Can cats eat chicken bones?
The answer to this question is: yes, but under certain circumstances.
Your cat absolutely can eat raw chicken bones. To reiterate, your cat can eat raw, unprocessed, uncooked, unheated, fresh, soft, flexible chicken bones.
If the chicken bones came out of your family’s roast chicken or a box from Popeye’s, NO. Your cat should not eat those chicken bones.
This is a reflection of your cat’s natural dietary needs. Cats are made to consume whole raw prey.
Cooked chicken bones can splinter and shatter, so they’re not safe for your cat.
Take a look at this video demonstration:
Note that the cooked bones break into sharp fragments. These fragments could puncture or block your cat’s digestive tract, leading to serious complications. These complications include constipation, internal bleeding, and severe pain.
Heat processing also damages the nutritional value of the bones.
Significantly, raw meaty bones are a beautifully species-appropriate source of calcium, which helps to support your cat’s bone and tooth health. The accompanying meat is also rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes.
Cats can (and should) eat raw chicken bones.
I love watching Wessie eat raw, meaty chicken bones.
Raw meat flips the predator switch in his body. His muscles go taut. His eyes sharpen. He picks up a chunk of chicken, carries it to a safe place, and hunches over it like a lion with a freshly-downed gazelle. Then he starts breaking a piece of bone that no human would dare bite into. He tilts his head to use his powerful back teeth. He uses his paws and claws for added tension.
It’s a much different meal experience than lapping up a bowl of canned food. I’m convinced that eating raw meat, particularly raw meaty bones, is more mentally stimulating than consuming cooked food.
What are the best chicken bones for your cat to eat?
All raw chicken bones are safe for your cat to eat. Ribs, wings, necks, and thighs are all safe and nourishing for your cat.
Remember that most chickens are a bit oversized for the average domesticated predator, so their size might overwhelm your cat. You may prefer to provide smaller bones from quail, chicks, or small rabbits.
Wings and necks typically give you the most bang for your buck. They’re big enough that your cat will spend some time on them, wiping away plaque and working their jaws, but not so large that they’re impossible for your cat to eat.
Remember that if your cat has been eating processed or boneless foods for years, their jaws probably aren’t as strong as those of a cat who has eaten raw meat and bones all of their life. Similarly, cats with dental disease may find eating a raw, meaty bone painful.
Here’s a great video from the Feline Nutrition Foundation. It’s all about your cat’s extraordinary teeth. As you’ll see in the video, your carnivorous feline is physiologically prepared to chomp through bones.
Wessie didn’t start eating raw bones until he was around six. Although his jaws are incredibly strong by human standards, they’re not particularly powerful compared to other cats.
It can take him over half an hour to get through a chicken neck. Wings are easier for him to eat, but even they can present a challenge. As I mention in this video, we like to bash the wings with a hammer to break them down a little bit before he starts chomping.
As always, proper hygiene is essential when feeding your cat raw chicken bones.
Wash your hands and your workspace before and after preparing raw chicken bones for your cat. Cats are seldom affected by the bacteria found in raw meaty bones, but they can make humans sick. If you’re particularly concerned about illness, some suggest dropping the bones into a pot of boiling water for just a few seconds to kill any bacteria on the surface of the meat.