Cats love meat, and we may be tempted to treat them with a piece of it, especially when we’ve cooked some meat and potatoes for ourselves. Cats enjoy a nice nibble of tuna or beef now and again, but can cats eat chicken bones?
Chicken bones are chock full of vitamins and minerals that are crucial to a healthy feline diet, such as calcium and magnesium.
Giving our beloved kitties a taste of meat, and cleaning their teeth in the process, may seem like a very good idea, but the reality is that the risks may outweigh the benefits.
In this article, we’ll cover the following;
- Cats and Chicken Bones, What You Need to Know
- Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones?
- Can Kittens Eat Chicken Bones?
- Benefits/Negatives of Feeding Cats Chicken Bones
- Alternatives to chicken bones for cats
Cats and Chicken Bones, What You Need to Know
Most kitty owners know that cats are carnivores, which means they eat a diet primarily constituted of meat and animal proteins. Many cats enjoy a taste of vegetables once and a while, and outdoor cats have been known to nibble on vegetation and grass (find out why here), but meat has historically made up the vast majority of their diet. Even some house cats will act on their predatory instincts now and again and present their beloved owner with a lovely dead mouse or bird.
Many of us will occasionally slip our cat a piece of meat, especially chicken, which is lean and something cats can’t get enough of. But what about bones?
In theory, it sounds like a great idea. The cat can chew on something yummy, satisfy their instincts and clean their teeth all in one shot. But are they safe?
Well, it depends. Let’s start with one very simple and very important rule:
Raw chicken bones offer many health benefits, but still aren’t completely safe.
But as you can see, some cats really like those uncooked chicken bones:
Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones?
When it comes to safety for cats, there is a huge difference between uncooked and cooked chicken bones. It all comes down to science. When cooked, the normally pliant bones of a chicken become brittle and hard and can splinter in your cat’s mouth and throat, causing potentially fatal injuries. It is never, ever safe to give your cat a cooked chicken bone. Doing so can result in serious injuries, so even if you’ve accidentally given cooked chicken bones to your cat in the past without anything going wrong, don’t do it again. All it takes is for them to get one splinter off of the bone and that could be fatal if it is ingested.
Now you may be wondering if can cats eat uncooked chicken bones. The answer is yes. Raw chicken bones are relatively bendable and won’t splinter in the same way, making them the only safe way to give a chicken bone to a cat.
Can Kittens Eat Chicken Bones?
It’s inadvisable to give kittens chicken bones, even raw ones. Kittens are more likely to choke, and more likely to experience digestive upsets after consuming chicken bones. While many people start their kittens off on raw diets, kittens have delicate digestive systems and may be better served with a high quality, vet approved kitten food. If you want to give your cat uncooked chicken bones, it’s best to do so when they are adults.
Benefits/Negatives of Feeding Cats Chicken Bones and What Can Happen
While there are certainly nutritional benefits in chicken bones, feeding your cat raw animal products always carries slight risk. With chicken bones, there is a risk of choking and the risk of dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella, being ingested. If you want to give your cat a healthy and satisfying raw chicken bone as a treat, there are a few precautions you should take:
- Make sure the chicken bone is raw! Cooked chicken bones are extremely dangerous and should never be given to your cat.
- Freeze the bone before giving it to your cat. Letting the bone sit in the freezer overnight is a good way to kill any potentially harmful bacteria.
- Check the bone for any splinters, holes, or small pieces that may fall off and pose a choking hazard. Only give your cat a bone that is too big for them to swallow, and make sure it isn’t splintering or breaking.
- Supervise! Never leave your cat alone with a bone when you aren’t home. It’s best to supervise them while they enjoy this meaty treat to be sure they don’t choke or splinter the bone in a dangerous way.
- Monitor their health. Make sure your cat doesn’t bite off huge pieces of bone, and keep an eye out for any behavioral or health changes after they eat a bone. Watch out for diarrhea, bloody stool, or vomiting, all of which should be treated by a veterinarian. If your cat has bad breath, this is another sign that something may be wrong.
Here is a cat safely enjoying raw chicken with the bone inside. Note that the owner is nearby, making sure the cat is safe.
Alternatives to Chicken Bones for Cats
If you’re worried about feeding bones to your cat, your best bet may be to simply avoid them altogether. But if you still want to feed your cat chicken, the best way to do so may be via products especially made for pets. There are plenty of cat treats on the market, and many of them contain chicken.
There are also supplements that you can add to your cat’s regular food that contain the same types of minerals and vitamins found in bone:
- Ground bone. Often in powder form, ground bone is popular with pet parents who feed their cats and dogs a raw diet but don’t want to risk giving their pet actual bones. You can buy it online or at some pet stores, or you can make it yourself.
- Ground eggshell is another popular pet food supplement and contains a lot of the same vitamins and minerals as chicken bones. It also usually comes in powder form, and is easily purchased online. You can also make it at home in a coffee grinder!
So, Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones?
Chicken bones contain many health benefits for cats, but they may not be worth the risk. If you really want to give your cat a chicken bone, here are a few final reminders to make sure they enjoy their treat safely and healthily:
- Only give your cat raw chicken bones!
- Choose a bone that is too big for your cat to swallow, and make sure it is free of any defects, cracks, or splinters.
- Freeze the bone overnight before feeding it to your cat to kill any potentially harmful bacteria.
- Monitor your cat after they eat a bone. Check to make sure they aren’t sick, and check that they aren’t biting off huge portions of bone at once.
- Look out for any signs that the bone doesn’t agree with them: diarrhea, vomiting, or bloody stools.
Want to know more about feeding cats chicken bones, or have questions about what is safe and what isn’t? We’re waiting to answer your questions in the comment section!