Can Chicken Replace Cat Food? The Pros and Cons of Feeding Your Cat People Food

Should You Feed Your Cat Chicken Instead of Cat Food?

Many cat owners wonder if they can feed their feline friend plain chicken instead of commercial cat food. Chicken may seem like a healthy, natural option for cats, who are obligate carnivores that thrive on animal protein. While bits of cooked chicken can make a tasty treat, relying solely on chicken has some risks. This article will explore the pros and cons of feeding a cat chicken only, versus nutritionally balanced commercial cat food.

Pros of Feeding Chicken

Feeding raw chicken to cats has some potential benefits compared to commercial cat food. According to Purina, raw chicken recipes made at home contain more moisture than dry cat food, which can improve hydration [1]. The raw meat diet is also seen as more natural for obligate carnivores like cats, as they would eat raw prey in the wild. Some cat owners feel it aligns better with a cat’s true biological needs. Cats may show better digestion with raw chicken and less allergy issues than commercial cat food containing grains and fillers. Overall, raw chicken offers a fresher, more natural diet for cats compared to processed kibble.

Cons of Feeding Chicken

While raw chicken can be an inexpensive and convenient meal option for cats, there are some potential downsides to be aware of:

Risk of Contamination – Raw chicken may contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can make cats sick. Cats with weaker immune systems are especially vulnerable. There is also risk of parasitic infections from toxoplasma and tapeworms (Purina).

Unbalanced Nutrition – Chicken alone does not provide all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients cats need in their diet. Feeding only raw chicken could lead to nutritional deficiencies over time. It lacks proper calcium to phosphorus ratios and does not provide taurine, an essential amino acid for cats (Daily Paws).

Nutritional Requirements

Cats have specific nutritional requirements that are met by balanced commercial cat foods. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides recommendations for the minimum nutritional requirements for cats.

Some key nutritional requirements for cats include:

  • Protein – Cats require high levels of protein, especially animal-based proteins. According to AAFCO, adult cats require a minimum of 26% protein in their diet on a dry matter basis (10).
  • Fat – Cats have a high energy requirement and cats utilize fat efficiently for energy. AAFCO recommends a minimum fat content of 9% for adult cats on a dry matter basis (10).
  • Vitamins – Cats require adequate amounts of vitamins including Vitamin A, Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamine, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K (10).
  • Minerals – Important minerals include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium and manganese (10).

It can be challenging to meet all of a cat’s nutritional needs with a homemade diet. Commercial cat foods are formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition for cats at different life stages.

(10) AAFCO. (2021). Official Publication.

Preparing Raw Chicken

When preparing raw chicken for cats, proper food safety is extremely important. Raw chicken can contain pathogens like Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can make cats sick. Here are some tips for safe handling and storage:

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after handling raw chicken. Sanitize any surfaces the raw chicken touches with a disinfectant. Only handle the chicken on one designated cutting board and wash thoroughly after use. Use separate utensils for raw chicken to avoid cross-contamination.

Purchase fresh, human-grade chicken from a reputable source. Check that the chicken has no tears or holes in the packaging. Refrigerate immediately and use within 1-2 days. Freeze any chicken you won’t use right away. Thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

When portioning the chicken, remove any bones, skin, or excess fat, as these are choking hazards or difficult to digest for cats. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. To be extra safe, some sources recommend lightly cooking chicken by boiling for a few minutes.[1]

Portion Size

The appropriate raw chicken portion size to feed your cat depends on their weight, age, and activity level. A general guideline is to feed about 2-3% of your cat’s body weight per day, split into 2-3 meals.1 For example, a 10 pound cat would eat 5 ounces of raw chicken per day.

Kittens have higher caloric needs and should be fed more frequently. Kittens 2-4 months old need 10-13% of their body weight per day, while 4-8 month old kittens need 6-10%.2 An active adult cat or one trying to gain weight may need more like 3% of their body weight.

When transitioning from commercial cat food to raw chicken, start with smaller portions (1% of body weight) and gradually increase over 2 weeks as their digestive system adjusts.

Weighing your cat and their food is the most accurate way to determine the right raw chicken portion size. As a guide, a 3 ounce chicken breast provides approximately 1 meal for a 10 pound cat.


When feeding homemade raw chicken diets, it’s important to include supplements to ensure your cat receives complete and balanced nutrition. Simply feeding raw chicken muscle meat does not provide all the nutrients cats need.

The two main supplements to include are a vitamin/mineral mix and an oil blend. A vitamin/mineral mix provides essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other micronutrients. TCfeline and Know Better are two commercially available vitamin/mineral mixes formulated specifically for raw fed cats.

An oil blend provides omega fatty acids for skin and coat health. Oils like fish, flaxseed, and hempseed should be added. Most commercial raw supplement mixes include oils in their formulation.

Following package instructions, adding these supplements to raw chicken diets ensures your cat gets the nutrients they need for optimal health and development.

Transitioning Foods

When changing your cat’s diet, it’s important not to switch foods suddenly. A gradual transition over 5-10 days can help avoid digestive upset. Here’s a sample transition schedule:

Days 1-2: Feed 75% of the previous food and 25% of the new food.

Days 3-4: Feed 50% of each food.

Days 5-6: Feed 25% of the previous food and 75% of the new food.

After day 6: Feed 100% of the new food.

Transition even more slowly (over 2-3 weeks) if your cat has a sensitive stomach. Go back a step if you notice signs of digestive upset like vomiting or diarrhea. Cats do best with consistency, so gradual transitions between foods gives their digestive system time to adjust.

For wet food transitions, replace one meal per day with the new food until fully switched over. Mixing the new and previous wet foods together can cause the food to spoil faster.

Be patient, transition slowly, and monitor your cat during changes. This will set their digestive health up for success. For more tips, see this guide from Purina.

Other Raw Meat Options

In addition to chicken, there are other healthy raw meat options you can feed your cat for a balanced, rotated diet. According to PetCubes, some other good options include:

  • Venison – A lean red meat that provides protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins
  • Salmon – An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Duck – Provides protein as well as iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and phosphorus
  • Lamb – A great red meat option that delivers protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins

Rotating between different raw meats like chicken, venison, salmon, duck and lamb can help ensure your cat gets all the essential vitamins and minerals they need from their diet. Sticking with just one type of raw meat long-term can lead to nutritional imbalances over time. Aim to switch up the main protein source at least every couple weeks for variety.


In summary, feeding cats raw chicken has some benefits but also potential risks. Chicken can provide lean protein, moisture and nutrients for cats but lacks certain vitamins and minerals cats need. It’s important to supplement raw chicken diets properly. Raw chicken also carries a risk of bacteria like salmonella. Only feed human-grade, fresh chicken and be very careful with food prep and storage. Consult your vet before switching foods. While some cats do well on partial or full raw chicken diets, every cat is different. Work closely with your vet to determine if raw chicken is appropriate for your cat and get advice on any supplements and transition recommendations.

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