Will I kill my cat with Salmonella or E-coli when feeding her raw meat? This is the first question nearly everyone asks. No! Cats will not be poisoned by Salmonella and/or E-coli when eating raw meat.

The cat does extremely well on eating meats raw and may draw a much greater benefit from ingesting meats that have not been exposed to heat. Meat in its raw state is not only an excellent source of essential nutrients, but also a source of microorganism that help to seed and maintain the essential mircobiom of the cat’s alimentary tract. Although much is talked about harmful bacteria in meat, of which there are extremely few for the cat, the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) the cat receives from raw meats are being ignored. A mounting body of evidence suggests that good health is not possible without a complex and healthy flora of microbes in the gut. These beneficial microbes that live in symbiosis with their host colonize the skin, mucus membranes, and digestive tract from the surrounding natural world and from foods.

What are bacteria? Bacteria are large group of one-celled micro-organisms found wherever there is life, in soil, water, and air, and within the bodies of other organisms. Without bacteria, life would not be possible. Without bacteria, health would not be possible. Bacteria are as motivated to survive as any life form on this planet, and in doing so will explore any nice they can claim as their own. Disease causing bacteria and pathogens can be understood today, and we can learn to live with them and avoid infection.

To understand why your cat will not be harmed even in the event that s/he comes in contact with Salmonella and/or E-coli, it is very helpful to understand the physiology of your cat’s digestive tract and lifestyle as a cat.

The true carnivore cat has taken many shortcuts in how it obtains the nutrients necessary for living. While other animals go though complex and labor intensive digestive processes, ingesting high fiber material with low nutrient value, which they grind up, churn up and ferment in sometimes several stomachs, cats simply swallow other animals, disassemble them to their molecular make-up, absorb them, and expel what they could not use. Unlike most other mammals on this planet, cats do not rely at all on bacterial fermentation to help them un-look the nutrient value of food. They need the help of some bacteria to synthesize some nutrients in the large intestine, but certainly not on the scale of a cow, which relies entirely on bacteria to break food down, and as a food source itself. In short: physical make-up of the cat’s digestive tract is not hospitable to bacteria.

According to Veterinary literature such as ‘The Cornell Book of Cats’ or ‘Feline and Canine Infectious Diseases’ cats are “…extremely resistant to experimental infection with salmonella spp. and clinical salmonellosis is uncommon in cats”.
“…few references

[to salmonellosis in cats] exist in the scientific literature”.
“Contamination can arise from rodent and bird feces, raw or under-cooked contaminated meat and table scraps, or commercially prepared foods that are contaminated during processing”. The likelihood of cats coming in contact with Salmonella through their environment or dry pet foods is equal to or greater then the possibility of contact from raw meat meant for human consumption.

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is not mentioned when referencing feline clinical pathology in either the ‘Merck Veterinary Manual’ or the ‘Cornell Book of Cats’ and ‘Feline and Canine Infectious Diseases’ briefly notes that “Little is known about the role of Escherichia coli in canine and feline enteric disease. E. coli is part of the normal flora of the gut…”. Although some studies suggest that it may be implicated in certain cases of acute diarrhea, it is not recognized as a feline disease.

Feeding raw meat to your cat may be a risk to people, especially children under 5 years, the elderly, and people with compromised immune function, but not to your cat! By practicing good hygiene and washing hands regularly, as well as being aware of the nature of these organisms, the risk of infection to people is minimal. If infection occurs, most people will experience various symptoms of food poisoning.

Please reference the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about these pathogens, their risk to people, and how to prevent contracting infection.

At a glace:

Salmonella and E-coli are organisms that occur in fecal matter.
Cats can come in contact with these organisms nearly every day by:

  • contact with other pets or animals or with their feces
  • eating commercial dry cat food
  • hunting and eating prey (mice and birds)
  • walking across the lawn or garden (contact with contaminated soil/grass)
  • eating raw meat which may have come in contact with feces

Cats are NOT naturally susceptible to infection.
People are susceptible to infection, especially children and the elderly.
People come in contact with and spread these organisms by:

  • not washing hands after using the bathroom
  • using public bathrooms and/or other facilities
  • contact with litterbox , terrarium, or bird cage
  • handling birds, reptiles, or farm animals
  • handling dry pet food
  • eating any contaminated food – even fruit and vegetables
  • eating contaminated, undercooked meat or eggs
  • not sanitizing the kitchen and/or bathroom

One last note: the more we try and shield ourselves from bacteria and eradicate pathogens from our environment, the more susceptible we become.