Can Chickens Eat Cat Food: To Feed or Not

Cat Food in a Bowl

Article Summary

  • Chickens can technically eat cat food, but it’s generally not recommended as a regular part of their diet due to the high protein and fat content.
  • Feeding large amounts or exclusively feeding cat food to chickens can be bad for their health, stressing their kidneys and livers over time.
  • Chickens may enjoy cat food as an occasional treat due to its flavor, but it should not become a significant dietary source.

Eating cat food may seem like a tempting protein boost for chickens, but is it really a good idea? This comprehensive guide examines whether chickens can safely eat cat food, the potential benefits and risks, and provides tips on the best diet for your feathered friends.

Can Chickens Eat Cat Food?

While chickens can technically eat cat food, it’s generally not recommended as a regular part of their diet. Dry or wet cat food is very high in protein and fat compared to the nutritional requirements of chickens. Too much protein from a single source like cat food can cause health issues in chickens over time.

Is It Okay for Chickens to Eat Dry Cat Food?

It’s best to avoid feeding dry cat food to chickens regularly. The primary concern is the very high protein content—generally 30% or more protein in quality cat foods. This is far more than the 15-18% protein chickens need in their feed. Excess dietary protein gets converted to uric acid, which can cause gout and kidney damage in chickens. The meat meal in cat food also lacks the amino acid balance chickens require.


Very small amounts of dry cat food fed as the occasional treat aren’t likely to cause harm. But it shouldn’t become a regular part of a chicken’s diet.

Is Cat Food Bad For Chickens?

Feeding large amounts or exclusively feeding cat food can definitely be bad for chickens. The high protein and fat content stresses chickens’ kidneys and livers over time. Cat food also contains added vitamins and minerals meant for cats, not chickens, which can cause toxicity at high doses.

Another concern is cat food lacks some nutrients chickens specifically need, like oyster shell for calcium. So while cat food may seem like a good source of extra protein for chickens, the drawbacks make it unsuitable as a daily feed.

Do Chickens Like Cat Food?

A Cat and A Chicken Outdoor
A Cat and A Chicken Outdoor

Most chickens do seem to enjoy cat food as an occasional treat. This is likely because dry cat food has a high percentage of meat ingredients that provide plenty of flavor chickens find palatable. The small, bite-sized kibble with its crunch and aroma is also very appealing to a chicken’s senses.

While chickens may love the taste, it’s best reserved for special snacks, not everyday nutrition. Owners do report chickens become very eager and demanding for more once they get a taste of that enticing cat kibble!

Can Chickens Eat Dry Cat Food?

Chickens can eat small amounts of dry cat food on occasion, but it should not make up a significant portion of their diet. The safest way to feed dry cat food is as a treat—no more than a few pieces 1-2 times per week at most. Free-feeding dry cat food in a communal feeder can lead to health issues in chickens over time.

When feeding cat food to chickens, look for a high-quality, grain-free variety. Avoid very cheap formulas with additives and artificial colors. Ultimately though, chicken feed is nutritionally optimal for hens.

Can Chickens Eat Wet Cat Food?

Similar to dry food, chickens can eat canned cat food in strict moderation. However, wet cat food presents some additional risks not present with kibble. The high moisture content means wet food spoils rapidly, raising the risk of bacterial contamination. Salmonella is a particular concern with raw meat-based canned diets. Any uneaten wet food must be promptly removed.

Wet cat food also tends to be extremely high in protein and fat—far too rich as an everyday food source…

Wet cat food also tends to be extremely high in protein and fat—far too rich as an everyday food source for chickens. As an occasional treat, a spoonful of canned food likely won’t harm them, but it shouldn’t be fed routinely.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Cat Food?

It’s not recommended to feed dry or wet cat food to baby chicks under 4-5 months old. The digestive systems of young chicks are too delicate to handle the high protein, fat, and mineral content of cat food.

Chicks fed cat food as a significant portion of their diet may experience diarrhea, dehydration, gout, and other serious health disorders. Only feed chicks a starter feed formulated specifically for their nutritional requirements. Once mature, they can have small tastes of cat food as a snack.

Don’t Chickens Need Extra Protein?

While chickens do need sufficient protein, most commercial feeds already provide all the protein they require. Quality layer feeds contain 16-18% protein, which is optimal for their needs. Extra protein from sources like cat food places unnecessary strain on chickens’ kidneys and livers.

Free-range and pastured chickens also get plenty of additional protein from bugs, grubs, and other foods they forage. Offer scratch grains, garden waste, mealworms or allowed free-ranging rather than high-protein cat food to give them diverse nutrition. Their overall diet likely already supplies sufficient protein.

So in summary, chickens generally should avoid cat food as a significant dietary source. While chickens seem to relish it, the risks of excess protein, fat, and minerals outweigh the potential benefits.

A friendly reminder to all chicken owners out there – the animal feeds meant for your feathered friends should be given occasionally and in small amounts as a treat. While doing so, it’s important to ensure that you are providing a balanced feed and fresh water daily to meet their nutritional requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Chickens Eat Cat Food in the Winter?

Yes, chickens can eat cat food in the winter. Cat food can be a valuable protein source for chickens during colder months when insects and other natural food options may be scarce. However, it should be provided in moderation and not as a primary dietary component to ensure a balanced nutrition for the chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Wet Cat Food?

Chickens can consume wet cat food, but it’s important to offer it in moderation and as a supplementary treat rather than a staple in their diet. Wet cat food can provide additional moisture and protein, but it should not replace the essential nutrients found in a well-rounded chicken feed.

Why Do Chickens Like Cat Food?

Chickens are attracted to cat food primarily because of its high protein content. Protein is a crucial component of a chicken’s diet, especially for egg-laying hens. Cat food offers an alternative protein source, and its taste can be appealing to chickens. However, it’s essential to remember that while cat food can be a supplement, it should not be the primary source of nutrition for chickens to maintain their overall health.