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Is it OK for cats to eat cooked chicken?

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need meat in their diet to survive. Chicken can be a healthy source of protein for cats, as long as it is cooked properly and fed in moderation. There are some important things to consider before feeding your cat cooked chicken. In this article, we’ll discuss the nutritional benefits of chicken for cats, how to prepare cooked chicken safely for your cat, risks and precautions to take, and how much cooked chicken to feed.

Nutritional benefits of chicken for cats

Chicken is a good source of many nutrients cats need:

  • High-quality protein. Chicken contains all of the essential amino acids cats require.
  • Fat. Chicken fat provides concentrated energy for cats.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Chicken contains vitamins like B vitamins and minerals like selenium.
  • Water. Chicken can provide moisture, especially if served wet or in a broth.

The protein in cooked chicken is highly bioavailable, meaning cats can digest and absorb it efficiently. Chicken is a lean protein when compared to red meats like beef or pork. It has less fat when the skin is removed. The fat chicken does contain provides a concentrated source of energy.

How to prepare cooked chicken safely

When preparing cooked chicken for your cat, follow these safety guidelines:

  • Wash hands and surfaces thoroughly before and after handling raw chicken to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Cook chicken thoroughly until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F. This kills any potential bacteria like salmonella.
  • Remove all bones before feeding. Cooked bones splinter easily and pose a major choking hazard.
  • Avoid seasonings and spices. Onion, garlic, salt and other seasoning can be toxic for cats.
  • Allow chicken to cool before feeding. Hot chicken can burn your cat’s mouth.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers promptly. Only leave cooked chicken out for 2 hours maximum.

Follow these steps and cooked chicken can be a safe, nutritious addition to your cat’s diet.

Risks and precautions

While chicken can be healthy for cats, there are also some risks and precautions to keep in mind:

  • Choking hazard from bones – Cooked chicken bones splinter easily and can lodge in cats’ throats or perforate the gastrointestinal tract. Be sure to remove all bones before feeding chicken.
  • Foodborne illness – Raw or undercooked chicken may contain salmonella, E. coli or other bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Cook chicken thoroughly to 165°F.
  • Gastrointestinal upset – Too much fat or too sudden a switch to chicken can cause diarrhea or vomiting. Transition slowly and limit fat consumption.
  • Allergies – Some cats may have allergies to chicken protein. Discontinue feeding if you see signs like itching, skin irritation or ear infections.
  • Pancreatitis – High-fat foods like chicken skin have been associated with pancreatitis in cats. Remove skin before feeding.

As long as proper precautions are taken and chicken is fed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet, risks can be minimized. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

How much cooked chicken to feed

When introducing cooked chicken, feed your cat small amounts at first to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Here are some feeding guidelines:

  • Start with 1-2 tablespoons of cooked chicken without skin or bones for smaller cats or 1/4 cup for larger cats.
  • Gradually increase portion sizes over a 7-10 day period to allow your cat’s digestive system to adjust.
  • Feed lean chicken meat but avoid large amounts of fatty skin and organ meats.
  • Chicken should never exceed more than 10% of your adult cat’s total daily caloric intake.
  • Monitor your cat’s body weight and adjust portions to help maintain or achieve a healthy weight.
  • Cats require 30-50 calories per pound per day depending on activity level. Chicken provides about 30 calories per ounce.

Here is a table with some general feeding guidelines based on your cat’s weight:

Cat Weight Maximum Portion Cooked Chicken
5 lbs 1.5 oz
10 lbs 3 oz
15 lbs 4.5 oz

Your veterinarian can provide customized portion recommendations based on your individual cat. Stick to the 10% rule as an upper limit for cooked chicken fed as part of a complete and balanced diet.


Cooked, unseasoned chicken can be a healthy treat and supplemental protein source for cats in moderation. Make sure to cook chicken thoroughly, remove all bones, introduce new foods slowly, and don’t exceed 10% of daily calories. Monitor your cat for signs of food intolerance. Check with your veterinarian about appropriate portion sizes and any precautions based on your cat’s health. Following these guidelines can allow your cat to safely enjoy the benefits of cooked chicken as part of a nutritious feline diet.