Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones? Yes, But Only If They Are Not…

image of a bowl of chicken bonesThere is a dozen of theories about the best ways to feed your cat. Everything from dry cat food, to low-sodium diets, to grain-free fare all have a place on a pet store shelf somewhere.

The raw food diet is one kitten nutrition ideology that’s actually been growing in popularity recently.

The theory: cats are carnivores. Their instinct is to hunt and kill their prey (hasn’t Fluffy ever left you a dead mouse on your doorstep before?). So, the food they eat should be in its raw and natural state. This will maximize their innate kitty health.

Seems reasonable enough.

The problem that many cat owners have with a raw food diet, however, is that it can get really pricey, really fast. Fortunately, you don’t have to give your pet only organs, raw meat, and flesh in order for her to be as healthy as she was meant to be.

Consider, for instance, supplementing your cat’s diet with nutritious and tasty morselslike chicken bones.

Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones?image of a curious kitty

If an alarm bell is going off in your head right now, that’s a good sign. It means you’re a good cat owner who cares about what goes into your pet’s body.

Yes, it’s true that not all chicken bones are safe for your feline friend to eat. But just because you have to use caution when giving this food to your cat doesn’t mean you have to avoid giving it to her altogether.

Here’s the basic rule of thumb:

Cats can only eat raw bones.

Why? Raw bones are richer in nutrients, easier to digest, and much safer for your cat to eat compared to cooked bones.

These bones should be relatively small and come from a bird (like a chicken or turkey). Small bones help minimize the risk of your cat choking. Small bones are also less likely to become lodged somewhere in a cat’s intestinal tract.

So, if you’ve been curious about how raw food could benefit your kitty, but not ready to go 100% with the “natural” diet, feel free to chat with your vet. He can help you figure out if and how you should introduce raw chicken bones into your cat’s diet. Doing so may make a real difference in her health.

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Benefits of Raw Chicken Bones for Cats

You may be wondering if giving your cat chicken bones is even really worth it. But as it turns out, raw bones offer a couple unique health benefits to your kitty.

Bones are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins, like magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. Calcium in particularwhich is abundant in raw bones and bone mealis essential for maintaining the strength and health of your cat’s bones and teeth.

Calcium also helps increase the bio-availability of other vitamins and minerals including zinc, copper, and Vitamins A, D, and E. In other words, the calcium from raw bones can help your cat’s body use other essential nutrients more effectively, all of which are essential for healthy brain, bone, muscle, and organ health. 

Besides the internal benefits that raw bones can offer your cat, chewing on the bones can actually improve your kitty’s oral health. She’ll satisfy her chewing instinct while also naturally cleaning her teeth of tartar and plaque build up. Healthy chewing can even strengthen teeth and tooth enamel.

The Dangers of Cooked Bones for Cats

While certain vets may feel differently about giving cats raw chicken bones, virtually all animal experts agree that giving cooked bones to cats is a huge no-no. 

The number one reason why?

Eating cooked chicken bones could lead to serious harm for your cat, and in some cases even death.

Here’s how:

  • Splintering. Cooked bones easily splinter. This can lead to cuts or lacerations on the inside of your pet’s digestive tract, causing internal bleeding and pain.
  • Obstruction. Cooked bones are less flexible than raw bones. This means they can easily become stuck in your pet’s mouth, throat, or elsewhere in the digestive system.

Aside from potentially subjecting your pet to a life-threatening situation, cooked bones tend to have less nutrients in them compared to raw bones. This is because calcium and other minerals tend to leech out during the cooking process.

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Help! My Cat Ate A Chicken Bone: Helpful Feline First Aid Tips

Cats are curious. Sometimes, they get into things they shouldn’t. If your cat ate a cooked chicken bone from the trash or table, then you need to keep a close eye on her for the next few days. Signs and symptoms of an internal blockage or laceration may take a while to show up.

These may include:

  • Sudden disinterest in food
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating

If you notice any of these symptoms, or if your cat hasn’t passed the bone in a few days, consider this a veterinary emergency and call your vet right away. Serious harm or even death could befall your feline friend unless she gets urgent medical attention.

In the case of intestinal blocking or internal bleeding, emergency surgery is typically required. Your cat can recover, but it’s best not to leave it to chance.

The bottom line: don’t mess around with cooked bones. If you’ve enjoyed a turkey leg or some chicken wings for your own dinner, be sure to dispose of the bones properly. Above all, never ever give your cat a nibble of a cooked boneno matter how cute she looks when she begs.

Embracing the Bones? Tips To Consider Before Giving Your Cat Chicken Bones

Even if you’ve decided to give your cat raw bones, you still need to use caution when providing your animal with such a treat. Here are a few simple things you can do to make sure her bone-chewing sessions go well:

  1. Speak with your vet before giving the green light to raw bones. 
  2. Always supervise your animal when giving her bones. 
  3. Ensure that you are giving your cat the right size. In general, you should stick with smaller bones, including the rib, neck, or wing. 
  4. Bones should come from birds, like chickens, turkeys, ducks, and Cornish hens.
  5. If possible, start giving raw bones to your cat when she’s still a young kitten. This way, she’ll have more time to figure out how to chew bones safely. 

Lastly, if you’re still not crazy about the idea of feeding your cat raw bones or bone meal, consider supplementing her food with a homemade bone broth. Broths are also full of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients, and if made from scratch are free of additives, preservatives, and other junk. Just remember to make your homemade broth without any onions or garlic, as these can harm cats.

Oh, by the waybone broths taste great and are good for humans, too, so be sure to save some for yourself, too.

Classification of Raw Bones

The best bones for cats come from the wings, drumsticks and necks. Chicken rib bones are just too thin and can be like nibbling on needles. Your cat needs a bone big enough to gnaw without swallowing.

Bones that are too big can damage teeth, so look for that happy medium. Not only should the bone be raw, but should not be spiced with onions or garlic which are bad for cats. Always supervise your cat when giving them a bone.

Warnings About Raw Chicken Bones

Raw chicken bones are not as brittle as cooked chicken bones. A wild feline, of course, would devour prey raw and gnaw on the bones and suck out the marrow. The bone just needs to be fresh and free of preservatives. The preservatives can lead to a possibly fatal vitamin deficiency.

Salmonella is as toxic to cats as it is to people. If by chance your cat does choke on a bone you can pull on your cat’s tongue to dislodge the object. If this does not work, you can try shaking her upside down by the back legs or compress your palms under the ribs in a kitty version of the Heimlich Maneuver.

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  • August 2, 2018
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.