Chicken Necks as Nature's Toothbrush.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, which started as a way for veterinarians to promote the importance of good dental care for pets. In addition to yearly vet checkups and twice monthly brushings, my cat dental care routine includes using raw chicken necks to help clean my cats' teeth. Raw chicken necks are often called "nature's toothbrush," because they massage the gums and help to remove plaque from the teeth.
Keeping your cat's teeth clean is more than just a cosmetic issue. Periodontal disease can spread bacteria through the bloodstream and adversely affect the cat's kidneys, liver, pancreas and heart. It may be necessary to have your cat's teeth cleaned by a skilled vet technician, especially if he primarily eats soft canned food. However, many cat owners and proponents of "raw food" diets for pets are realizing that raw chicken necks can lessen the need for expensive dentistry involving anesthesia. I have an 11-year old cat that has eaten raw chicken necks regularly since kittenhood, and he hasn't needed a professional dental cleaning yet.
How Can a Cat Eat Raw Chicken Necks?
If you've ever watched a cat eat a mouse or gopher, you've seen just how quickly and easily they can devour the whole thing, bones and all. Sure it's gross to us, but catching and eating whole raw prey is a perfectly natural act for a cat. Felines have very strong jaws and teeth, which allows them to crush and chew the bones. Moreover, the bones in raw chicken necks are actually quite small.
Are Raw Chicken Necks Dangerous for Cats?
There are dangers associated with feeding any food to your pet, whether canned, kibble or raw. Those who are against feeding raw chicken necks to cats often cite bacterial contamination as a reason. However, for most healthy cats this isn't an issue because of how their digestive system is designed. Raw food moves through the short digestive tract quickly, and the high acidity level kills most bacteria. Kibble takes much longer to digest, so when feeding your cat raw chicken necks, don't give them kibble right before or after. My cats don't get any kibble on the day they get their chicken neck "treat," and I feed their canned food at least four hours earlier.
It is true that cooked chicken bones are less safe for cats because they can splinter. Raw bones are soft and flexible, and generally safe if you follow the safety guidelines for handling, storing and serving raw meat (follow the same protocol you would use for your own food). Always be sure to buy your raw chicken necks from a trusted supplier of premium quality meat.
How to Use Raw Chicken Necks to Clean Your Cat's Teeth
Make sure the raw neck is fresh, and not overly cold. I store mine in the freezer and defrost them for 24 hours in the fridge before giving them to my cats. They eat them straight from the fridge, but if your cat prefers its food a bit warmer, you can place the neck in a sealed bag in some warm water for a few minutes. Never defrost or heat the raw chicken neck in the microwave, because this can make the bone brittle and prone to splintering.
For sanitary reasons, I feed my cats their teeth-cleaning raw chicken necks on plastic placemats. If you place the neck in a bowl or on a plate, it will likely get dragged onto the floor. The placemat is easy to clean when my cats have finished eating.
If you have concerns about using raw chicken necks to help clean your cat's teeth, do some more research on the subject and speak to your vet about it. Not all vets endorse feeding raw food to pets, but many others do believe raw chicken necks can be part of a cat dental care routine. You should definitely have your cat examined by a vet before using raw chicken necks as a teeth cleaning aid. You want to make sure your cat is in good health, and that there are no damaged or sensitive teeth, which would make chewing on the hard bones difficult or painful.
As a side note, Dr. Lea Stogdale, on her website http://aesopsvetcare.wordpress.com/info-for-clients under the cat section, recommends that you can feed cats cooked chicken neck or bones, as they crunch them up, unlike dogs that swallow them whole. Which is great news for those a little sqeemish about letting their cats gnaw on raw chicken.
We now stock home cooked chicken necks in the store! Made them myself.
What is an "Obligate Carnivore"?
Cats became obligate carnivores as a result of their
ancestral diet. Because eating a meat-only diet provides some vitamins
and fatty acids in their pre-formed state, cats and many other obligate
carnivores have lost the ability to make these amino acids
and vitamins in their own bodies the way herbivores or omnivores do.
They donít need to since the animals they are eating have already done
it for them. For example, cats require vitamin A in its pre-formed
state, they canít make it from beta-carotene the way humans or dogs or
rabbits can. They have little ability to form niacin from tryptophan.⁴ They have a high requirement for taurine, which is found almost exclusively in animal flesh.⁵ Arginine, also found in animal flesh, is so critical to the cat that a meal without it can lead to death.⁶ Fortunately, all meat sources have plenty. Simply put, cats must eat meat to live.