Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Turkey?

Is it safe for cats to eat turkey? Cat owners often ask about this protein as it is found in both cat food and on human plates. We have the answer sand more.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: October 6, 2022 | 8 min read

Cat pawing at Turkey breast on counter

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Does your cat come sniffing whenever you eat a turkey sandwich or creep around the kitchen when the Thanksgiving bird roasts? It is common for cats to eat chicken, so many owners may assume they can consume turkey safely. Can cats eat turkey? Is it safe for cats to eat? We have the answers.

Turkey is a common ingredient found in commercial cat foods and human kitchens. It is not unusual for them to show interest in what we eat, but it may not always be safe for them to share human foods. Our digestive systems are not the same, and we have different nutritional needs. This is a scenario many feline owners find themselves in, and it helps them to be informed on what foods are safe for feline consumption.

Before you share that roasted holiday dinner or a slice of deli meat with your purr baby, learn a little bit more about this bird, if felines can eat turkey, and if it has any benefit for them. Let’s get to know everything we can about cats eating turkey.

Can Cats Eat Turkey?

Cats can eat turkey as long as it is prepared appropriately and eaten in moderation. Some guidelines need to be followed to make sure the food is safe. For example, this does not mean they can split that sandwich with you for lunch. Human foods are not always safe for cats to eat, even if they contain some ingredients that are safe.

Humans rarely eat foods prepared without spices, seasonings, and other ingredients. These added ingredients are often unhealthy for felines, especially spices like garlic, chives, and onion. Kitties should only ever be fed turkey that is part of high-quality pet food or has been cooked specifically for them. It should be baked or boiled, plain with no spices or even salt or pepper.

Is Turkey Good For Cats

Cat nibbling on raw turkey on cutting board
Turkey is a lean protein, which can be good for them when appropriately cooked (not raw).

Felines are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat a meat-based diet to survive and stay healthy. It should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection recommendations. Poultry or any meat that is undercooked or raw is not safe for felines to ingest. This carries the risk of bacterial infection from salmonella and listeria. Listeria can cause stomach upset, discomfort, diarrhea, and vomiting. Salmonella is quite serious. Symptoms include dehydration, diarrhea, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, and vomiting. Felines suffering from salmonella infection will need veterinary treatment as soon as possible.

Only deboned, fresh bird cooked alone without any additives is safe for feline consumption. This should never be something kitties are fed instead of their regular cat food. This is a nice treat but should only be given occasionally. They should not eat the skin. White meat is better than dark meat.

Never allow a cat to munch or pick from a poultry carcass. Small bones and cooked bones pose a risk of choking hazards and internal injury. Drippings and other liquids in the pan are high in salt and fat and can cause digestive upset. Felines should never be fed deep-fried meats or poultry coated in bacon, glaze, or other sauces.

Can Cats Eat Ground Turkey?

Ground turkey that has been properly cooked and has no seasonings is safe for cats. It is higher in fat than a lean breast, which is ideal. They will enjoy a tasty meatball or freshly cooked patty as a periodic treat. Try to stick to the meat that is 90% lean.

Can Cats Eat Turkey Liver?

The cooked liver is safe in very small amounts. It tastes delicious but is very high in Vitamin A. Too much of this in a feline diet can lead to Vitamin A toxicity. One or two small bites occasionally mixed in with their food is okay, but again, only very occasionally.

Can Cats Eat Turkey Lunch Meat?

Cats should not eat lunch meat or deli meat. Deli meat is not suitable for humans to consume a lot of because it has high amounts of sodium, nitrates, and nitrite. These meats also increase the risk of cancer and heart disease in both humans and felines. While a taste or two will not cause immediate damage or discomfort, it will raise the risk of cancer. Lunchmeat should never be part of a cat’s regular diet.

Can Cats Eat Turkey Bacon?

Cats should not eat turkey bacon. While they may be drawn to the smell and will undoubtedly love the flavor, this food is very high in salt and fat for them to have safely. It has no nutritional value to them and is high in artificial additives. Even a tiny amount can have adverse effects on the feline body, like heart disease, increased risk of cancer, hypertension, dehydration, and obesity.

What Can Cats Eat On Thanksgiving?

We most often associate this big bird with Thanksgiving. Of course, cats will be interested in what is going on, they will smell all the food cooking, and those feline senses will be on alert for a quick snack or tasty morsel. They should not eat any scraps unless it is one of those rare occasions when the family has a plain roasted bird. There are some parts of the Thanksgiving meal that are safe for kitties to get a taste of. These include:

  1. Plain, deboned, fully cooked turkey, without skin. Cut into bite-sized pieces and only feed in small amounts. The skin is high in fat, can be very chewy, and is unsafe for cats to consume.
  2. Cranberry sauce made without a ton of sugar and that has no artificial sweeteners can be a nice treat and may even help with urinary tract health. Felines cannot taste sweet, so this, along with other Thanksgiving foods like pumpkin pie, will not entice them with sweet flavors.
  3. Plain pumpkin, not in a pie, is full of fiber and tastes great. This can be a nice treat to mix in with a kitty’s meal. Only use plain pumpkin, not the canned pie filling. Pumpkin pie is too high in dairy, spices, fats, artificial sweeteners (which can be toxic like xylitol), and sugars to be safe for kitties. Cats should never have whipped cream. It is a dairy product, high in chemical additives, and often has the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is highly toxic for felines.
  4. Plain green beans with no salt, sugar, butter, bacon or fried onions are safe.
  5. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, as long as they are plain and have no other ingredients added, are okay to give in small amounts. Any potatoes that have added dairy, cheese, onions, garlic, scallion, peppers, etc., should never be fed to a cat. They can cause intestinal discomfort and gastrointestinal issues, and some added spices like onion and garlic are toxic to felines. Avoid giving kitties gravy. Gravy is very high in salt and fat. One little taste is probably fine, but more than that is a concern.

Feline Friendly Treat Alternatives

While the occasional bit of safely prepared turkey can be a nice treat, there are plenty of scrumptious and healthy alternatives. Try some of these instead of lunch meat or highly seasoned poultry.

Freeze-dried cat food and treats are incredibly healthy and delicious. Cats love the taste, and freeze-dried food retains a high nutritional content, more than dry or canned foods. Some highly recommended options are:

Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried chicken morsels. This food is made from cage free-chicken and 100% certified organic fruits and vegetables. This food has 98% cage-free chicken, organs, and bone, made in Stella & Chewy’s dedicated kitchen. It gives the benefits of raw food but is easier to serve and lasts longer. Morsels can be fed as is or soaked in warm water to rehydrate. It also comes in duck, rabbit, and a salmon & chicken option.

Primal Freeze-dried nuggets are another excellent option and include duck, rabbit, pork, venison, beef & salmon, and chicken & salmon options. It adds a punch of protein and flavor to the feline diet without the risk of human foods. Grain, corn, wheat, gluten, and soy free. You must add water to rehydrate.

Vital Essentials has a freeze-dried patty made with limited ingredients. The all-natural raw, freeze-dried patties. Packed full of flavor, freshness, and nutrients, This can be a tasty treat or used as an everyday food.

Flavor boosters like this freeze-dried beef powder can give cat food a whole new flavor and will make those purr babies drool for more.

Owners can give their kitties commercially made treats or whip up a delectable snack at home. Adding things like tuna, not the kind soaked in oil, cooked eggs, fresh cooked plain white rice, pumpkin puree, or a bit of fish like salmon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is turkey healthier for cats than pork?

Turkey is a better choice for felines as a low-fat, low-calorie food. Both types of meat have benefits and drawbacks. Pork is denser and contains less water than turkey meat. Pork has about twice the amount of fat. Turkey has more B complex vitamins and contains more vitamin A but no vitamin K or C. At the same time, pork is richer in fat-soluble Vitamin D and E Pork contains all these vitamins except for Vitamin K. Both provide a high-calorie count, though pork offers a little bit more calories.

Can my cat eat turkey jerky?

Kitties should not consume any kind of jerky. Jerky is made up of many different spices, seasonings, and chemical additives that can harm cats. Unless you are feeding your cat a jerky treat specifically made for felines, it is not a good idea to feed them any kind of jerky. This includes beef jerky and any other type of meat jerky. Even homemade jerky should be avoided, as, again, it has a lot of added ingredients and very high levels of salt.

Why is salt bad for cats?

While salt is one of the main seasonings used in almost every human dish, salt is not safe for felines to have a lot of. Even a tiny amount of salt can cause significant distress to a kitty. Eating more than 41 milligrams a day can become very harmful to them. While felines need salt in their diets, they require far less than most human foods. Too much salt ingestion can lead to dehydration, increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, poor appetite, incoordination, and more. Felines love the flavor and taste of salt, but it is not healthy for them. Salt poisoning can be very serious, and most kitties will need extended veterinary care to recover.

My cat ate a whole piece of turkey bacon. What should I do?

If your cat ate a whole piece of turkey bacon, it is important to contact the vet for advice. You can also offer your cat extra water as bacon is high in salt and may cause them to become very thirsty or even dehydrated. Always contact your veterinarian for guidance on what to do next. They may want the cat to come in immediately to be treated or, depending on the cat’s condition, might want you to take care at home and observe the cat. Never try to get a cat to throw up something they have eaten or reach your fingers into their mouth or throat to try to retrieve it. This can cause injuries to the cat and the owners.

What should I do if my cat eats a turkey bone?

If your cat ate a poultry bone, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Never try to induce vomiting or remove the bone. Bones can splinter and break, and the sharp edges can get stuck in a cat’s mouth, throat or stomach and cause internal injury. If a cat is acting okay and not in distress, the veterinarian may suggest monitoring them for signs of sickness or injury. In more severe cases, veterinarians may need to perform more invasive treatment.

Final Thoughts

Turkey is an ingredient that can be safe for cats to eat when prepared properly. It is a common protein found in cat foods and treats. However, it is not safe for felines to eat in every circumstance. Birds cooked with other ingredients and lots of spices are not safe. Bones and uncooked meat are not safe. Kitties should only ever be fed plain meat that has been cooked thoroughly and has no other ingredients. Even then, they should not eat excessive amounts of it.

While nothing in the bird itself is toxic to felines, the turkey’s bones can potentially be choking and injury hazards. Additionally, meats cooked for human consumption, especially deli meat, are very high in fats, salt, and other chemical additives unsafe for kitty consumption. So, while giving your cat that drumstick off the Thanksgiving bird is not a great idea, he can enjoy a nice bite or two from a fully cooked liver or giblets.

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