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Can Cats Eat Raw Meat? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

beef cubes on a table

Cats are expert hunters, and with their sharp claws, powerful jaws, and lithe, agile bodies, they are highly adept at catching and consuming prey. In the wild, cats catch small mammals and birds and eat them raw, so it’s natural to wonder whether we should feed our domestic cats a similar diet.

Can cats eat raw meat and is it safe for them? Feeding raw meat to cats is a controversial topic, and there’s been a great deal of debate among experts as to whether this is the best option for domestic felines. That said, you can feed raw meat to your cats, but there are health concerns and risks to be aware of.

We put together this guide to help you decide whether feeding raw meat to your cat is the best option for you. Let’s dive in!

Raw Diet for Cats

Raw diets for both cats and dogs have become highly popular in recent years, due to the health issues caused by low-quality pet foods on the market. As the name suggests, a raw food diet for cats involves feeding them only raw food or making raw food the majority of their diet. Since cats are obligate carnivores, this means feeding them almost solely raw meat, including muscle meat, organs, and bones.

Most of the time, raw food diets are prepared by cat owners themselves at home, but there are a few commercial options available too. Preparing homemade raw meals for your cat can be tricky because getting the correct proportion of nutrients to keep your cat’s diet balanced and complete is a challenge.

Proponents of this diet use the fact that cats are obligate carnivores and don’t need fruit or vegetables in their diet to prop up their claims. Cats can only have a small amount of carbs in their diet and need a large amount of protein, so on paper, this diet does make sense. Raw meats contain all the nutrients that your cat needs, and cooking meats can decrease their nutritional value. While this diet seems like a good option for cats, there are valid safety and health concerns.

british short hair cat eating
Image By: Lilia Solonari, Shutterstock

Safety Concerns of Raw Food Diets

Raw meat may be nutrient-rich, but it does not come without risk. Raw meat may contain pathogens like salmonella and E.coli, which can cause serious health issues for cats. Cooking generally removes most of these potentially hazardous pathogens.

That said, cats can consume raw meat due to their short digestive tracts, and many pathogens can pass through a cat’s digestive tract without any issues. However, there is also the risk of cross-contamination during preparation, potentially contaminating your food too.

Another potential risk is nutritional deficiencies. Making raw food at home for your cat presents a challenge when it comes to ensuring balanced nutrients, due to the inconsistencies of these nutrients in the ingredients that you use. Organ meats, for example, have a much higher nutrient density pound for pound than muscle meats, and too few organ meats can result in nutritional deficiencies. Small pieces of bone are also always a risk because these can potentially get lodged in your cat’s digestive tract and cause internal damage.

If you do decide to feed your cat a raw food diet, it’s important to get advice from your vet or to purchase reputable commercially available raw foods formulated by pet nutritionists to make sure the food is safe and properly balanced.

How to Ensure That Your Cats Eat Raw Meat Safely

While cats can thrive on a diet of raw meat, you need to make sure the food that they’re consuming is safe, nutritionally balanced, and complete. To do this, follow these guidelines:

  • Buy meat as fresh as possible from a reputable source.
  • Process the meat yourself to reduce the chance of pathogens.
  • Make sure to practice cleanliness (wash hands, utensils, and preparation area thoroughly).
  • Disinfect all surfaces.
  • Store the meat correctly and safely.
  • Always use stainless steel or glass and avoid wood or plastic bowls.

Final Thoughts

Cats can eat raw meat, but it’s important to do your research about the nutrients that they need and how to prepare their food correctly. Also, if you’re preparing raw meat for your cat at home, make sure it’s from a reputable source and is as fresh as possible to avoid contamination.

If you’d like to feed raw meat to your cat but are worried about the risks, it may be a good idea to purchase commercially available raw diets to make sure your pet is getting a balanced and complete diet or to consult your vet about the best way to ensure that your cat is getting a balanced diet.

Featured Image Credit: PDPhotos, Pixabay

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