is, “Can cats eat chicken bones?” Although feeding cats raw chicken in any form is not recommended, there is an extra danger associated with chicken bones. Dr. Werber explains that chicken bones are “soft and easily broken and have sharp edges that can injure internally.”

If your cat swallows chicken bones, do not try to induce vomiting as the bones can cause more harm coming up. Dr. Werber advises feeding your cat bread to try to coat any sharp edges as they pass through your cat’s digestive track and contact your veterinarian immediately.

Can cats eat cooked chicken?

Most cats, unless they have sensitivities to poultry, can eat cooked chicken. However, serve your cat plain cooked chicken only. Chicken should not be breaded, greasy or prepared with any sort of spices or seasonings, which can be dangerous or upset your cat’s digestive system. Only feed small quantities of cooked chicken to your cat as a treat. Feeding large amounts of chicken to your cats won’t provide your cat with a balanced diet and can lead to digestive upsets.

Thumbnail: Photography © RealCreation | iStock / Getty Images Plus. 

About the author

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author and Certified Trick Dog Instructor. Forthcoming books include: “Tricks IN THE CITY: For Daring Dogs and the Humans That Love Them,” “Healing/Heeling” and “Bedtime Stories for Rescue Dogs: William To The Rescue.” Sassafras lives and writes in Portland, Oregon with three cats and three dogs. Learn more at www.SassafrasLowrey.com

Read more about what cats can (and can’t!) eat on Catster.com

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