Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken? The Answer May Surprise You


Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need meat in their diet to thrive. Chicken is a lean, healthy source of protein for cats and can be fed raw if handled properly. Around 38.4% of U.S. households own a cat, so it’s an important question for many pet owners whether raw chicken can be part of a cat’s diet. Feeding raw chicken has potential benefits like more available nutrients and better dental health. However, there are also risks like bacterial contamination that need to be managed. This article covers the pros and cons of feeding cats raw chicken, proper food handling procedures, appropriate portion sizes, and alternatives to incorporate in your cat’s raw diet.

Nutritional Benefits of Raw Chicken

Raw chicken can provide certain nutritional benefits for cats. Chicken is a rich source of protein and amino acids like taurine that cats require in their diet ( The high protein and moisture content of raw chicken can help cats stay hydrated and maintain lean muscle mass.

Compared to dry kibble, raw chicken contains more moisture, which can help with urinary tract health. The nutrients in raw chicken are also more bioavailable since they have not been processed or cooked. This allows for better absorption and utilization of key amino acids like taurine that are essential for cats (

Overall, when fed in proper portions as part of a balanced diet, raw chicken can provide important nutritional benefits for cats thanks to its natural protein and moisture content.

Potential Risks

Feeding raw chicken to cats does come with some risks that cat owners should be aware of. The two main concerns are bacterial contamination and parasites/other pathogens.

Raw chicken can contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella. Salmonella and other bacteria can make cats sick if the raw chicken is contaminated. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and lethargy. In rare cases it can even be fatal. Cats with weaker immune systems such as kittens and senior cats are at higher risk of illness from bacteria in raw chicken [1].

In addition to bacteria, raw chicken may contain parasites, viruses, or other pathogens that can infect cats who eat it. Parasites like Toxoplasma gondii can be found in raw meat and spread to cats through ingestion. Toxoplasmosis infection in cats can cause symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Other pathogens that may be present include campylobacter, listeria, E. coli, and chlamydia [2].

Overall the potential for bacterial contamination and parasitic infection are the main risks to be aware of when considering feeding raw chicken to cats.



Preparing Raw Chicken Safely

When feeding raw chicken to cats, proper storage and handling is crucial to prevent bacterial contamination and foodborne illness. Raw chicken can contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, so it’s important to take precautions.

Store raw chicken sealed in the fridge for no more than 1-2 days. Keep it frozen if storing longer. According to the FDA, freeze raw chicken at 0°F or below to help kill any bacteria present. (source)

When thawing frozen raw chicken, do so in the fridge or microwave rather than at room temperature. Thaw only what you will feed in one meal and avoid refreezing raw chicken once thawed. (source)

Disinfect any surfaces, utensils, and bowls that come in contact with raw chicken to prevent cross-contamination. Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw chicken.

Lightly searing the outside of the raw chicken can help kill surface bacteria. But be sure to serve it raw on the inside, as cooking completely defeats the purpose of the health benefits of raw feeding.

Appropriate Portion Size

The appropriate raw chicken portion size for cats depends on the cat’s weight. A general guideline is to feed about 2-3% of the cat’s body weight per day, split into multiple meals.

For example, a 10 lb cat would eat about 5 oz of raw food per day. This could be split into two 2.5 oz meals or three 1.6 oz meals. Always weigh out the raw chicken using a kitchen scale for accuracy.

It’s important to gradually transition cats to a raw diet over 2-3 weeks. Start by replacing 25% of their usual food with raw, and slowly increase the ratio over time. This gives their digestive system time to adjust.

Monitor stool quality during the transition. Loose stool or diarrhea may indicate the ratio is increasing too quickly. Slow down and adjust as needed for your cat’s comfort.

For portion guidance specific to your cat’s needs, consult with your veterinarian. Provide the cat’s weight, activity level, age, and any health conditions.


Alternatives to Raw Chicken

While raw chicken can provide health benefits, there are alternatives cat owners may want to consider. These include:

Cooked Chicken

Lightly cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh is a nutritious alternative to raw chicken. Cooking the chicken kills any potential bacteria while still preserving the nutrients cats need. Cook the chicken plain without any seasonings or oils. Let it cool completely before serving it to your cat in bite-sized pieces (Source).

Commercial Raw Cat Food

High-quality commercial raw cat food provides the benefits of raw chicken without the risks of handling and preparing it yourself. Look for brands that use human-grade ingredients and undergo high pressure pasteurization to kill harmful bacteria. Some reputable brands include SmallBatch, Primal, Stella & Chewy’s, and Feline Natural (Source).

Other Raw Meats

Other raw meat options to rotate instead of chicken include grass-fed beef, turkey, duck, rabbit, venison, bison, and fish like salmon or sardines. Always choose high-quality, fresh options. Never feed raw pork or raw fish that could contain harmful parasites.

Consult Your Vet First

Before introducing any raw meat into your cat’s diet, it’s important to consult your veterinarian, especially if your cat has any pre-existing health conditions. A vet can provide guidance on whether raw chicken is appropriate and how to transition your cat’s diet safely.

Cats with compromised immune systems are at higher risk for salmonella and other bacteria that could be present in raw chicken. Older cats or those with kidney disease may also not be good candidates for raw diets. Your vet will consider your individual cat’s health status and make diet recommendations accordingly.

Work closely with your vet on timing and portion size if you plan to incorporate raw chicken. Ask if any supplements or probiotics could help support your cat’s digestive health during the transition. Monitor your cat for signs of an upset stomach or other adverse reactions.

While raw chicken can be fed to some cats, it’s not necessarily right for every cat. Having your vet’s input can help you make the soundest decision for your cat’s unique nutritional needs.

Monitor Your Cat Closely

If you choose to feed your cat raw chicken, it’s important to monitor them closely for any signs of illness or digestive upset. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, raw diets may put cats at higher risk for bacterial contamination and foodborne illness.

Watch for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, or other signs of gastrointestinal distress. These could indicate that your cat has contracted a foodborne illness from the raw chicken. Contact your vet right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

It’s also advisable to have regular vet checkups if feeding a raw diet. Your vet can check for nutritional imbalances, parasites, or other health issues that may arise from raw feeding. Bring a sample of the raw chicken you’re feeding so your vet can evaluate its safety and nutritional balance.

With close monitoring and vet supervision, you may be able to feed limited amounts of raw chicken safely. But be vigilant about your cat’s health and don’t hesitate to stop raw feeding if issues come up.

Raw Chicken as an Occasional Treat

While raw chicken can provide some nutritional benefits, it should only be fed occasionally and in limited quantities due to the potential risks. According to Purina, raw chicken should be no more than 10% of your cat’s diet.

When feeding raw chicken, the portion size should be small – a few bites or shreds of meat is sufficient. More than that may be too much rich protein all at once for your cat to handle. As noted by Untamed, cats have a shorter digestive tract than humans, so they cannot handle large quantities of raw meat safely.

Limiting raw chicken to the occasional treat will allow your cat to enjoy the benefits of raw meat protein while minimizing any potential health risks. Be sure to monitor your cat closely afterwards and watch for any signs of an upset stomach or other reaction.


In summary, raw chicken can be a healthy treat for cats in moderation, as long as proper precautions are taken. The main benefits of raw chicken are added protein, moisture, and nutrients like taurine. However, raw chicken does carry risks from bacteria, parasites, and bones. To mitigate these risks, only feed human-grade raw chicken in small amounts and take care to prepare it safely. Consult your veterinarian before feeding raw chicken, especially for cats with health conditions. Monitor your cat closely afterwards for any signs of illness. While raw chicken should not make up the bulk of your cat’s diet, occasional portions can be fine for most healthy cats under supervision.

Overall, incorporate raw chicken sparingly and with care. This allows your cat to gain nutritional benefits while avoiding potential dangers. By following proper handling procedures and your vet’s guidance, raw chicken can be enjoyed safely and positively by cats.

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