Can I Give My Cat Steak?
When we run through a mental list of the most decadent foods in the world, most of them are sweet in nature: triple chocolate cake smothered in hot fudge, gooey cookies topped with vanilla ice cream and maraschino cherries, and fluffy, crispy pastries filled with custard. Those who love the umami flavor of all things savory, however, will tell you that one of the most decadent dinners is a well-prepared steak. Though our grandparents considered steak a health food (all that protein will give you big muscles!), in recent years, research has revealed that red meat increases our risk of many health problems, including heart disease. Though we are omnivores, it seems that our bodies just do not function well in the long term when they run on large quantities of meat.
But that’s us—what about the carnivores living inside our homes? As more pet owners have developed an interest in optimal feline nutrition, they have started feeding their cats larger quantities of meat. So, can cats have steak?
The answer is yes, cats can eat steak in moderation. In terms of toxicity, beef is probably one of the safest meat options for our cats. The flesh of cattle does not contain anything that is poisonous to felines, it is usually relatively easy for them to digest, and it does not come with the same risk of contamination by heavy metals that many types of fish do.
Steak provides many of the nutrients that cats need to thrive, but, to make sure your cat does not develop any nutritional imbalances, it is important to make sure that most of your diet consists of pet food formulated specifically for cats. If you want to attempt to give your cat a diet made up of whole foods, consult a veterinarian first. Steak will not meet all of your cat’s dietary needs.
Though many of today’s health nuts try to avoid red meat like the plague, our cats are biologically designed to eat meat regularly. Lean, fresh, well-cooked steak contains many of the nutrients that your cat’s body needs. Steak is high in protein, Vitamin B12, niacin, iron, zinc, and selenium.
Because your cat comes from a long line of meat-munching ancestors, they will be able to absorb these vitamins and minerals far better from steak than they would from plant foods like spinach or kale. Leafy greens may be the preferable source of vitamins and minerals for omnivores like us, but for our cats, it is much easier to extract nutrition from fresh meat!
Unlike many of our carbohydrate-laden sweet treats, savory meat-based foods like steak are exactly what your cat has evolved to consume. As obligate carnivores, our furry friends need diets that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Plain steak, like all meat, naturally contains absolutely no carbohydrates; all of the calories in this food come from fat and protein.
Depending on the steak, fat content can vary widely. This is important because too much fat can cause serious health problems for your cat, including high cholesterol, heart disease, and even pancreatitis. Feeding your cat large amounts of fatty beef (or even worse, fat trimmings) will put them at an increased risk of suffering from high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. When selecting the meat you want to feed your cat, make sure it is as lean as possible—this will reduce its calorie and fat content while maximizing the protein content.
Things to Consider
It is also important to remember that your tiny housecat should not eat massive quantities of steak. Most cats need less than 300 calories per day. A single three-ounce serving of top round steak packs in a whopping 178 calories! If you are not careful to balance your cat’s caloric intake, you may find that they quickly become overweight or obese. Too much body fat can lead to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even some types of cancer, so it is important to monitor your feline friend’s weight.
Another important note: though some pet owners online insist that raw beef is an ideal source of nutrition for pets, most experts (including The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Companion Animal Parasite Council, and The American Animal Hospital Association) agree that raw meat is not safe for cats. Raw steak, no matter how fresh, may contain potentially dangerous bacteria like E. Coli and Listeria. While it is true that cooked food is less ‘natural’ for our cats, it is also much safer. Cooking steak will kill bacteria and prevent foodborne illness.
Overall, steak is a safe food to feed cats in moderation. It is generally well digested, and it is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and low in carbohydrates. To make sure your cat is safe, give your cat the leanest meat possible— and make sure that it is thoroughly cooked to prevent foodborne illness.