Can cats eat raw meat? YES they can!
Before we switched our cats to a raw food diet we did a lot of research. Yes, we knew cats can eat raw meat. But what we really wanted to understand was, is it safe for cats to eat raw meat? What are the safety concerns that make most veterinarians hesitant or even opposed to recommending a raw food diet for cats? How can we ensure that the raw food we feed our cats is prepared with safety in mind?
Is it Safe for Cats to Eat Raw Meat?
Raw feeding is a controversial topic and there are two distinct camps, “for” and “against”.
Many veterinarians are hesitant to recommend a raw food diet because of safety fears or lack of knowledge about raw food diets for cats. They often talk about the dangers of raw food and of seeing feline patients who are malnourished as a result of being feed a raw food diet. The problem here isn’t with the raw food diet, it’s often because the cat owner wasn’t well-informed enough to ensure their cat’s diet was nutritionally balanced.
At the same time, there isn’t the same amount of research into raw food diets for cats as there is into commercial pet food brands. Backed by research, veterinarians are therefore more likely to trust and recommend commercial pet foods, which can make it difficult to know what is best for your cat.
Just because your vet doesn’t agree with feeding raw, doesn’t mean you should abandon the idea. But, it is important to be aware of the potential safety concerns – bacteria, parasites, bones and nutritional deficiencies – so that you can take the necessary precautions and prepare your cat’s raw food safely.
Remember too, you don’t have to prepare raw food from scratch; there are many good quality pre-packaged commercial raw food options available for you to choose from.
Understanding Safety Concerns
Risk of Bacteria
Salmonella and e-coli are usually the biggest concerns when it comes to bacteria. You can though, minimise the risk by following safe meat handling procedures and purchasing raw meat only from reputable sources.
It is also important to note that cats have extremely efficient and very acidic digestive systems. This means a protein meal usually takes a short 12 hours to pass through – this doesn’t give bacteria any time to take hold and become a problem.
Parasites in Raw Meat
You’ve probably heard that toxoplasmosis (from venison, pork and lamb) and trichinosis (from pork and game animals) can be present in raw meats. That’s true, but they’re usually killed or inactivated by freezing.
Intestinal parasites such as roundworm, hookworm or tapeworm are also cited as a safety concern when feeding raw to cats. They aren’t generally an issue either, unless you feed the guts of prey animals to your cat.
Are Bones Okay?
Some owners worry about whether raw bones are safe for their cats to eat. Remember though, in the wild a cat will eat the entire prey animal (e.g. mouse or bird), raw bones and all. Cats can chew and digest small raw bones with no problems, and bones actually contain beneficial nutrients including calcium. Just make sure that bones are small enough so that they don’t become a potential choking or obstruction hazard.
Cooked bones on the other hand, can cause problems and should never be fed to your cat. They become brittle during cooking, which mean they’re likely to splinter once swallowed and may cause internal damage. You don’t want to run that risk.
Risk of Nutritional Deficiencies
A raw diet is a ‘natural’ diet, but it’s up to you to make sure your cat is getting the appropriate nutrients. Commercial raw food will be nutritionally balanced so it may be an easier option for some people.
If you plan to feed a homemade raw food diet, do your research, follow a recipe from a trusted source e.g. a holistic vet who specialises in raw food nutrition, and take the time to get the balance right. Feeding raw might seem complicated at first, but once you get into a routine it’ll become second nature.
–> We recommend this Balanced Raw Cat Food Recipe. It’s what we feed our cats!
Ensure Your Cats Eat Raw Meat Safely
The health of our cats and yours is of the utmost importance to us, so we recommend you follow these tips to ensure the raw meat you feed your cats is safe for them eat.
Buy from a reputable source
Make sure the raw meat you use comes from a reputable source and is as fresh as possible.
Grind raw meat yourself
If you’re feeding ground meat, be sure to grind it yourself to reduce the risk of bacteria. Ground meat has more surface area to attract bacteria and other nasties. You don’t know where or for how long it’s been sitting around unless you grind it yourself.
Take sensible precautions
Wash your hands after handling raw meat or anything (bowls, surfaces etc.) that has come in contact with raw meat.
Disinfect all surfaces
Wash chopping boards, surfaces, knives and bowls with hot soapy water and disinfectant to make sure there are no germs. A mix of 1 tablespoon bleach to 4 cups water is an effective disinfectant. Alternatively, you can run used items through the dishwasher.
Store and thaw raw meat safely
The best way to store raw meat is to freeze it before you’re ready to use it. Keep raw meat well wrapped and separated from other foods in the freezer.
Thaw frozen raw meat properly, by defrosting it slowly in the fridge. Never try to speed up thawing times by leaving frozen meat out at room temperature or microwaving it.
Don’t use plastic bowls
Serve raw food to your pets in stainless steel or glass bowls rather than plastic, which can harbour bacteria.
We hope you are now feeling a little less concerned about the safety of feeding your cats raw meat. Ultimately, we would not feed our cats a raw meat based diet, if we did not believe it was safe for cats to eat raw meat!
If you have any other safety concerns about raw food diets for cats, leave us a note in the comments section.