Chickens are omnivores, and that means they eat all kinds of foods. And as most owners already know they are far from above swiping food from people and other animals alike.
Horse feed, goat pellets, dog food it is all on the menu and free for the taking as far as chickens are concerned. But how about something like cat food? Can chickens have cat food?
Chickens can eat cat food, but they should not. There is nothing overtly harmful for chickens in cat food, but it is not nutritionally complete and too much at one time or too often can make them sick. You generally don’t need to worry if they steal a bite, though.
Turns out cat food is just food as far as chickens are concerned, though you should not feed it to them deliberately and do your best to keep them from getting any out of your cat’s bowl.
Keep reading to learn more about the topic.
Can Chickens Eat Cat Food?
Yes, chickens can eat cat food. Cat food is not poisonous to chickens, and there is nothing in cat food that will directly hurt them if they eat it.
However, that does not mean you should feed your chickens cat food regularly.
Does Cat Food Contain any Dangerous Ingredients?
No. Typical commercial cat food does not contain any ingredients that are toxic to chickens. That means it won’t immediately harm them or make them sick.
What Ingredients Are Found in Cat Food?
Just like people (and chickens), cats need a balanced diet to stay healthy and happy. But what exactly goes into their food? If you take a look at the ingredients list on a can of cat food, you might be surprised to see that it contains more than just meat.
In fact, most commercial cat foods contain a variety of different ingredients, including all the macronutrients a cat needs to thrive including carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
As usual, carbohydrates provide energy, while fats help to keep coats healthy and shiny. Vitamins and minerals are essential for different functions in the body, such as bone growth and immunity.
Notably, chickens need the same macronutrients and many of the same micronutrients to thrive, so it makes sense they can eat cat food and get at least some of what they need from it.
What Nutrition Can Chickens Get from Cat Food?
As mentioned, chickens need many of the nutrients found in your average can or pouch of cat food.
Chickens need the protein, carbs and some fats, but they also make use of various vitamins and minerals. And it is worth pointing out that chickens can and do eat meat, so that won’t be a big problem for them.
The primary nutrients found in cat food include protein, essential for growth, muscle development, and repair.
Carbs provide energy for all kinds of bodily functions, including movement, thinking, and metabolism. Fats provide energy, and help to keep skin and feathers healthy.
The vitamins in cat food are essential for different functions in the body, such as immunity, vision, and bone development while minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are important for different functions in the body, including metabolism and cell growth.
Cat Food is for Cats, Not Chickens
Despite being edible and generally nutritious for chickens, cat food is not for them: cat food is for cats!
This is because cats and chickens have vastly different biological needs for optimum health. Chickens will not get everything they need (and too much of some things) from cat food, and vice versa.
For example, cats need more protein and fat than chickens do. They also require certain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that chickens don’t need in the same quantities or at all.
Cat Food is Not Nutritionally Complete for Chickens
The primary problem with feeding chickens cat food is that it is not a complete diet for them. It does not contain all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy, and too much of it can lead to health problems.
Your chickens can survive on cat food, for a time, but they will not thrive on it and you should expect their health to degrade quite rapidly if that is all they get to eat, or is the primary component in their diet.
Too Much Cat Food Can Make Chickens Sick
Additionally, most commercial cat foods are very high in calories and fat. This can lead to obesity and other health problems in chickens if they eat too much of it, and can cause fatty liver syndrome among other major problems.
So, while cat food is not poisonous to chickens and they can get some nutrition from it, it is not a good idea to feed them cat food on a regular basis, or as their primary source of food.
If you must, do so sparingly and supplement with other foods to make sure your chickens are getting all the nutrients they need.
How Much Cat Food is Too Much?
If you chickens get cat food incidentally, e.g. they swipe a little bit from the cat’s bowl or from a scrap that you drop, you needn’t worry about a thing.
However, you must not feed your chickens cat food regularly. It should never be even a small ongoing component of their diet.
Feeding you chickens too much cat food in one sitting can easily cause diarrhea and other digestive troubles. Feeding them cat food on an ongoing basis will lead to malnutrition and other issues.
As always, if you suspect one of your birds has eaten a bunch of cat food and isn’t acting right, call your vet pronto.
Can You Give Cat Food to Chicks?
No, you should not give cat food to chicks. Chicks need a very specific diet that is different from what an adult chicken needs. They require more protein and certain vitamins and minerals than an adult chicken does.
Additionally, most commercial cat foods are way too high in calories and fat for chicks. This can easily lead to major problems for chicks when they are at a delicate phase of life.
You don’t want that for your chicks, so never deliberately give them cat food.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.