I sometimes cook chicken broth in my Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker), using chicken carcasses from free range birds.

Yesterday I was picking the cooked meat (aka pet treats or diet food) from the bones and noticed that after four hours of pressure cooking the bones were almost mushy - the ribs crumbled between my fingers and I had to be very careful when separating meat and bones, sometimes I couldn’t and discarded meat with embedded bone material, just in case.

Of course I am well familiar with the never feed cooked bones, especially bird bones to a pet rule. But I was wondering whether that rule still applies for bones that have literally become soft and mushy. There’s nothing that could splinter and cause mechanical injuries?

Provided that I cook the broth without salt and spices, could I feed the soft bones (not larger, more substantial bones) to my cat and dog, together with the leftover meat? What if I ran the meat and tiny bones through a food processor?

  • I took the liberty of adding strays as a tag because you didn't specify it. My answer covers information about stray animals. Feel free to remove the tag. – C.Koca Oct 20 '20 at 9:45
  • @C.Koca Sorry, but I’d rather not have the tag. The question is about a domestic situation where I can and want to control my pets’ diet. Note that the question is also not about feeding bones in general, but the very specific case described in the question. To achieve a comparable softness of the bones, one would probably have to cook chicken carcasses for eight hours or more, which most cooks won’t do. – Stephie Oct 20 '20 at 9:59

In general, feeding cooked bones is not advised. If you chose to feed cooked bones anyways, you should keep the following aspects in mind:


This is the main reason why pets shouldn't eat cooked bones.

A raw bone is a solid mixture of minerals like calcium that give it strength and stability, and softer organic material like cartilage that make it ever so slightly flexible. Cooking destroys the organic material and leaves the minerals behind without the flexible scaffolding it was embedded in. That makes the bones prone to splintering, which can cause serious internal injuries.

By the way, all bones of all animals become prone to splintering when cooked, not just bones of birds.

If the bones are so brittle you can crumble them in your fingers, the risk of injuries is very low.


Pets shouldn't eat any additional salt because it can cause dehydration and urinary tract diseases. Some seasonings and vegetables like onion or garlic are even toxic to cats.

If you cooked your broth exclusively from bones and didn't add any salt or other seasoning, it should be fine. If you added vegetables or any other ingredients, please make sure they are safe for your pets, even if you think something as common as onions cannot harm them.


The chemical composition of the bones (a lot of minerals with little organic material) makes them hard to digest. You can often see dog's feces become chalky grey when they ate bones. The minerals aren't absorbed into the body and must pass the digestive tract, almost as if the dog ate a handful of sand instead of bone. This often leads to constipation, followed by diarrhea (to clean the obstruction out) and discomfort. In the worst case the colon can become completely obstructed and a vet must intervene.

If you feed your pets bones, feed only as much as they would naturally eat. Feral cats eat several rodents or small birds a day, but the bones of those prey animals are tiny compared to a chicken. Wild dogs may catch a rabbit or similar sized animal, but they wouldn't eat all the bones.

Without having any objective numbers, I would feed my dog or cat no more than a few chicken ribs a day and no more than two consecutive days. Feeding an entire carcass (like after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners) is definitely too much.

  • Thanks for the quite elaborate answer. The question is explicitly focusing on the very narrow case of bones that are already disintegrating. I know about the side effects of dogs eating too many bones and yes, I am talking about pure carcasses in water, no salt, spices or vegetables added. – Stephie Oct 20 '20 at 7:46
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    @Stephie It's quite clear from your question that you're already aware of the splintering and overfeeding, but I wanted to include this information anyways for other users that might read the answer but don't bother to read the whole question. – Elmy Oct 20 '20 at 7:50

Note: This answer should be seen more of a some addendum to Elmy's great answer.

Different standards are used in feeding stray cats/dogs and pets.

Stray animals are not a big problem in many countries, yet they are in some. In Turkey, stray cats are even part of the culture. However, they are very malnourished and some practices which are obviously wrong for our own pets might worth the risk for stray animals.

Bone broths

Bone broths is an excellent source of food for stray dogs. Bones and stale bread are cheap so boiling the bones and soaking bread is a good way to feed stray dogs. It helps to add some leftovers, provided they are not too salty and spicy. As long as the amount of leftovers is small and the overall broth is large, adding the leftovers is worth the risk. Make sure that the broth is cold enough before serving as stray animals don't want to risk fighting for their food and try to eat it as fast as possible.

Cats wouldn't normally eat bread. so they would just lick the bread for the broth.

Large carcasses

Feeding large carcasses to both cats and dogs is not a good idea for several reasons. Firstly, it initiates fighting among animals. Some animals might think it is a good idea to fight for a large carcass even though they know they will probably get injured by the larger ones. It might even cause a desperate cat to get into a fight with dogs so make sure to separate the carcass to smaller pieces before feeding them to any stray animals.

Another issue is that carcasses can spoil much faster. Many stray dogs suffer from food poisoning because they decide to eat sheep carcasses, which are abundant after the Sacrificial feast in Turkey.

Large bones

Large bones are generally safer for cats because cats do not have the teeth structure to break off the bones. They usually prefer licking the bones and thanks to their cilia on their tongues, they actually scrape more than we can imagine.

Dogs however like to break the bones, which might cause some splintering. Even when that is the case, they can regurgitate the troublesome pieces. Therefore, in my opinion, large bones are worth the risk, although whenever possible, bones should be broken to smaller pieces.

Small bones and fishbones

It is generally advised to remove bones from cooked fish when it is fed to cats. However, similar to dogs with large bones, stray cats can regurgitate bones if they are hard to swallow.

Small bones should be of less concern for the dogs as they swallow it as whole.

Feeding too much bones

Even for stray animals, feeding too much bones is an issue. Make sure to include unused organs, skin, fat, marrow, cartilage and other soft tissues that you don't want to consume. These should be cooked whenever possible. Separating these tissues before seasoning also helps.

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