Cats are carnivores, right? And in the wild cats eat raw meat to the exclusion of almost everything else. They certainly don’t cook their own food. That’s why people have started feeding cats raw meat.
Should you feed cats raw meat? It’s both a good and bad idea. It’s good because it contains lots of water, is good for their dental health, and helps maintain a healthy weight in cats. But food poisoning, parasites from raw meat and poor diet balance are all potential issues. In short, err on the side of caution: stick to regular cat food.
These issues are largely related to the way meat is processed by people. The conditions we keep farm animals in, and the subsequent handling process aren’t very good at ensuring our food stays bacteria-free. That’s not a problem in the wild. Tinned food avoids these issues entirely.
Should You Feed Cats Raw Meat, or Not?
If you’ve read our post on foods that are poisonous to cats, you’ll already have some idea of the do’s and don’ts around what to serve up as a meal to your pet. It’s increasingly common for cats to be fed a raw food diet, and raw meat plays a big part of that. Cats love meat, and feral cats will happily go hunting for it out of bins. Because of that, it’s easy to have the impression that you’re doing nothing wrong if you feed cats raw meat. But science takes a different point of view.
As with anything related to the animals we keep as pets, it’s a popular subject for scientific study. As the diet has become more popular, scientific study has intensified, and even the mainstream press have started to pick up on the findings. Based on the content of these recent reports, it looks like when we feed cats raw meat, we actually aren’t doing them any favours.
But Aren’t Cats Carnivores?
Yes, they are. As seemingly more and more humans turn their backs on eating meat in favour of vegetarianism, some of them try to enforce the same diet on their pets. Again, science has led the way in forming our attitude on this, and most scientists agree that cats just aren’t built to go without meat. Cats require a high level of protein in order to function normally, and we’ve covered the pros and pitfalls of specific types of cat diet before now. The level of protein that a cat’s physiology demands just isn’t present in vegetables alone. And so, meat is required.
You might therefore think it’s perfectly logical to feed cats raw meat, because that’s what they need. That’s not necessarily the case. If feeding cats was as simple as just providing them with raw meat, then cat food would never have been invented. Although some of what’s good for a cat can be found in raw meat, there’s a lot of risk there at the same time. That’s one of the reasons house cats tend to live longer than cats who roam outdoors; they’re fed a controlled diet and aren’t exposed to so many of the things that are bad for them.
Why Do Some People Think It’s A Good Idea To Feed Cats Raw Meat?
It seems to come back to that idea of having a more natural diet. We live in a time when food for both humans and pets is highly processed. There’s increasing suspicion of the level of preservatives and additives included within them. None of us want to think we’re consuming too many chemicals. We don’t like the idea of our cats ingesting too many synthetic products either.
We’ve seen people report concerns about contamination within processed food. There are also claims that processed pet foods can cause skin and allergy problems within cats. However despite all of these claims, there isn’t a single shred of evidence to suggest any of it is true. Whereas, by contrast, there’s plenty of evidence that details the harm that could potentially come with raw meat.
Other reports and claims we’ve read have suggested that raw meat has a high water content. Cats don’t take in as much water as they should, and so they’re particularly prone to developing urinary health problems. In fact, that’s something else we’ve looked at in detail. Wanting to increase your cat’s water content is a commendable aim, and it may well be true that raw meat contains more water. However a cat can get all the moisture it needs from eating wet cat food. Those same reports say that if you feed cats raw meat, it’s better for their dental health. Again, that might be true, but dry cat food tackles plaque build up in the exact same way.
The other prominent claim that we’ve seen is that raw meat helps cats to stay at a healthy weight. The thinking behind that claim is that some dry foods contain a high carbohydrate content, and not enough protein. Carbohydrates go on to be stored in a cat’s body, and become fat. There’s definitely some truth to that. However it’s easily combated by balancing your cat’s traditional wet and dry cat food intake.
What’s Wrong With Feeding Cats Raw Meat?
There are three major risk factors when it comes to feeding raw meat to your cat. Those are food poisoning, parasitic infestation, and poor diet balance. We’ll break those down one at a time.
Bacteria capable of causing food poisoning is present in all meat to a greater or lesser degree. However raw meat is particularly prone to containing things you just don’t want your cat to eat. You’ve probably heard of things like salmonella, listeria and e-Coli as human health concerns. They’re just as concerning for cats, and they’re transmitted in exactly the same way. Whilst there is always a risk of this type of contamination in any kind of food, the chances of it occurring in properly cooked or processed foods are minuscule when compared with the risks of it occurring in raw meat. A cat suffering with salmonella will suffer badly with dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea.
There are a number of parasites which can hide within raw meat and become a threat to your cat. One such parasite is a roundworm known as trichinosis, which exist within cysts contained within the meat. Cats are particularly prone to worms, and raw meat is just one more way they can become infected.
There’s also a risk to humans when it comes to raw meat and cats – you as an owner can become infected by handling the meat before feeding it to them. A specific parasite called Toxoplasmosis Gondii can exist within raw meats, and causes no harm to cats at all, but can lead to health issues in humans. It’s especially dangerous to anybody who’s pregnant, as infections can cause birth defects in babies. It is possible to negate this risk by freezing the meat for a full 24 hour period and then defrosting before serving – a process which kills most known parasites.
Poor Diet Balance
One of the essential ingredients that cat’s require in order to function properly is calcium. It’s vital in order for your cat to maintain healthy nerve function and enzyme production. All high quality commercial cat foods contain sufficient calcium to keep your cat healthy. This is not true of cats being fed on a raw meat only diet – the calcium usually comes from ground up bone content in the food, and feeding bones directly from meat isn’t a good idea as we’ve already covered.
If you feed cats raw meat and nothing else, it’s important to ensure they’re still ingesting sufficient amounts of calcium. Therefore this can only be achieved by using supplements.
Are Some Meats Better Or Worse Than Others?
Yes. There are various meats which – so long as the meat is handled properly – are perfectly safe to give your cats as part of a balanced diet. Other meats should never be given to cats under any circumstances. Here’s a basic overview:-
Fine To Use:
- Chicken breast and thighs
- Turkey breast, wings and legs
- Beef heart and kidney
- Lamb heart and kidney
Food To Avoid:
- Liver of all kinds. Liver contains very high vitamin A levels, which can be toxic to cats when they receive too high a dose.
- Lunch/sandwich meats from deli counters. Processed deli foods contain a lot of preservatives which are bad for cats, along with a high salt content.
So long as you’re careful about which meats you feed your cat, and you prepare it properly, you can feed cats raw meat. We do not recommend that they be fed a raw meat only diet. Many of the supposed health benefits of a raw meat diet have no basis in science. Additionally, any potential benefit it could have can already be found in regular cat food. It’s easy to make mistakes when preparing raw meat for your cat, and so you could potentially be taking risks with your cat’s health without getting any positives in return.
Remember that handling raw meat can be dangerous to you as well as your cat! Always wash your hands both before and after touching the meat, and never prepare different types of meat on the same cutting board. It’s essential that meat is frozen for 24 hours and then defrosted before serving, as this will kill off any potential parasites. If you really want to feed cats raw meat, and you’re confident you know what you’re doing, we’re not here to stop you. We just want you to take care!
Thanks for stopping by and reading our article today. We hope you found the information useful. If you did, please feel free to share it among your cat loving friends!