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Can Cats Eat Raw Meat? Vet-Approved Nutritional Facts & Precautions

Written by: Dr. Luqman Javed DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on June 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Can Cats Eat Raw Meat

Can Cats Eat Raw Meat? Vet-Approved Nutritional Facts & Precautions

VET APPROVED

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

WRITTEN BY

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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There has been some controversy about whether or not a raw food diet is a good idea for cats. Allowing cats to eat raw protein sources is bringing them as close to their natural diet in the wild as possible, but that still doesn’t mean there aren’t risks associated with it.

So, can cats eat raw meat? As more cat owners become aware of raw cat food diets, it’s important to understand both the benefits and the risks of such a diet before deciding if it’s an appropriate option that you’d like to explore for your pet. Read on to learn more about cats and raw diets!

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What is a Raw Meat Diet?

A raw meat-based diet is defined as a diet that includes uncooked ingredients derived from food animal species. These ingredients include the following:

  • Skeletal muscles – also known as “meat”
  • Internal organs – such as the liver or heart
  • Bones – from mammals (example: beef, lamb), fish, or poultry
  • Uncooked eggs – from birds such as chickens or ducks

Other raw ingredients, such as unpasteurized milk, are usually not a common feature in cat diets. Raw diets often come in one of two forms:

  • Commercial Raw Meat-Based Diets – these are further categorized as fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried; these diets are intended to be complete and balanced for your cat to meet their nutritional needs. They are usually subjected to tests (for example, an AAFCO approval) to ascertain whether or not they can be called a complete and balanced diet.
  • Home Prepared Raw Meat-Based Diets – recipes or diet plans made at home, and usually not subjected to tests which ascertain whether or not they are nutritionally complete for your pet.
a bowl of ground beef
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Why Consider Raw Diets for Cats?

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat animal products in order to survive. However, the appeal of raw diets seems to extend far beyond just this point. Reasons why people generally consider raw diets for their pet cats include the following:

1. Feeling Natural

Many people feel that a raw diet feels appropriate for a cat, as they are feeding their pets food items most in line with their natural wild diet.

Most supporters of a raw food diet believe that cooking a cat’s food can cause a decline in the vital substances in their food. They believe that the best way to feed their pets is to mimic a wild diet as closely as possible.


2. Enhancing Pet-Owner Bond

For many pet owners, ensuring their pet is well-fed is accompanied with a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction, as food is a daily aspect of their pet’s lives. When people feel like they’re doing the best for their pet, it enhances their bond with their pet.

man cuddling cat
Image Credit: Hans Braxmeier, Pixabay

3. Perception of Safety

In recent years, recall on commercial foods has prompted many owners to seek alternative dietary regimens for their pets.


4. Improved Digestibility & Less Fecal Output

Research 1 has also found that raw diets typically offer better digestibility in cats. This improved digestibility results in less food in the large intestine and less fecal output. This may be perceived as a benefit by some pet owners.

Owner cleaning cat litter box at home
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

5. Potentially Improved Immunity

A study 2 on cats that were fed a raw meat-based diet for 10 weeks found that there was a significant increase in some white blood cells when compared to cats that were fed a commercial canned diet. However, the potential benefits of these changes and the effects of long-term feeding of a raw diet haven’t been critically evaluated yet.


6. Anecdotal Health Benefits

Though anecdotal, raw meat-based diets have several other benefits reported by some who’ve used such a diet for their pets. Although they all require further extensive research to be made into true claims, they are still quite plausible.

Individuals who use such a diet for their cats have claimed the following benefits:

  • An improvement in coat and skin
  • Elimination of bad breath
  • Improved energy levels
  • Improved behavior
  • Reduction in certain ailments, such as parasites and obesity.

It is however important to reiterate that all these claims are thus far anecdotal only, and require further testing before they may be validated.

a cat sleeping with a sleepy smile
Image Credit: antibydni, Shutterstock

Are Raw Meat Diets Safe for Cats?

Inherently, a properly sourced and prepared raw meat-based diet is safe for cats. The idea of a raw diet is great, but not if it isn’t executed properly. It is therefore very important to consult your veterinarian before deciding to place your cat on such a diet.

There are several risks you take when feeding your cat raw animal products.

1. Bacteria and Parasites

Parasites and potentially harmful bacteria can live in raw meat, which you don’t want your cat to eat. They can become sick or even pass those parasites onto you. When you buy a commercial raw meal, the company goes through testing to minimize the opportunity for foodborne illness.

That isn’t possible when you develop the raw food recipe yourself. The only way to decrease the risk of contamination is to wash everything that the protein comes in contact with, which isn’t always a safety guarantee.


2. Nutrient Deficiencies

When you make raw food at home, it’s difficult to ensure that your cat’s meals are well-balanced. Cats need various nutrients to live a healthy life. You may not have access to or not be aware of all of the ingredients that your recipe should include.


3. Bones

Cats may lick the bones clean in the wild, but small pieces of bone fragments can be dangerous for your cat. If any pieces break off and get swallowed, they could get lodged in your cat’s digestive tract, damage their teeth, or splinter after being swallowed. When used as part of a raw diet, bones should be ground and mixed into the meat, not offered to your pet whole.

Commercial Raw Diet Cat Foods

Feeding a raw diet , whether it is homemade or a commercial product, is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly or done on a whim. If you still feel you would like to explore feeding a raw diet, speak with your veterinarian and research, research, research. If you are looking to feed your cat a commercial raw diet, make sure they follow a standard (such as AAFCO standards) to ensure their safety.

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Final Thoughts

It’s easy to see why some cat owners are attracted to raw food diets. Feeding your cat what they would eat in a natural setting has kept cats alive for centuries, but raw diets are not entirely risk-free, especially if they’re incorporated into your pet’s life without careful consideration.

Your cat’s health and safety should always be your top priority. If you are leaning toward feeding your cat a raw food diet, speak to your veterinarian and research the cat food companies, so you are well-informed.

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