Can cats eat raw chicken, or is gourmet cooking your kitty’s food of choice?

If you look back at the evolution of the domestic cat, ovens probably didn’t play a huge role.

As hunters, your cat’s ancestors would have happily eaten raw meat, organs, and stomach contents with few ill effects. 

They won’t have been fussy—whatever animal of a convenient size that happened to be within eyesight would have been fair game. Their prey could have ranged from mice, rats, birds, and larger rodents to farmyard chickens.

Is that still true today, though? Can cats eat raw chicken, or should we make sure everything they get is thoroughly cooked? Untamed has the answers to what your feline friend should and should not eat!

Cat evolution—is your cat still a hunter at heart?

Those of you who have been lucky enough to receive gifts left on the kitchen floor know that your seemingly docile feline is a hunter at heart.

The hunting instinct is hardwired into every cat 

Source: Harry Cunnigham @harry.digital

The hunting instinct is hardwired into a cat’s mind. Resistance is futile once a bird’s wings start flapping within reach or a mouse starts scurrying along a path.

Cats will have learned their hunting skills from their mother and through play with their siblings. Part of the initial learning phase is designed to give kittens every skill they need to survive in the wild—whether or not they are domesticated.

If your cat is allowed outside, the urge to hunt birds, rodents, or even larger prey will be irresistible. Indoor cats will display the same behaviour, but their prey is more likely to be a toy. Or your foot.

Prey is, of course, not cooked—cats have been able to eat uncooked meat for millennia and have suffered no ill effects. On the contrary—the best hunters have been the cats who have survived longest and passed their genes on to successive generations.

Our feline friends most likely have generations of expert hunters—and avid consumers of raw meat—in their ancestry.

How your cat’s digestion works

As humans, we aren’t very good at digesting raw meat—eating raw chicken is a quick way to test the efficiency of your local hospital’s emergency services.

This is due to our nature as omnivores (and occasionally om-nom-nomnivores). Our digestive tract has evolved to handle food from which most of the harmful bacteria have been removed by cooking. Most of our resilience to bad bacteria has been lost through our preference for cooking our food to make it easier to chew and more palatable.

Cats are different. As carnivores, their digestive tract has remained fairly short and considerably more acidic than ours. The results are that:

  • The acid often destroys harmful bacteria in a kitty’s gut
  • Food passes through your cat too quickly for harmful bacteria to gain a foothold

Most food passes through a cat’s digestive system without any ill effects, even if it carries pathogens or diseases that would have us on our backs.

Is raw chicken good for cats?

Raw chicken for cats delivers a protein hit like few other foods.

Harking back to your couch-tiger’s hunting heritage, feeding cats raw chicken will satisfy the requirement for amino acids quickly and easily—you may find your cat won’t need much before wandering away in search of a convenient pair of shoulders to use as a cushion or keyboard to lie on.

Amino acids are divided into two types:

  1. Essential amino acids
  2. Non-essential amino acids

Essential Amino Acids

These amino acids are classified as essential because cats can’t synthesise them on their own—they need to be in their diet.

Raw chicken contains the following essential amino acids:

Amino acid

How much per 100g in chicken?

Arginine

1.839g

Histidine

0.947g

Methionine

0.844g

Phenylalanine

1.217g

Isoleucine

1.612g

Threonine

1.289g

Leucine

2.294g

Tryptophan

0.358g

Lysine

2.583g

Valine

1.516g

This is enough to cover your cat’s requirements.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Cats need non-essential amino acids, but they can synthesise them using the building blocks from the protein they eat.

Some studies have suggested that raw chicken also helps with your cat’s hydration—chicken has a relatively high water content and may help your kitty get enough liquid.

The biggest upside to raw chicken is the taste, though—you may be in danger of RSI in your calves from the incessant head-butting you receive when you start preparing your cat’s raw chicken feast. You probably won’t win any compensation lawsuits, though.

What happens if a cat eats raw chicken? Worst-case scenario

While raw chicken has the advantages of covering a cat’s protein needs and driving them wild with anticipation, you need to make sure the chicken you use is safe.

Even though cats’ digestive systems may be able to handle many harmful bacteria, there are risks in raw chicken that they may not be able to cope with.

The most common baddies in raw chicken are:

  1. Salmonella
  2. Listeria

Salmonella

Your cat’s intestines contain all sorts of bacteria, and under normal circumstances, the bad ones—salmonella, E.coli, and listeria—are kept in check by the good ones, such as Bifidus and lactobacilli.

If your cat receives a dose of extra salmonella bacteria from eating raw chicken, there is a danger that they will overwhelm the beneficial bacteria in the gut, meaning your cat may suffer from:

Salmonellosis can lead to dehydration, rapid weight loss, and even death if untreated. It is particularly dangerous for:

  • Kittens—A kitten’s immune system is often not developed enough to fend off salmonella effectively
  • Senior cats—As a cat grows older, its immune system becomes less able to cope with infection

Listeria

Listeria is also common in raw chicken and can cause listeriosis, the symptoms of which are:

  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Untreated listeriosis can lead to a cat’s death in a matter of days.

Even if salmonella or listeria infections are treated in good time, your kitty may still suffer from a runny tummy for several days—neither your feline nor you are going to find that pleasant.

So should cats eat raw chicken?

Whether or not you decide to feed your cat a raw chicken diet is your choice, but you should make sure the diet is balanced.

While raw chicken is rich in all the essential amino acids your mini-lion needs, there are some nutritional points that you should be careful about:

  1. Taurine
  2. Fat
  3. Anti-vitamins

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that your kitty needs for:

  • Bile production
  • Eye health
  • Heart health
  • Reproductive activity

It isn’t present in raw chicken breast, so you would need to supplement the chicken with some liver or other animal-based protein.

Fat

Raw chicken may not contain enough fat for your cat to satisfy its energy requirement. If the dietary fat source is insufficient, a cat will start metabolising protein for energy, which is:

  • Inefficient
  • Potentially harmful, as the amount of protein delivering amino acids is reduced

Anti-vitamins

Substances such as avidin and thiaminase bind vitamins together in your cat’s body, meaning that the vitamins can’t be absorbed.

Raw chicken contains both these anti-vitamins, but they are destroyed by cooking, after which the vitamins delivered can be used.

Bearing in mind that raw chicken doesn’t contain much fat, you should supplement your raw chicken diet with the extras cats need to cover their requirements. You could cover these needs by the addition of a fat-rich cat jelly or cat gravy.

Are there any other watch-outs with raw chicken?

The most important watch-outs when feeding your feline on raw chicken are:

  1. Freshness and safety
  2. Bones
  3. Cross-contamination 

Freshness and safety

You should make sure your chicken supplier can guarantee that the product is:

  • Fresh
  • Free from salmonella, listeria, and other nasties

These safety elements come at a price, though—you may find yourself paying considerably more for safe chicken meat for your feline than you normally would.

Bones

Chicken bones are hollow and may be harmful to a cat, as follows:

  • Larger chicken bones can splinter and cause mouth injuries or get stuck in kitty’s throat
  • Smaller bones may be swallowed and cause damage to the stomach or intestines

When you prepare your feline companion’s food, you should be scrupulously careful that you remove any bone matter from the chicken. This can be a time-consuming process but may save your kitty a world of pain.

Cross-contamination

Even if the chicken you use is guaranteed free from harmful bacteria, salmonella and listeriosis can rapidly gain a foothold in uncooked meat.

To avoid the danger of cross-contamination—germs being transferred to you or your family as a result of you handling raw chicken while preparing your cat’s food at home—you should make sure you follow an extensive hygiene regime.

Your hygiene measures should include:

  • Using separate utensils to prepare your cat’s food
  • If possible, preparing the food in a separate area away from your kitchen
  • Disinfecting everything immediately after use
  • Regularly sanitising all work surfaces, door handles, and floors in the area where your kitty’s food is prepared

Some studies have found that salmonella bacteria can survive up to four days on surfaces, so extensive hygiene measures could prevent you, your cat, and your family from becoming ill.

What nutrition does your kitty need?

Your kitty needs a meat-based diet, but other nutrient sources should be included. If you’ve ever seen the remains of a bird after a cat has been hunting, you will know that not much is left over.

For a balanced diet, your feline friend needs:

  1. Protein
  2. Fat
  3. Vitamins
  4. Minerals

Protein

Protein is made up of different combinations of amino acids and builds muscle, hair, and skin.

As carnivores, cats have evolved to be able to best extract the amino acids they need from animal protein. Within the various meat-based protein sources, some are easier for a cat to metabolise than others—this is known as the biological value of protein sources.

The highest biological values can be found in the following protein sources:

Protein source

Biological value (how much of a protein source a cat can use)

Egg

100%

Chicken

98%

Lamb

95%

Salmon, cooked fish, sardines, prawns, tuna

94%

Fish meal, poultry meal, fish or poultry derivatives, liver

92%

Beef and pork or ham

87%

Soya

68%

Wheatgerm, corn, sweetcorn, and other vegetable proteins

Below 65%

The top protein sources are so digestible that cats only need a relatively small amount to cover their amino acid requirements—they would have to eat considerably more vegetable-based protein to get what they need.

The better the protein source, the easier your cat will be able to get the necessary amino acids

Image (c) Untamed

Fat

Fat is the prime source of the energy your cat needs—a gram of fat gives kitty twice as much get-up-and-play as a gram of protein or carbohydrates.

Fat also provides essential fatty acids for cell membrane structure, as well as being a major flavour enhancer—cats go wild for the taste and smell of animal fat. The result is that you don’t need flavour enhancers in your food to persuade your kitty to eat it.

Fat gives your tiger energy 

Image (c) Untamed

Vitamins

Fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins are essential for the chemical reactions in your cat’s body.

The best sources of vitamins for your kitty are as follows:

Vitamin type

Sources

Fat-soluble

  • Vitamin A—liver, fish, egg yolk, and butter
  • Vitamin D—liver, kidney, fish oil, and eggs
  • Vitamin E—liver, egg, wheat germ oil, milk, and butter
  • Vitamin K—produced naturally in a cat’s intestines

Water-soluble

(B complex and C)

  • Vitamin B complex—meat, milk, eggs, and liver
  • Vitamin C—cats can make their own from glucose in the liver

Minerals

Trace amounts of minerals provide your cat with essential nutrients to maintain:

  • Structural integrity through bones and teeth
  • The correct balance of fluids in the body
  • Catalysts for chemical reactions
  • The ability to form compounds out of metabolised food

Your cat needs:

Essential minerals     

What they do

Magnesium

Magnesium helps muscle function and reduces the build-up of lactic acid

Zinc

Zinc helps turn fats, carbs, and proteins into energy as required

Calcium

Calcium is the main component of bones and teeth

What are the alternatives to raw chicken?

If you decide to go for raw chicken as an occasional treat or to avoid altogether as being too risky, you have several alternatives to avoid getting pawed and head-butted to death.

  • Commercial dry food—Dry cat food is usually balanced and complete, but you need to check the label as it often contains a high proportion of plant-based ingredients that aren’t as healthy for your cat
  • Commercial wet food—With commercial wet cat food, you need to make sure you know exactly what is in the can. If the label mentions “meat and animal derivatives,” you should be careful as you don’t know what your cat could be eating
  • Home-cooked food—Homemade cat food means that you know exactly what your feline friend is eating, but it is highly labour-intensive and can get frighteningly expensive

Untamed has the solution—you can get perfectly balanced, healthy nutrition delivered to your door. Your kitty will go wild, and you will know they’re getting exactly what is needed!

Untamed—gourmet food for your gourmand!

Personalised meal plans—the cat equivalent of your favourite restaurant 

Image (c) Untamed

If you really want to spoil your cat, you can do no better than design a personal meal plan with Untamed!

All our meals boast:

  • Human grade ingredients—Only the best goes into our meals, and we tell you exactly what goes into every product. Our meals are hypoallergenic, meaning they are the best you can give a sensitive cat
  • Nutrient-friendly cooking processes—All our meals are gently steam-cooked to ensure that all the goodness stays in your kitty’s food. Our meals are also entirely free from preservatives, flavour-enhancers, and unnecessary bulking ingredients that don’t do your kitty any good
  • Planned portions—Based on the info you give us about your cat, we will make sure the portions are optimally planned to fulfill their nutritional needs. After a while, you will notice that weight will be controlled naturally with a balance of eating and movement

Our Recipes page gives you the full rundown of the goodness that’s in Untamed cat food. If chicken is your cat’s protein of choice, you should check out:

  • Chocka chicken in gravy
  • Chocka chicken with ham in gravy
  • Chocka chicken in jelly
  • Chocka chicken with duck in jelly

Try us and see the effect!

 

Your kitty will go wild. Try us and see!

Image (c) Untamed

Within a week, Untamed will show you the difference high-quality food can make to your bundle of fun! You can expect the following:

  • In week one, you will see that your cat is eating happily and producing less mess in the litter tray
  • Two months later, your feline should be bouncing with energy and looking better, with a glossier coat
  • After four months, a cat should be looking healthy and sleek
  • Long-term, you can expect natural weight control and the good health that comes from a high-quality diet

Don’t take our word for it—try Untamed and prove it for yourself! Here’s how:

  1. Fill out our Try Now questionnaire
  2. Check your emails for your kitty’s customised meal plan
  3. Log in to your Untamed account and order your trial pack

Your meal pack will arrive on your doorstep in no time, and you and your ball of fur can start living the gourmet life with Untamed!

A healthy cat is a happy cat

Image (c) Untamed