Food can be a controversial issue for cat owners particularly when it comes to the question of cooked versus raw meat diets.
While few doubt their feline’s willingness to tuck into raw chicken, bones, and butcher’s scraps, there are some concerns about the safety of regularly feeding cats raw meat.
Is It Safe to Give Your Cat Raw Meat?
The short answer is yes. Most of the concerns about raw meat diets relate to the safety of humans, not felines.
Healthy cats with no underlying health issues can tolerate digestive pathogens remarkably well and should not be in danger even if small amounts of salmonella and e.coli are present in their food.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for humans who are very sensitive to both of these pathogens and likely to get sick if they consume them.
The biggest danger associated with feeding a cat raw meat is cross-contamination.
Owners must adhere to strict food safety practices when handling and serving raw poultry, meat, muscles, organs, and bones.
This means preparing raw foods in a space that prevents contact with all other foods and limiting contamination by using dedicated cutlery, chopping boards, and other equipment that must be thoroughly sanitized afterward.
Ideally, you should wear latex gloves. If this isn’t possible, minimize contact and scrub underneath your nails after handling raw food.
Due to the risk of cross-contamination, people with immunocompromised conditions are discouraged from feeding raw diets.
The same applies to immunocompromised pets with underlying health conditions as their bodies may be less efficient at neutralizing typically harmless pathogens.
If you or your cat have any health problems, it’s safer to stick with a traditional cooked diet.
Are There Any Risks for Felines?
There is a slight risk of parasites.
However, the higher the quality of the meat, the lower the chance of there being worms or other nasties in commercially sold raw foods.
When buying meat and poultry from a supermarket or reputable butcher, the risk is very low.
Regular worming is an important part of a feline’s health routine so any parasites that do develop should be dealt with quickly.
Owners who are concerned about parasites and pathogens can further minimize the risk by freezing meat for twenty-four hours before serving.
Just be sure to cut it into small pieces before freezing.
To thaw, place the frozen pieces on the cat’s dinner plate and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
Take care not to leave raw meat or poultry in a cat’s dinner bowl for too long.
If food sits unattended for many hours, particularly in hot weather, it will attract flies and start to spoil.
This is when the risk to a pet starts to increase.
One other issue is the presence of small bones.
Wherever possible, remove everything but the biggest bones from raw meat.
Chicken bones can be especially dangerous as they splinter easily so these should never be given to a cat.
If they cannot be removed, they must be finely ground or minced until they pose no risk.