Pet parents are always on the lookout for new feeding trends, as well as keeping up to date on the latest nutrition options to keep their pet as healthy as possible whilst giving them variety in their diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they need to eat meat as their main protein source. But what about beef or steak? Can cats eat beef?
What are the potential benefits of feeding beef to your cat?
Beef is a great protein source, so as long as it doesn’t contain fat or bones it is safe for your cat to eat. It will even help to provide the building blocks for muscle and soft tissue maintenance and repair. Many cats like to eat beef and so they are likely to enjoy eating some as a semi-occasional treat.
What are the risks and downsides of feeding beef to your cat?
As we discussed in our blog on the pros and cons of raw food, there are arguments to be made against feeding your cat raw steak and other types of fresh meat:
Bones can get stuck in your cat’s gut, causing a blockage that can be very serious, and even life-threatening. Even if they don’t get stuck, sharp edges of bones can irritate the walls of the gut, which can give your cat vomiting or diarrhea. Therefore, it is really important that, if you offer your cat any meat or fish, you check first to make sure there are no bones.
Aside from the obvious risk – that eating a diet with a high fat content will make your cat gain weight and could lead to obesity and related health problems — eating fat can also irritate the guts and other organs like the pancreas. Eating meat with a large amount of fat has been suggested as a possible cause of pancreatitis, so it is always best to use lean beef or cut off any visible fat before offering the beef.
Obesity and risk of deficiencies
Although your cat may enjoy it, your furry friend cannot survive on beef alone. Remember that anything extra that you feed your pet should come out of their daily allowance of calories, otherwise they will gain weight.
So, a good rule of thumb is for treats or tidbits to account for no more than ten percent of your cat’s calorie intake. This means that your cat will have ninety percent of its calories from nutritionally complete cat food, avoiding any risk of them being deficient in vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients.
Not all cats will enjoy eating beef, and as with any new food, some cats may develop vomiting and diarrhea after eating it. Therefore, it is sensible to start by offering a small amount of beef, to see if your cat enjoys it and make sure there are no ill effects. If your cat enjoys it and doesn’t develop any vomiting or diarrhea, then you can continue to offer beef.
If your feline friend does develop symptoms of gut sensitivity after eating beef, put them on a bland diet and avoid offering beef in the future. If the symptoms are severe or do not improve following a couple of days of bland food, speak to your veterinarian.
So, can cats eat beef?
Cats can eat beef occasionally as part of a healthy diet as long as it is free of bones or fat. A reasonable suggestion would be to feed the beef no more frequently than once or twice a week. Then you can be sure that they are getting everything they need from their normal, complete, cat food, but still enjoying a little variety.