Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must have meat in their diet to survive and be healthy. So, of course, it's natural to assume that you can share your meaty meals with your cat without too much concern.
It's not that simple, however. A cat's nutritional needs are not the same as ours. Including meat in your cat's diet can be a nutritional boost, but without the proper knowledge, you can inadvertently be doing your cat more harm than good.
So, which types of meat can cats eat?
- Raw meat
- Pork | Raw pork | Bacon | Ham | Salami | Pepperoni | Hot dogs | Sausage
- Beef | Raw beef | Ground beef | Steak | Hamburger | Roast beef
- Chicken | Raw chicken | Chicken broth | Fried chicken | Chicken nuggets
- Organ meat
Can cats eat raw meat
Before we dive into which meats are best for your cat, let’s look at whether or not the meat you choose to feed your cat should be cooked or raw. Cats in the wild hunt and consume raw meat all the time, so does that mean that feeding them raw meat is ok?
In essence, cats eating raw meat is absolutely fine from a nutritional standpoint. It is, of course, what felines do. But there are some things to consider when deciding to feed your cat a raw diet.
Research proves that raw meat might cause a variety of health problems, the most notable of which result from bacteria. Salmonella and E.Coli are common in uncooked meat, mainly pork and chicken, and cause digestive problems in humans.
In cats, who digest food much faster, these bacteria rarely stick around long enough inside your cat's system to cause an issue but can still be a problem. If your cat has a weakened immune system, a raw diet is a big no-no.
Choosing meat from a reputable source that uses very sanitary meat handling procedures, and handling meat carefully yourself, can go a long way in eliminating this risk. Make sure to sterilize food bowls regularly and maintain meticulous hygiene around the meat.
A note on bones
While it's true that a cat would chew the bones of its prey in the wild, there are some considerations around giving your cat bones.
Cooked bones should never be given to cats. Cooked bones are prone to splintering and can pose a choking hazard while also causing internal organ injuries. Do note that too many bones in your cat's diet can lead to constipation. Instead of sharing a meaty bone, consider getting a chew toy, which is healthy for your cat's teeth and gums.
If you still want to give your cat a bone, go for larger uncooked bones like chicken wings or drumsticks that aren't so big as to cause injury to your cat's gums and teeth but are still too big to be swallowed. Raw lamb shanks are also good. Never leave your cat unattended with a bone in case they begin to choke. It's always best to supervise.
Can cats eat pork
Including pork in your cat's diet will likely not cause too many issues. If your cat has never eaten pork, it may be a good idea to start off slow and see how your cat likes it.
The biggest concern with giving cats pork is the high fat content that can lead to weight gain if overconsumed. Pork for cats should only be served as an occasional treat and should come from the leanest cuts.
Pork is also high in sodium which is very bad for your cat in high doses. Too much sodium in your cat's diet can cause hypernatremia which will require medical treatment. This meat is also notorious for carrying parasites, so if you're choosing to feed pork to your cat, make sure it's cooked properly.
Can cats eat raw pork
What's the situation with raw pork? From a medical point of view, raw pork is not the greatest meal you can share with your kitty. Even if you are choosy and stick to tenderloin (the leanest pork cut, comparable to the chicken breast), raw pork is still not the best option because of the high odds of bacterial contamination.
Can cats eat bacon
Bacon is not an ideal food for cats. Like most cured meats, it's incredibly high in sodium which, in the long term, can have some pretty nasty effects on your cat's health.
In addition to the excessive salt content, bacon is also high in fat that can cause weight gain when consumed regularly.
Can cats have bacon as an occasional tasty treat? Absolutely, but make sure it doesn't happen too often.
Can cats eat ham
Similar to bacon, ham is best used as an occasional treat and not a regular meal. The high salt content is not great for your cat, and neither is the fat. As a rare treat or a disguise for medication, ham shouldn't cause too many issues.
Veterinarians generally advise sharing ham with cats only in moderate amounts and never as a replacement for a balanced meal.
Can cats have salami?
You might wonder if cats can eat salami, and if yes, in what amounts. Salami as a meal combines many unwanted additives, like salt, colorants, and flavor enhancers. And don't forget about its seasoning, such as paprika or garlic that may even be toxic to cats. Salami is also high in saturated fats, only contributing to a cat's potential obesity.
Besides that, salami is prepared by fermenting and air-drying the meat, leaving a small chance of Salmonella and Trichinella contamination.
Can cats have pepperoni
Can cats eat pepperoni? Yes. Should cats have it regularly? No. Your cat might beg for a soft and flavorful pepperoni slice, but don't fall into that trap.
What's wrong with this meat? A growing kitten needs an estimated 21 mg of sodium daily, whereas an average pepperoni slice has at least 35 mg. Solely based on that, pepperoni might not be the best protein to share with your cat. Also, beware of its high fat content.
Can cats eat prosciutto and other deli meats
What about other deli meats? Can cats eat prosciutto? If you love your cat enough to share your prosciutto with them, you should probably think twice. While the meat used is of high quality, it’s very fatty and contains too much salt.
Heavily processed pork-based deli meats should be avoided as these often contain additives and bulking agents that might not agree with your cat's stomach.
Can cats eat hot dogs
Hot dogs are not recommended for cats. Hot dog fans might not like to hear this, but hot dogs usually contain low-quality meat cuts that are very high in fat.
As such, they're not a great source of protein for your cat and contain far too much salt and other additives that aren't beneficial to your cat. When choosing meat, aim for the best quality meat, eventually excluding hot dogs from the list.
Can cats eat sausage
In addition to excessive sodium, fat, and nitrite contents, sausages often contain garlic and onion, and other spices which are bad for your cat. What's the takeaway? It’s definitely safest to avoid feeding sausages to your cat.
Can cats eat beef
Beef is considered a decent meat to give to cats. It is rich in essential amino acids and contains many other nutrients that cats need to be healthy.
Generally, the leaner the beef cut, the better it is for your cat. Avoid feeding your cat meat that is not fresh, even though cats are usually fussy enough to turn their noses up at beef that doesn't meet their standards.
Can cats eat raw beef
Although raw beef is less dangerous with regards to bacterial contamination than pork, the risk of getting Salmonella and E.Coli from a big serving of raw beef is still present.
Can cats eat ground beef
As for ground meat, it's totally fine to give to cats as long as it doesn't contain spices that can irritate your cat's stomach. Lean mince is always better than that with higher fat content.
Can cats eat steak
Cats can undoubtedly eat steak if it is plain, properly cooked, and contains minimal fat or bones. Just like fat meat is bad for humans, it’s also bad for your cat. It will, with regular consumption, lead to weight gain and various heart problems.
If you wish to give your cat steak, it's better if it's unseasoned and free from other ingredients such as garlic and onions that aren't suitable for cats.
Can cats eat hamburger
You can share some homemade hamburgers with your cat, but be aware of added salt or excess oil from frying. Cats should never eat onions or garlic, so if you include this in your hamburger recipe, it's best not to share this meal with your cat.
Ready-made hamburgers should not be given to your cat as they will likely contain high levels of salt and fat, as well as other preservatives. Most fast-food hamburgers include sauces (usually a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard), which may be bad for a feline's digestion.
Can cats eat roast beef
Sharing that tasty Sunday roast with your cat should be fine if you follow a few guidelines. Apart from your cat feeling far too important to be tossed table scraps, the parts of a roast you share with your cat are very important.
Any fat or gristle should not be given to your cat. Bones are not recommended. Lean cuts with no sauce or gravy seem to be the best options for cats. Remember, cats should never eat garlic or onion, so avoid gravies and sauces which may contain these.
Can cats eat beef jerky
The smell of beef jerky usually attracts the attention of cats, however, is not good to share with them at all. Jerky contains a number of spices and very high levels of salt. Often, garlic and onion are used in jerky, making jerky dangerous to give to cats.
Can cats eat chicken
Chicken is one of the most popular types of meat commonly included in commercial cat foods. Most cats enjoy a bit of a chicken every now and then, and, for the most part, including chicken in your cat's diet can contribute positively to their health.
Avoid giving your cat too much skin or cartilage as these can lead to weight gain, and make sure that the chicken hasn't been prepared with too much salt. Avoid feeding your cat chicken that has been cooked with garlic, onion, and spices, as these are not good for your cat.
Can cats eat raw chicken
While not suitable for humans, raw chicken for cats is not entirely bad, but you must handle it with care. Raw meat has been included to the ASPCA list of toxic foods for a good reason.
So, make sure you obtain chicken from a reputable source, clean utensils, and disinfect your cat's food bowl regularly. If you want to be extra safe, use chicken that has been frozen as this usually eliminates parasites.
Can cats have chicken broth
Commercial or store-bought chicken broth should be avoided as it usually contains ingredients like garlic, onion, flavor enhancers, and high levels of salt that are not good for cats. This is particularly true if your cat has kidney problems.
Homemade and low-sodium chicken broth can be decent to add to your cat's diet, offering several nutritional benefits, from strong bones and shiny fur to healthy joints and good digestion.
Can cats eat fried chicken
Fried chicken should only be shared with your cat once the skin and bones have been removed. The fried skin usually contains too much grease and oil which is unhealthy for your cat and will contribute to weight gain. The skin also often has high levels of salt.
With the skin removed, fried chicken can occasionally be shared with your cats but shouldn't be included in their diet too often.
Can cats eat chicken nuggets
Chicken nuggets are a tasty snack and a firm favorite in many households. While it's tempting to share these with your cat, we don't advise that you do.
Chicken nuggets are not suitable for cats. Many store-bought or fast-food varieties of chicken nuggets contain preservatives and unsafe seasonings that may harm your cat. The breading often contains garlic and spices that may be toxic to cats, not to mention the high salt content, which is not suitable for felines.
Can cats eat lamb
Lamb is perfectly fine for your cat to eat in small doses. This meat does tend to be a bit fatty and so should be offered less often and in moderation. We recommended that you cook it properly and trim the fat off before giving it you your cat.
If your cat is on a low-fat diet, it's best to avoid lamb, and if your cat has any health conditions, it's always best to clear new foods with your vet just to be sure.
Can cats eat turkey
Turkey is one human food that is one of the safest to share with your cat, but there are some critical considerations.
Dark meat and turkey skin should be avoided as they are very fatty and cause stomach upset and weight gain. A fresh, skinless turkey that's been appropriately cooked without seasoning is an excellent addition to your cat's diet as a treat.
As always, pre-cooked or processed turkey should be avoided. For example, processed turkey lunchmeat is a hard no for cats since it usually contains preservatives, salt, and saturated fat that are no good.
Can cats eat duck
Duck is a perfectly healthy addition to your cat's diet and can become a healthy regular treat. Duck is a superb source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
As always, make sure the duck is prepared without garlic and onions that are toxic to your cat, and with minimal seasonings like salt. Remove the skin and as much fat as possible as these can upset your cat's stomach and contribute to weight gain.
If you've never given your cat duck, you might want to start small as cats can sometimes be allergic to duck. Be careful not to feed your cat duck too often, as cats have been known to become so obsessed with it that they begin to reject their regular food.
Let's talk about organ meat
The liver packs a high-iron punch for humans, but can cats eat liver? What about other organs such as kidneys, gizzards, hearts, and tripe? Are these a healthy addition to your cat's diet?
Liver can benefit your cat in small amounts. Consider for a moment an average prey for a domesticated cat: birds, mice, etc. When your cat catches and consumes one of these animals, they will likely eat the liver and other organs too. Now imagine the size of, say, a bird's liver or a mouse's liver. Not very big at all for a human, but just suitable for a cat.
However, do note that including too much of liver to a feline's diet can cause vitamin A toxicity, leading to bone problems and even death.
Similarly, kidneys are packed with nutrients that can benefit your cat in small quantities as overconsumption poses a risk of vitamin A toxicity. Still, as an occasional treat in small amounts, kidneys are perfectly fine to give to your cat.
Heart meat contains some very beneficial nutrients for your cat and can be included in your cats as an occasional treat. Don't be too generous with the heart meat, though, since it can be very high in fat.
Tripe and gizzards are safe as an occasional treat for your cat. If cooked, these can be pretty rubbery, so it's better to cut them into small pieces. Not all cats are fans of giblets, but it's worth a try.
A final thought
Because our small feline family members are such an important part of our lives, it's only natural to want to share our delicious food with them. Without the proper knowledge, sharing human food with your animal friends is inadvisable.
Meat makes a delicious and nutritious addition to your cat's diet as long as you're aware of specific considerations. It's always best to consult your vet if you're unsure about adding something new to your pet's diet, especially if your cat has pre-existing conditions like kidney disease, which can be impacted by diet.
Whatever you choose to feed your kitty, always make sure you strive for a varied diet of the best quality foods that you can afford.