Lets talk about cats and bones!
It's always amazing to me how many people come to me with the question "can my cat eat whole bone?", well the answer is yes! Most definitely YES! Bone is a really important aspect of the cats raw diet. Bone is most important for calcium, but it also provides other minerals to a lesser extent. So, today I'm going to be discussing cat appropriate bones and safe alternatives.
Cats have a much smaller range of bones they can safely consume versus dogs but they can eat whole, raw meaty bone. For cats the selection is for the most part limited to poultry bones from things like chickens, ducks, or guinea foul. Further limited to select parts specifically such as necks, feet & or toes, and wings or wing tips. They can also consume all the bone from small species of birds such as quail or partridge & small mammals such as mice.
Now, if your cat is not of the picky variety and will eat these bones and your able to easily source them for your cat, your all set!
When it comes to feeding bones you should always supervise your cat. While bones of appropriate size are considered safe, a cat can still try to chew off more than they can handle, if you know what I mean! Just like dogs, cats can be "gulpers"... I have one! I' once witnessed one of my own slurp down half a quail leg, foot & all like a piece of spaghetti before I could stop him! He was fine & didn't choke but could have. So, be there & supervise just in case. I recommend all pet parents, raw fed or not, know how to preform the Heimlich on your pets just in case! It may not even be food related that the knowledge could save your pets life!
But what if your cat wont eat bone?
Some cats, many cats, especially those who have not been on a raw diet consisting of whole bones they have to chew, simply won't eat them. When this happens you need to find an alternative. Grinds of the bone in parts or bone in grinds are an option and would be my first choice. Having the bone ground up in the meat will often be all the fussy cat needs to get them eating their bones. For some cats this still won't get them eating the bone. I've literally seen a cat meticulously pick tiny bone pieces out of grinds. This also can be a more challenging item for people to source, especially if the budget does not allow for online ordering from raw food suppliers. Now, you could grind the bone in parts yourself but the cost of a grinder that will do bones isn't exactly cheap either. But of course if it's in the budget go for it! When using bone in grinds just be sure you know the percentage of bone in the product you are using.
So, what options are left?
My first choice for a bone replacement is bone meal or MCHA powder. Both are powdered bone. The difference is one in cost, bone meal is significantly less expensive and two, bone meal is a cooked product where as MCHA is not. I'm sure some of you are wondering what is MCHA? Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite calcium, or freeze dried New Zealand grass fed bovine bone powder. MCHA calcium is a much higher quality product than bone meal and because its not a cooked bone product its also identical to whole raw bone nutrient wise. Bone meal is still very similar to actual bone and contains calcium, phosphorus and the other minerals found in bone to a lesser extent. For cost and sourcing sake more people use bone meal than MCHA. This is fine just be sure to source a human grade product form a reputable company. I'll give my recommendations at the end of this article, with links.
What about egg shell?
Egg shells are an excellent source of calcium, yes. They are not an acceptable substitute for bone in a healthy cats diet. Why? As discussed earlier bone is much more than calcium, egg shells are primarily calcium. They can however be a replacement for bone in an appropriately formulated diet for cats who need a reduced phosphorus diet such as those with kidney disease. Now if you need added calcium in the diet egg shell powder is great! Just don't replace your cats bone source with it unless you have a medical need to do so.
So make sure if your making your cats food they are getting their bones or one of the acceptable substitutes so that they are receiving complete nutrition. As always, Happy Feeding!
Links to products referenced: