Will My Cat Choke On Bones?

  • by RawRoar
  • 03 Jun, 2017

Exploring a common concern

Many of us have had it drilled into us you should  never  feed bones to your pets, and they're absolutely right that you should never feed cooked bone to your pet.   They splinter easily even when chewed appropriately and can become lodged in a cat's throat or stomach.

Raw bones however are a different ballgame.

Whereas many of us are used to seeing the image above, many of us forget our  domestic cats are basically tiny lions .

Whereas humans have molars (creating a flat surface for grinding plant materials),  along with canines  - cats have a completely different configuration.
Model side profile of the domestic cat
If we consider the picture above, there are no flat grinders.  Carnivores don't need to grind plant material, they need to rip through flesh and bone.  What we can also see is when a cat's jaw closes, they fit together like a pair of shears, mincing any material within.  To a cat, small bones are like you taking a bite of bread.

Yes you could choke, because realistically anyone can choke on anything at any time; you can read here a post that discusses choking on kibble.  Much like some humans who rush and gulp their food, some cats are more at risk of choking because of the speed at which they eat, rather than because of what they eat.

Some things to note when feeding bone:

  • Weight bearing bones of larger animals should be avoided , especially for cats not used to raw feeding.  Some forums say to avoid all weight bearing bones, which is of course silly as mice and day old birds have weight bearing bones yet many cats almost swallow them whole!  A good rule of thumb is if the prey is bigger than the cat, they would typically avoid larger bones.  Cats used to dealing with whole prey will most often strip the meat from say the leg bone of a chicken, leaving the thickest part of the bone behind.  However some cats, perhaps they're still hungry or just because - will attempt larger bones, often with success or quickly realising it's not the best idea, but at the risk of cracking a tooth (a common complaint found in large wild cats)
  • Start small.  Cats used to wet or kibble feeding are unlikely to have developed normal jaw strength needed for chewing effectively.  They may become tired or bored working a large piece, and be more tempted to swallow it whole.  This usually results in the cat vomiting the piece back and cat carers having a coronary.  The smaller the prey the easier the bone - day old chicks, quails and small mice are very easy to eat.  If you feed chicken - the ribs are soft and many report a good starter bone.  Gizzards are chewy and can help to build jaw strength but caution with gulpers who may try and swallow them whole.  Other cats never try and swallow big pieces and will patiently work their food.
  • Watch how you chop.  Never roughly chop or whack big bones as these can cause irregular shapes a cat is more likely to get stuck and some types easily splinter.  It's often safer to present a whole bone than a part of - chicken necks being a prime example.  These are quite hard going as far as chewing goes and so some cats are tempted to try and swallow smaller ones whole - they will typically quickly realise they can't or regurgitate it.  Chopping a neck into rounds creates a much more lodgeable piece (much like giving a whole grape to a toddler) that the cat may also be more tempted to try and swallow.   If the bone is too big to preset, it's better finely ground.
Chicken Wing Parts
Image credit: http://catcentric.org - click image to visit
Image http://thecookful.com - click image to visit
Above we can see how a chicken wing can be safely deconstructed into three parts for new chewers.  Some cats will tackle them whole right from the start, whereas others prefer the smaller meatier pieces at first.
  • Be extra careful with rabbit.  Birds have hollow bones (that make them lighter for flying), whereas weight bearing rabbit bones can form sharper shards if improperly cut.  The biggest risk is using mince ground through a wide plate  as is explained here ; these small shards can potentially damage a cat's gut, particularly if they have slower digestion for any reason.
  • Even kittens can start learning to chew  - once they're ready for food of course.   They're often most accepting of a change in diet and will tackle small prey and big chunks of meat with gusto.
  • Whole prey, bones and larger chunks of meat that can't be swallowed whole, can naturally slow down a "gulper".  Present a cat with a whole mature quail and it takes time to remove some feathers, get in through the skin and remove a "portion".  Similarly larger pieces of meat also require chewing and can help strengthen their jaw.   Watch "Kitty Cat Luna" chewing here - note how she switches it from the left to right hand side of her mouth to work a piece free, then consider how that compares to a cat eating a can of wet food..  
  • Bones & gnawing meat is thought to clean teeth.  Cats chewing larger pieces of meat and bone, rub the matter against their teeth (as we can see in the Kitty Cat Luna clip above), which some feel cleans the teeth.  The moisture released from the meat is also thought to potentially "wash" away plaque, unlike a dry biscuit which (just like for humans) may leave a starchy coating if the cat chews it.   This article explains that some swallow dry food whole, and "crunching it" certainly doesn't prevent teeth issues like many propose.  Diets that are raw but ground tend to result in differing opinions - with some feeling they're not beneficial to teeth, whilst others say the ground bone acts as a gentle abrasive.  Oral health and tooth decay is also more complex than just diet - in humans the species of bacteria that colonises the mouth plays a big part , which may mean the history of diet is also important.  Some health conditions that impact on immunity can also lead to oral health issues as this explains  and some breeds may be more prone to problems , as may those with misaligned teeth or jaw.
  • Supervise your cat when eating.    Always hang around when your cat is eating, whilst most problems will be quickly resolved by the cat without intervention, but it's prudent to keep an eye out.
  • Remember most choking incidents happen when the cat eats a foreign object such as a pen lid or other household item.  All cat owners should familiarise themselves with what to do in such a situation.
Read more about introducing raw bones to cats @  http://feline-nutrition.org

Roar Raw

by RawRoar 17 Jul, 2017
We often read online that crunching biscuits helps to clean cats' teeth; yet despite the majority of cat owners now feeding some dried food, i t is thought that as many as 85% of cats aged three years and older have some sort of dental disease ( 1 ).

Clearly this is a problem for more than just elderly cats, the big question everyone should be asking is why.

First, is it even logical biscuits clean teeth?   It's comparable to suggesting wolfing down half a packet of Hobnobs will give us humans pearly whites.  Simply eating something hard doesn't clean teeth - particularly if you have massive canines that cut through biscuits like a knife through hot butter.   For this theory to even be on the table, cats would have to chew their biscuits.

Cats (unlike humans) don't chew food to mix it with saliva before swallowing.  The acidity of their gut is such that saliva and mastication would destroy their teeth.  Instead cats only use their teeth to rip something small enough to be swallowed whole - their digestive system takes care of the rest.

This means kibble is swallowed not chewed.
by RawRoar 13 Jul, 2017
Due to the glorious weather across the UK recently, there has been much discussion online about helping cats through the heat.

I was surprised to read how many noted their cats vomited or didn't eat well when the temperatures soared, after all we're always hearing cats originate from the desert.

 What confused me more is that we didn't experience any issues from the heat,despite the fact one is a long coated and extremely thick, fluffy feline; on the contrary they both basked in the sunniest and hottest room (on back legs akimbo to help keep themselves cooler) despite repeated attempts to lure them out. 

I mentioned this to a vet friend of mine and after a chat I decided to dig more.  I'm quite shocked at what I found and think it should be more widely shared with pet owners.
by RawRoar 29 Jun, 2017
Single protein feeding is something frequently discussed online, and when it comes to cats that generally means chicken.

Whilst the general consensus is multiple proteins are needed, some raw feeding group on Facebook disagree; instead they argue variety is "optimal" not "compulsory"
by RawRoar 03 Jun, 2017
Many of us have had it drilled into us you should  never  feed bones to your pets, and they're absolutely right that you should never feed cooked bone to your pet.   They splinter easily even when chewed appropriately and can become lodged in a cat's throat or stomach.

Raw bones however are a different ballgame.

Whereas many of us are used to seeing the image above, many of us forget our  domestic cats are basically tiny lions .

Whereas humans have molars (creating a flat surface for grinding plant materials),  along with canines  - cats have a completely different configuration.
by RawRoar 17 May, 2017
They informed their Facebook readers that when you dehydrate fresh meat (a process which involves removing water from food), the resulting product contains less water.
by RawRoar 09 May, 2017
What the TV programe did:
As an experiment  they swabbed a dog owner's (unwashed) hands, the dog's tongue and the dog's bowl following a raw meal.  They did this in association with Liverpool University, who claim to have an unpublished study showing the following:

 "The faeces of 114 dogs fed a variety of raw diets and 76 fed cooked diets (which includes kibble and tinned) were tested for the presence of some pathogens known to be harmful to human health. The percentage of dogs carrying antibiotic-resistant E. coli and Salmonella was significantly higher in the raw-fed cohort of dogs, compared to the cooked-fed cohort."    

As a result of this the authors claim:
 "This suggests that the spread of resistance to antibiotics used in human medicine is encouraged through the feeding of raw food diets, and supports existing research that there is a higher risk of coming into contact with potentially harmful pathogens if you feed your pet a raw food diet. " (BBC Scotland)
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