Can cats eat turkey?
For the most part, it’s safe to give your cat small amounts of turkey from your plate. But there are some caveats.
Turkey is a pretty common protein in both dry and wet cat foods. But plenty of cats enjoy “people food” too. And it’s hard to resist sneaking them a few scraps of deli meat, or even a bite of your Thanksgiving meal.
We’ll take a closer look below at whether cats can eat turkey, where most turkey comes from, and what kind of turkey is okay to share with your cat.
This way you can be sure you’re giving your cat a safe and healthy treat. Whether it’s from a holiday meal or just your lunch.
Where Does Turkey Come From?
The United States produces over 200 million turkeys, and exports over 500 million pounds of turkey meat, making it the world’s top turkey exporter. Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Indiana are among the top turkey producing states.
Although turkey has traditionally been reserved mostly as a holiday meal in the USA, it’s becoming more popular as a staple in American diets. That’s in part because it’s gotten a recent reputation as a healthier, leaner meat.
The truth is that the health benefits of turkey (as opposed to beef) vary based on the cut of meat. Turkey breast is lowest in saturated fat, and it’s the leanest option when it comes to buying turkey meat.
As more and more people choose turkey bacon and turkey burgers, it’s natural that there are more opportunities for our feline friends to grab a bite of turkey here and there too. But can cats eat all of these options?
What About Hormones and Antibiotics?
There’s a popular misconception that turkey meat can contain synthetic hormones. In actuality, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t allow any hormones to be given to turkeys or any other poultry.
Plus, farmers can treat sick turkeys with antibiotics. But, the USDA requires a waiting period afterward to ensure that the antibiotics are out of the turkey’s system before it goes to slaughter.
What’s a Heritage Turkey?
If you’ve ever been out grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, you might’ve noticed labels containing the term “heritage turkey”.
Heritage turkeys were bred from wild turkeys to look more as nature intended. As opposed to the broad-breasted turkey that you’re probably more used to seeing on your plate.
Broad-breasted turkeys have essentially been bred to produce a whole lot of breast meat. This makes it hard for them to move around and impossible for them to breed on their own.
Heritage turkeys are bred to look and act more like their wild ancestors. They can fly, for example, and they’re more mobile than broad-breasted birds. They’re also easier for farmers to breed because they don’t need to be artificially inseminated.
Because farmers raising heritage turkeys are often more concerned with the tradition of the breed, heritage turkeys tend to be raised more humanely. However, they do produce less meat and can be pricey. So can cats eat heritage turkeys?
What is a Natural Cat Diet?
Cats are obligate carnivores. So, their nutritional needs are met mainly by eating meat. Turkey definitely fits the bill there!
But feeding your cat well isn’t quite as simple as just handing over a plate of poultry. Cats require a balanced diet that contains certain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Too much “people food” can also be detrimental to your cat’s health. Indulging your cat’s desire for scraps too often can ultimately cause obesity, digestive upset, and even diabetes.
Is Turkey Good for Cats?
So, we’ve answered the question “can cats eat turkey”. But does this meat have any benefits for our kitties? In moderation, a few scraps of plain, unseasoned turkey can be a healthy treat for your cat.
Turkey is a great source of taurine, which is an essential part of your cat’s diet. Taurine is a nutrient that helps cats maintain normal vision, digestion, and heart muscle function.
Turkey is also an excellent source of protein, which is another vital part of your cat’s diet. In fact, protein should make up the bulk of your cat’s meals.
Is Turkey Bad for Cats?
Can cats eat turkey safely all the time? Or are there instances where this meat is bad for cats?
A little bit of turkey can be a perfectly healthy treat now and then. But, feeding your cat too much turkey can leave your cat with an upset stomach.
It’s also important to make sure you don’t give your cat turkey that contains seasoning. Or as part of a dish with other ingredients that might not be so healthy.
Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure you’re feeding your cat well-cooked turkey. Raw turkey can make both you and your cat sick, because it can carry bacteria like listeria and salmonella.
Salmonella and Listeria
Salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is a serious illness in both cats and people. Symptoms of salmonellosis in cats include fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. A cat with salmonellosis needs to see a vet right away.
And while cats may not show signs of carrying listeria, they can still pass it along to humans. Listerioris is a very dangerous food-borne illness that can result in hospitalization and even death. It is especially dangerous to vulnerable people like newborns and the elderly.
While there are those who advocate feeding raw meat to cats, doing so is extremely risky. Not just for your cat, but for the people around her.
Do Cats Like Turkey?
So we’ve answered the question “can cats eat turkey”. But do most cats like this meat?
Although you might find the odd cat who turns up her nose at this popular poultry, most cats like turkey.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, turkey is a very common source of protein in both dry and wet cat foods. Most cats will enjoy a taste of turkey meat!
Can Cats Eat Turkey?
So, the bottom line on if cats can eat Turkey? Yes, your cat can absolutely share your turkey dinner — but with a few stipulations.
First, feed any turkey scraps in moderation, so your cat doesn’t have an upset stomach. Second, make sure the turkey meat is well-cooked to avoid the risk of food-borne illnesses. And finally, feed your cat turkey meat that does not have seasonings or added ingredients.
Does your cat enjoy turkey as a holiday treat? Let us know in the comments!
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References and Resources
- Cerbo, A., et al, “Functional foods in pet nutrition: Focus on dogs and cats,” Research in Veterinary Science, Volume 112, June 2017.
- Daniels, J., “More Americans are passing on old-fashioned bacon, red meat to chow down on turkey,” CNBC, 2016.
- Downing, R., “Avoiding Raw Food in Cats,” VCA Hospitals, 2016.
- Johnson, R., “Global Turkey Meat Market: Key Findings and Insights,” The Poultry Site, May 2018.
- MacDonald, M.L.; Rogers, Q.R., “Nutrition of the Domestic Cat, a Mammalian Carnivore,” Annual Review of Nutrition, July 1984.
- Morris, J.G., et al, “Taurine: an essential nutrient for cats,” Journal of Small Animal Practice, Volume 31, October 1990.
- “Turkey Sector: Background & Statistics,” United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, updated November 2018.
- “Turkey Raised by the Rules,” United States Department of Agriculture, updated July 2013.