Unlike dogs, cats have fewer chances of developing food intolerances, even if pet owners feed them the same diet time and again, sometimes even for years.
Venison is a novel type of protein that some cats might benefit from. In today’s article, we’re looking at whether it is a good idea to incorporate this type of meat into your feline friend’s diet and whether there are some risks associated with it.
But can cats eat venison? The short answer is yes.
Why venison could be good for cats
We all know that cats are obligate carnivores, which means that a big part of their diet should consist of meat. However, venison is perhaps less common in commercial cat food, so you should start small whenever giving your pet a novel protein.
Venison is rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, but so are other types of meat. If you hunt it yourself and you’re thinking of giving it to your cat as a way of diversifying their diet while also saving some money, you should always cook it properly.
It’s difficult to tell just what nutrients venison is rich in because it can actually mean any kind of game meat, whether that be deer or elk. The organs can be given to cats, too, so long as they are thermally processed in an appropriate manner.
More than 60% of venison is made up of protein, which means that it is entirely suitable for this species. When it comes to minerals, it contains both magnesium and iron.
Iron is the building block of hemoglobin, found in red blood cells, which are in charge of transporting oxygen and nutrients to and from your pet’s internal organs. While cats rarely develop iron deficiencies to the point that they get anemia, they can happen if they do not benefit from a proper diet.
As for the vitamins that can be found in venison, it’s also relatively rich in vitamins B6 and B12, as well as vitamin K.
There is no fiber present in this type of meat. Commercial cat diets often contain grains and other ingredients that are utilized for bulking up the recipes and making them cheaper. These can sometimes trigger digestive issues since cats are not genetically engineered to process fiber-rich foods.
Can venison be dangerous for cats?
Most of the time, no.
However, there are some cases where giving your cat venison meat can actually put their health in danger.
- Food poisoning
Although raw diets for pets have become more and more popular in the past few years, the truth is that they’ll always be more or less risky. And the main reason for that is the fact that you need to make sure that you cook the venison properly before giving it to your cat.
If you do have the opportunity to come across very, very fresh venison, you can store it in the freezer and thaw portions for your cat every day. That does, however, raise the risk of bacterial contamination.
Raw meat can carry very dangerous microorganisms, and not only can your pet get food poisoning in the traditional (digestive) sense, but if they’re a kitten or a senior, they might also develop complications such as liver damage, which could significantly endanger their health.
So, unless you know for a fact that the venison you have at your disposal is extremely fresh, a raw venison diet would be a no-go.
- Oxalic acid
Venison contains oxalic acid, and while that might not be a dangerous aspect for people, even those that have a history of kidney disease, it will not be the same for cats.
If your cat has kidney failure or is known to quickly develop urinary stones, venison might not be a suitable protein source.
Oxalic acid binds with calcium and leads to the formation of crystals, so feeding your pet a diet composed of venison exclusively or giving them unusually high amounts might result in kidney pathologies.
Adult and otherwise completely healthy cats might experience no health complications, but the same cannot be said for their geriatric counterparts.
While deer and elk can carry a wide range of parasites whether in organs such as their lungs or heart or in their gut, they can also have larval or cystic forms of parasites in their muscles that can actually be transmitted to both humans and other species.
Larval tapeworms and Sarcocystis spp. are two of the most common examples, but they can mostly infect cats when the meat of the venison isn’t cooked properly.
So, if you ever had any second thoughts about giving your cat cooked venison instead of the raw meat, think again.
Although venison is fairly healthy and does contain a number of nutrients that can provide benefits for cats, it should be looked at as a snack more than as a primary source of food.
Venison can be cooked in various ways so as for it to become safe to give to this species, but baking it in the oven is by far one of the best methods. Grilling can be unsafe, and it can also result in you not killing all of the bacteria or parasites in the meat, so we recommend against it. Medium-rare venison steaks should never be given to cats for this reason.
Cats that have a history of digestive sensitivity should first be given minimal quantities of venison so that the pet owners have the opportunity to test how they react to it.
Wild Rose Cat Clinic of Calgary, Common Feline Poisons, Toxins & Household Dangers, http://www.catmd.ca/toxins.html#:~:text=Oxalic%20acid%20binds%20with%20the,within%203%20days%20of%20ingestion.
National Deer Association, 10 Weird Parasites that Live Inside Deer, 2014 https://deerassociation.com/10-weird-parasites-live-inside-deer/
MSD Manual Veterinary Manual, Sarcocystosis in Cats, 2018 https://www.msdvetmanual.com/cat-owners/bone,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders-of-cats/sarcocystosis-in-cats#:~:text=A%20cat%20can%20develop%20sarcocystosis,mild%20diarrhea%20may%20be%20seen.