Is it safe to feed my cat raw meat, or should we cook the meat first? Or should we stick exclusively to factory produced cat food instead?


6 Answers 6


You can feed cats raw meat, they're obligate carnivores after all, but human processed meats can introduce other bacterias and contaminates into meat that might not be there otherwise. If you want to do this, which I can understand, then you should introduce the raw meats carefully into their diet and only from a source that you trust, such as local butcher who is following good practices (if they save bones for dogs, it's probably a good sign).

While you're doing this, monitor your cat carefully and if there is anything happening that concerns you such as unusual stool, vomiting, etc. then stop immediately and potentially take him/her into a vet for a check up.

As an aside, there are some really good food products for cats that don't have as much (or little) filling in them. Spend some time reading the labels and look for products that are all meat or very, very high meat volume. Your cats will appreciate it. :)

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    I'd like to add that a raw meat diet that you create yourself for your cat needs to be properly balanced, meaning it needs to include bones and organs. Giving your cat a a raw steak or chicken wing isn't enough.
    – Cuthbert
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 19:10
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    Any meat can be contaminated really. Say a cat catches a rat that has an infection, for instance. The advantage of cooking is its nondiscrimination about what it can render inert, from viruses through microbiotic to macrobiotic contaminants (e.g., parasites or their eggs). It doesn't work for everything though; see pets.stackexchange.com/q/1417/1062. Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 19:26

Can cats safely eat raw meat?

No. Raw meat is a terrible idea for domesticated cats.

All it takes is one serving with Salmonella or E. coli to infect your cat. Once infected or simply inoculated and carrying the diseases, your cat can also infect your family (see below for more information on Salmonella & E. coli and what to look for in your cat if it has been infected).

Either cook the meats you are serving your cat or stick to commercially available cat food. Yes, cats are "obligate carnivores" (meaning that they need, or, are "obliged" to eat only meat)

While they may consume small amounts of plant material, they lack the physiology required for the efficient digestion of vegetable matter and, in fact, some carnivorous mammals eat vegetation specifically as an emetic. For instance, felids including the domestic cat are obligate carnivores requiring a diet of primarily animal flesh and organs.

...however, domesticated pets are quite different from undomesticated felines. Your house cat has very different nutritional needs and considerations from a wild feline.

Raw fish is also a bad idea:

an enzyme in raw fish destroys thiamine, which is an essential B vitamin for your cat. A lack of thiamine can cause serious neurological problems and lead to convulsions and coma.

Liver is fine in very small amounts, but is also a terrible idea as a regular source of food:

eating too much liver can cause vitamin A toxicity. This is a serious condition that can affect your cat's bones. Symptoms include deformed bones, bone growths on the elbows and spine, and osteoporosis. Vitamin A toxicity can also cause death.

Please review this web site for an overview of "Harmful Foods for Your Cat" and this article covering "10 Myths About Raw Diets for Kittens."

should we stick exclusively to factory-produced catfood?

Yes. Stick to commercially available food which has been approved by the AAFCO. In particular research and look for foods which have passed the AAFCO feeding tests as well as the formulation tests. Feeding tests actually involve feeding the formula and analyzing the nutrient absorbtion.

"Feeding Your Adult Cat: What You Need to Know":

AAFCO uses two methods to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of adult cat foods: formulation and feeding test.

The formulation method involves doing a nutritional analysis of ingredients and comparing it with AAFCO nutrient profiles for a cat’s particular life stage. “That diet doesn’t have to be fed to any live animal before it’s sold,” Larsen says.

The feeding test method evaluates the digestibility and absorption of nutrients in live animals. “I strongly prefer foods that have been through AAFCO feeding tests,” Larsen says.

Although adult cat foods may contain a wide range of ingredients, Larsen says your focus should be on nutrients.

Mindy Bough, CVT, senior director of client services for the Midwest Office of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), agrees. “The presence of one or two ingredients may make the food appear healthy, but it’s the balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that make a healthy cat food," Bough says.

When evaluating percentages of nutrients, keep in mind that these are measured on a “dry matter basis.” For this reason, a dry cat food may appear to have more protein than a wet food, for instance, but only because it contains less water.

See also this article for more information on a nutritionally balanced diet adequate for your cat and common mistakes (e.g. remember to make sure your cat always has water available!)

should we cook the meat first?

Yes, if you are going to feed your cat meats, you should cook them first. No matter what you feed your cats though, the most important thing is that they get a balanced diet sufficient to their lifestyle (particularly the amount of exercise they get) and health profile (which your vet can diagnose).

From "When Raw Food is NOT the Right Food for Your Pet":

an unbalanced raw diet of high quality fresh meat is in my professional opinion a greater risk to your dog or cat than cheap processed pet food.

If you do want to prepare food for your cat, I strongly recommend you at the very least read Waltham's pocketbook guide for "Essential Nutrition For Cats And Dogs." For a comprehensive overview of the vitamin and minerals needed, see The National Research Council's "Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats." It is an expensive book, but an overview of the nutritional requirements is available by consulting the charts starting on page 13 of the AAFCO's article, "AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles."

Regarding the dangers and inherently unsafe practice of feeding your cat raw food, it is a very good idea to know what to look out for if you decide to make a habit of this.

Cats can get salmonellosis from the Salmonella present in raw meats.

Along with causing gastroenteritis and septicemia in cats, salmonellosis is a zoonotic bacterial disease, meaning it can be transmitted to humans.

The severity of the disease will often determine the signs and symptoms that are overtly present in the cats. Symptoms commonly seen in cats with salmonellosis include:

Fever, shock, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, weight loss, dehydration, skin disease, mucus in stool, abnormally fast heart rate, swollen lymph nodes, abnormal vaginal discharge

Chronic forms of salmonellosis may exhibit some of these same symptoms; however, they will be more severe. These include symptoms:

Fever, weight loss, loss of blood, non-intestinal infections, diarrhea that comes and goes with no logical explanation, which may last up to three or four weeks, or longer

From the Center for Disease Control:

Salmonella infection has not declined in 15 years

Reducing Salmonella infection is difficult because

  • It is found in many different types of foods: meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and even processed foods such as peanut butter.
  • Contamination can occur anywhere: from fields where food is grown to cutting boards in kitchens.
  • What we eat and how we eat have changed: foods coming from one central location are widely distributed, meaning that sickness can spread quickly; we eat more meals outside the home; and more foods and ingredients come from all over the world.
  • Some policies and procedures that can make a difference in reducing contamination take years to put into place.

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*These contaminated ingredients or single foods (belonging to one food category) were associated with 1/3 of the Salmonella outbreaks.

†Other includes: Sprouts, leafy greens, roots, fish, grains-beans, shellfish, oil-sugar, and dairy.

Though it is generally seen only in kittens, cats can also get Colibacillosis from Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli) in raw meats. Like Salmonella, E. coli is also zoonotic and can be passed from animals to humans.

From the Center for Disease Control on E. coli:

How is E. coli O157:H7 spread? Outbreaks often are caused by food that has gotten the bacteria, E. coli, in it. Bacteria can get accidentally mixed into ground beef before packaging. Eating undercooked meat can spread the bacteria, even though the meat looks and smells normal. E. coli can also live on cows’ udders. It may get into milk that is not pasteurized.

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    +1 you did a good job presenting your view and the risks. You don't mention outdoors wild caught raw food, it would seem that keeping a cat indoors would be critical in keeping them safe. Maybe add a paragraph about risk to the cat from eating wildlife I am not sure if we have a question about it, The closest I can find are How can I keep my cat from bringing mice into the house? & Any experiences with feeding your cats live mice? Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 11:50
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    -1 I'm not convinced you're providing quality, or even relevant, references for your argument. For example, one article you link to states "The ideal food for most healthy pets is, of course, balanced, species-appropriate raw food prepared at home, or purchased from one of several small companies who produce human grade, high quality raw diets for dogs and cats." It does also say that just muscle meat is not a balanced diet, but that is by no means an argument against a balanced raw food diet. Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 0:30
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    @HighlyIrregular you'll note that I didn't quote that part of the article, nor do I cite is as presenting a similar argument. Perhaps you should contact Dr. Becker and let her know. Otherwise, the Waltham's guide is the standard.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 1:03
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    -1 cats can eat raw food... u dont know what you are talking about do research , feeding cats/dogs raw is probably better for them than anything else as long as its a balanced raw diet
    – Daniel
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 19:51
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    @Daniel of course cats can eat raw food. The question is can they safely eat raw food and empirical research verifies that the answer is unequivocally no.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 22:41

Yes, it is after all a natural diet for an obligate carnivore however ensure there are no bones as these can cause impaction and internal bleeding. However will need to be supplemented to ensure the animal is gettyall the required nutrients.

  • Nit: avoid cooked bones, which are brittle. Raw bones are fine and a natural part of stray/feral/wild cats’ diet.
    – StephenS
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 17:01

"Cats can eat raw meat and not get sick" is not the same as "cats can eat raw meat and will never get sick from it".

People also can eat raw meat and not get sick, however all it takes is one contaminated piece of meat - which you would not be able to tell until after you've eaten it - to ruin your week, or worse.

"My brother's wife's uncle's friend's cousin's wife's son once gave their cat raw beef and she was just fine!" is not objective evidence.

Raw meat diet poses risk to health, regardless of human or feline. If you want to keep your pets from getting sick, cook the meat first. Salmonella infections, among others, can be deadly.

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    Welcome to Pet Exchange Skiittz, do you have any sources to back your post? Otherwise this is a good answer.
    – SerenaT
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 7:34
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    purina.co.uk/articles/cats/feeding/what-cats-eat/… this one talks about how cats are a little more resistant to meat in pathogens than humans are, however it's still important to note that resistant does not equal immune. It's not the meat itself that causes illness, it is the microorganisms living on it.
    – Skiittz
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 17:40

Yes it’s OK to give raw meat because they are from feline family and raw meat provide that nutrients canned or processed cat food cannot provide.

But make sure your cat is used to eating raw food diet, else it will upset their stomach.

I give my cat raw meat like chicken breast, chicken liver, chicken gizzard, beef and lamb since he was a kitten.

Start with small quantity and closely watch your cat baby for any symptoms then continue with larger amount slowly.


According to the "Can Cats Safely Eat Raw Meat" section of the article at faqcats.com:

Yes, cats can safely eat raw meat. However, when it comes to ground beef, the meat needs to be fully cooked. Raw diets, or even diets that include a small amount of raw meat, are one place where it can be hard to tell if this is a good and healthy option for your cat.

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