Short answer: no! As cat parents, we often find ourselves wondering about the safety of certain foods for our feline friends. One common question is: “Can cats eat chicken bones?” While it might be tempting to share your chicken dinner with your cat, it’s vital to understand the potential hazards involved.
What Happens if My Cat Eats Chicken Bones?
If your cat consumes chicken bones, several things could happen, many of which are potentially harmful. For one, bones, particularly poultry bones like those from chicken, can splinter and cause damage to your cat’s mouth, throat, or digestive tract. Sharp shards of bone can lead to complications such as choking, perforation of the gut, and blockages in the digestive system.
Furthermore, bone fragments can get lodged between the teeth or even puncture the stomach or intestines, leading to a life-threatening situation called peritonitis, a severe bacterial infection of the abdomen that requires immediate veterinary attention.
Symptoms that your cat may have ingested chicken bones and is experiencing complications include vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and behavioral changes such as lethargy or aggression.
Can Cats Eat Cooked Bones?
The general consensus among veterinarians is that cats should not eat cooked bones. Cooking changes the structure of the bone, making it more brittle and thus more likely to splinter. This risk is true for all types of bones, not just chicken. Splintered bones can result in the complications mentioned earlier: blockages, perforations, and potentially, life-threatening infections.
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In addition to the physical danger, cooked bones often contain seasonings, which can be harmful to cats. Common seasonings like garlic and onion are toxic to cats, and excessive salt can lead to a range of health problems, including elevated heart rate, excessive thirst and urination, and even poisoning.
What Type of Bones Can Cats Eat?
Given the risks involved with bone consumption, what kind of bones, if any, can cats safely eat? Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their bodies are designed to consume and process meat. In the wild, cats would eat small rodents and birds, bones included.
Remember: no bones are risk-free to eat, so the safest option is to simply avoid any bones at all. The safest bones for cats to consume would be small, soft, and pliable ones, such as those found in small birds or rodents, which cats would naturally eat in the wild. These bones are less likely to splinter and cause damage. However, even with these, caution is warranted, as there’s still a risk of choking or causing an intestinal blockage.
Pet food manufacturers often grind these bones finely and include them in raw cat food diets, so cats can get the benefits of the nutrients found in bones, such as calcium and phosphorus, without the dangers associated with whole bones.
Do Cats Digest Bones?
While cats’ bodies are built to handle certain types of bones, their capacity to digest bones fully is limited. They can break down small, soft bones to some extent and extract valuable nutrients, but larger, denser bones aren’t fully digestible.
Any bone fragments that are not digested can cause complications as they travel through the digestive tract. That’s why it’s important to ensure that any bones in your cat’s diet are small, soft, and ground to a safe size.
A Safer Approach to Your Cat’s Nutrition
If you’re tempted to give your feline friend a taste of your chicken dinner, opt for small, boneless, and unseasoned pieces. Chicken provides essential protein that cats need, but it’s crucial to eliminate all risks associated with bones.
Some cat parents might consider crushing or grinding chicken bones at home, but this is not recommended. It can be tough to ensure all pieces are small enough to pose no risk, and domestic appliances may not achieve the fine consistency of professionally prepared foods.
Always remember to consult your vet before making any significant changes to your cat’s diet. They can provide expert advice tailored to your cat’s specific needs, age, and health status.
While the image of a cat gnawing on a chicken bone may seem quintessential, the reality is that domestic cats and chicken bones are not a safe combination. Splintered, cooked, or even raw bones can cause serious harm, and the risk outweighs the potential nutritional benefits.
Cats are beloved members of our families, and their health and wellbeing are paramount. By understanding their dietary needs and potential risks, we can make informed decisions about their food, helping them live long, healthy, and happy lives.
Do you still have any questions about nutrition for your cat? Then schedule a video consultation with one of our qualified vets!