Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones? Are They Dangerous?

Can cats eat chicken bones? Cats and chicken are a well-known match. However, chicken bones and cats are a different story. Often it is assumed chicken bones are safe for felines. We get into the details in this quick guide to cats and chicken bones.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: January 12, 2024 | 8 min read

Small white and brown cat about to eat from plate on table with remains of chicken, blurred woman in background

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Cats are drawn to the smells and flavors that waft out from the kitchen when we humans start cooking. Letting them snack on bits and pieces of our meals can be tempting. One common thing felines always show interest in is chicken and chicken bones. A familiar question feline owners have is: can cats eat chicken bones?

Owners often ask if it is safe for cats to eat these tasty bits. They can be very tempting. Because chicken is one of the main ingredients in many cat foods, it is often thought that cats can also eat poultry skeletons. It can be hard to tell if this is fact or fiction.

Pet owners are often anxious about their pet’s safety, and that definitely applies to cats eating bones. While it is no question that kitties simply love chicken, this is not as simple as a yes or no. We dove in and explored the issue to get the answers about felines and eating chicken bones.

Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones?

In the natural world, felines are talented hunters who often take down small rodents and many birds. They are obligate carnivores and need to eat high-quality animal proteins to survive. Felines can eat the meat and bones of the chicken. There are some limitations and guidelines to keep in mind. Not all poultry bones are safe, and preparation is a significant factor. The simple answer is yes. In minimal amounts and under close supervision, felines can eat fresh uncooked, raw chicken bones. These carry many risks for cats and should not be given to them often or without supervision.

Are Chicken Bones Good For Cats?

Raw poultry bones are a tasty, nutritious treat for kitties in very limited amounts. They are very nutritious and particularly high in calcium. Cats will enjoy chewing on these and get a nice boost to their system. Raw bones should not be a daily part of any kitty’s diet. They should only be given to them very occasionally and always under supervision.

Not all raw options are safe for kitties. Do not feed them small sizes that pose a choking hazard. They should also avoid larger portions that may hurt their mouths or damage their teeth. Even raw ones pose a choking hazard. Neck and wings are safe choices. Chicken feet can also be a tasty treat.

One way to give felines a tasty treat with a calcium boost is to provide them with ground-up bones. This is available from the local butcher and in a powder supplement. Powders can have varying levels of calcium, always discuss adding this to your kitty’s diet with your vet. The broth is another way to give kitties the enjoyment of a tasty treat and added nutrients without the risk of choking or injury.

Can Cats Eat Cooked Chicken Bones?

Cooked bones should never be fed to cats. This is because they are exceptionally dangerous. They soften, become very brittle, and can break into sharp shards and splinter very easily. This can lead to cuts, choking, and possible obstructions in the bowel and throat.

Cooked options are also often prepared with seasonings that are harmful to felines. Onion, garlic, and spicy peppers are some of the worst things to feed cats. Though it may seem like a waste, throw those cooked bits out rather than give them to Fluffy.

Can Chicken Bones Be Dangerous To Cats?

A closeup shot of a cat eating chicken wings from a plate outside
Under close supervision, they may be a nice treat for a feline but should never be a part of their regular diet.

Poultry skeletons can be very dangerous for cats. They are only safe to be fed to felines in very limited circumstances. Some of the problems these can cause for felines include:

  1. Kitties can choke on bones that are too small or pieces that break off.
  2. Cuts or injuries. Sharp bits can cause cuts and injury to a feline’s mouth and esophagus.
  3. Bones can get stuck in a kitty’s mouth. This can cause injury, infection, and choking.
  4. Small bones or fragments that make it into a feline’s digestive system can cause tearing or blockages in the GI tract and injure organs.
  5. Infection from bacteria is always a risk with raw meats. This includes raw bones, which carry a potential for bacterial infections like campylobacter, E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. Some of these bacteria are shed in bowel movements and saliva and can be passed to humans when they change their litter.
  6. Stomach pain, discomfort, and digestive issues like diarrhea.

Some kitties may be able to pass small bits and shards without too many negative consequences. Eating chicken bones is simply too risky. Even raw options can cause digestive upset, choking, or obstruction.

Will My Cat Die After Eating A Chicken Bone?

There are some cats who will be able to eat raw poultry bones without severe consequences. However, this is not true for most kitties. Not every feline will be severely injured or face death, but in severe cases, death can happen. Choking, internal injury, internal or esophageal blockages, and infection are just some of the issues eating bones can cause.

Symptoms To Watch For

A cat that has eaten a poultry bone and is experiencing negative symptoms must see a veterinarian as soon as possible. It is better to call your veterinarian and ask for advice. Do not try the “wait and see” approach if you are concerned your kitty is in distress. Kitties often show physical and behavioral symptoms when they are sick or injured.

Symptoms Include:

  1. Distress and hostility towards humans. This includes not wanting to be touched.
  2. Lethargy, unresponsiveness, very low energy.
  3. Vomiting up food and water.
  4. Bloated stomach.
  5. Not drinking water, inability to keep water down.
  6. Refusal to eat or inability to keep food down.
  7. Coughing up blood or very dark substances.

Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if your cat has eaten part of a chicken carcass and is experiencing any of the above symptoms. Always keep your veterinarian’s emergency number handy and have a backup vet in case of emergencies. This will help make getting care easier and save valuable time that can make a big difference in treating your pet.

What To Do If Your Cat Ate A Chicken Bone

The kitten bites the chicken bones and looks afraid that the food will be robbed
Never, ever leave a pet unsupervised with any kind of bone.

If owners choose to feed their kitties these types of treats, they must always keep a very watchful eye on them. Remember, cooked bones are always a no-go, and raw ones only occasionally, under supervision. Even then, only a few kinds are safe for felines to consume and digest. Continuously monitor your cat. Observe them immediately for any signs of injury or discomfort. Contact your vet as soon as possible if a pet is in distress or pain.

My Cat Ate A Wing Bone

If a cat ate a chicken wing, owners might be concerned. The good news is that wings are some of the best-sized ones for kitties to eat. They are not too big or too small and can help clean their teeth. However, some can break or be exceedingly small, so owners should only ever give them raw, full-sized wing bones.

My Cat Ate A Cooked Chicken Bone

If a feline eats these, owners need to act quickly. First, inspect your pet’s mouth for broken bits, shards, or full limbs stuck in their mouth. Do not try to dislodge anything lodged in their throats or jaw. Removal can seem simple but may cause even more damage. Contact your veterinarian to get immediate advice and decide if they need to go to the emergency vet.

Home Treatment

It is always best to contact your veterinarian for advice if you believe your cat has ingested a poultry bone and may be in trouble.

  1. Observe your kitty closely for signs of distress, pain, or a possible blockage.
  2. Bloating and a sensitive, enlarged stomach or abdomen can be a sign of an internal blockage or tear.
  3. Keep a close eye on one whether or not your kitty is able to have a bowel movement. Watch your kitty’s stools to see if they pass the bones.
  4. Monitor to see if your cat is drinking water. If they are not swallowing or cannot keep water down, dehydration can occur. This can happen in a matter of a day or so. This is an indicator of a blockage, and feline dehydration is very serious. If your kitty is not drinking water, she will need to see the vet as soon as possible.
  5. Feed your kitty a very bland diet of canned food. Your vet may offer a specific brand or even a prescription food.

What Will The Vet Do?

The veterinarian will take several steps to treat a kitty who has eaten a chicken bone. They will start with a complete physical examination. X-rays, ultrasound, and other imaging may need to be done to determine where the blockage is and how large it is. Surgery may be needed, and owners need to be prepared for anything.

In some cases, a cat will need only need monitoring to make sure they pass through the digestive tract. More complicated cases will need surgery. Recovery can last several weeks to a few months.

Treatment for an ingested chicken bone can range from a few hundred dollars to over $5,000. Treatment will depend on the severity of a blockage or injury, the age and health of the cat, and the individual veterinarian’s practices and costs. Owners may want to consider cat insurance. It can help cover emergency medical costs. Policies must be purchased before an emergency happens and can offset the out-of-pocket emergency and preventive care costs.

Chicken Bone Alternatives

There are plenty of feline-friendly alternatives that are not as risky. Cats love the taste of meat and poultry. Try CBD or meat stick-type treats. These are a big hit with kitties. For kitties that like to chew crunchy treats, catnip-filled treats are a great choice. If cats need that extra calcium, talk to your vet about using bone powder or broth as a supplement.

Felines can eat an occasional treat of raw chicken meat. Fresh chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces, is safe and delicious. This should not be given every day or without other well-balanced cat food. It is a tasty treat, full of nutrients that will not pose the same risks.

How To Stop A Cat From Eating Chicken Bones

The best way to stop a kitty from eating these is not to introduce them in the first place. It is unlikely a housecat will encounter these if owners keep them appropriately stored and keep trash covered and secure. Prevention is key, and that responsibility falls to pet owners. Cooked bones are the most dangerous. Keep all human foods securely packed away from curious felines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can cats eat chicken drumsticks?

Cats can eat chicken drumstick bones, but only if they are raw. It is not a great idea to let them have a whole chicken drumstick; there are smaller bones and tough cartilage.

Can kittens eat chicken bones?

It is not wise to give a kitten bones in any form. These are far too risky, and kittens may injure their mouths and teeth just trying to chew them.

Is it ok if I grind up chicken bones to give to my cat?

This is not a good practice to get into. Trying to grind these up at home is challenging, and even after grinding up, there can still be large shards that will cut or splinter inside a cat’s body. Stick to commercially made options.

Can my cat get an infection from eating raw chicken bones?

Yes. A cat can get an infection from eating raw animal parts. They carry the chance of infectious bacteria. Shards can cause injury, leading to infection and internal bleeding.

I want to feed my cat a raw food diet. Don’t they need the calcium from chicken bones?

Cats do need calcium, and bones are a good source, but that does not mean felines should eat raw poultry skeletons all the time. Bone meal, calcium carbonate, and other calcium supplements can be used. Talk to your veterinarian for guidance on what to include in a raw food diet.

Final Thoughts

Cats love chicken, and it may seem natural to give them chicken bones. After all, they are often included (ground or meal) in commercial cat foods. This does not mean these are safe for kitties to eat. Raw bones of the right size can be a nice, tasty treat under close supervision. They should not be given to felines regularly. There are plenty of safer, more flavorful feline-friendly alternatives. Never feed a kitty any cooked chicken skeleton. Always supervise them if they are given a raw chicken bone as a treat. Call your vet at the first sign of trouble. This may be a treat cats can do without, as the risk far outweighs the reward.

Red cat looking at raw vegetables snarling.

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