Can I Give My Cat Raw Eggs?
Just like parents, pet owners all have their own tips and tricks, and this is especially true when it comes to the ideal pet diet. Though responsible pet owners follow the scientific consensus when they put together the majority of their pets’ diets, there is some wiggle room when it comes to picking out the healthiest treats and supplements. One of the most popular feline food supplements, however, is raw eggs. For years, kitty parents have sworn by raw eggs to solve their feline friend’s skin problems, low energy levels, or general crankiness. Even though we would never eat raw eggs ourselves, we figure they fit perfectly into our carnivorous cats’ diets.
But is this a safe assumption? Can cats have raw eggs?
The answer may surprise you: no. For the same reason that humans should avoid eating raw cookie dough, cats should not eat raw eggs. There is nothing in the egg’s makeup that will result in any immediate health problems, but eggs are often contaminated by dangerous bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. Because our cats eat off the floor without any trouble, we often figure their immune systems are stronger than our own, but this isn’t always the case. Dangerous foodborne bacteria can be just as dangerous for your cat as they are for you.
Aren’t eggs healthy for cats? Cooked, maybe—for carnivores who thrive on animal protein, eggs can serve as little nutrition bombs. They are very low in carbohydrates, which is a great sign for cats. Carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes, bread, and pasta are often problematic for our feline friends; they can lead to digestive problems, insulin resistance and diabetes, and obesity. Eggs are made mostly of protein and fat—half of which is in the form of healthy fats, and half of which is in the form of unhealthy saturated fat.
The combination of protein and healthy fatty acids in eggs may be responsible for the commonly reported skin benefits. Inadequate protein or fat can lead to skin problems and a dull, brittle, or thinning coat. Supplementing your cat’s diet with these nutrients may help to fight dandruff and itching, as well as to improve your cat’s coat health. Assuming your cat isn’t struggling with some more serious underlying issue, the occasional egg supplement may help to restore their coat to its soft, shiny glory.
Eggs may seem like the perfect feline food, but they should only be served to cats in moderation. Though they have protein and fat that can help your pet meet their daily dietary needs, eggs do not contain all of the essential nutrients for cats. If you put your cat on an all-egg diet, they are going to develop nutritional deficiencies that can result in serious health problems. In the kitty diet, eggs are best used as supplements or treats, not as meal replacements.
Another reason to limit eggs: they are extremely high in cholesterol. Though cats are not quite as prone to heart disease as we are (they are carnivores, after all), they can still develop cardiovascular problems if we feed them too much unhealthy cholesterol. If your cat already has cardiovascular issues or is at an increased risk of heart disease, consider skipping the eggs.
Eggs are only safe in moderation if they are cooked. Though advocates for raw pet food swear by feeding their cats eggs, science shows that felines who consume raw food are at an increased risk of contracting foodborne illnesses like salmonellosis and E. Coli poisoning.
Salmonellosis can be as dangerous for your cat as it is for you. Though mild cases of salmonellosis may pass without you noticing, severe cases can be fatal to felines. Symptoms of feline salmonellosis include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, low energy, shock, loss of appetite, refusal to drink fluids, skin problems, rapid heartbeat, mucus in the stool, and weight loss.
If you suspect your cat may have this disease, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of the illness, the vet may administer intravenous fluids. Some cases will require blood transfusions. Cats who have become septic will require more care.
Things to Consider
In conclusion, cooked eggs are a safe, healthy supplement for most cats. Raw eggs, however, are not—they pose a poisoning risk that outweighs any potential health benefits. If you decide to give your cat eggs as a treat, opt for scrambled or hardboiled. They will still get the benefits of the protein and fat without the risk of foodborne illness.