Take Heart, But Not Too Much
Last Updated on Sunday, March 13, 2016 06:07 PM
Published on Sunday, December 19, 2010 02:56 PM
Written by Elisa Katz, DVM
I'd like to know how much raw organic chicken heart I can feed my kitties. Five of my six cats love chicken hearts and can't get enough of them.
Can too much organ meat harm them?
While the heart is a vital organ, it is in actuality made up primarily of muscle with a small amount of fat and connective tissue. The primary nutrients, excluding water-soluble vitamins, in a typical 6 gram
chicken heart can be seen in the table to the right.¹
I have not listed the amounts of water soluble vitamins such as B-vitamins and Vitamin C that chicken hearts contain because any excesses are simply excreted in the urine. Abbreviations used are as follows: kcal = kilocalories
, g = gram, mg = milligram
, mcg = microgram
The recommended daily allowances for the above nutrients are listed in the table to the left.²
While chicken hearts are quite beneficial from a nutrient perspective for your cat, too much of any one nutrient is not good. If you compare the two charts, sodium appears to be the nutrient with the greatest chance of being fed in excess. You would need to feed your cat seven chicken hearts per day to reach this amount. Even if you did feed that many, it might not pose a problem, as your cat may simply drink more water and excrete the sodium. However, over time excessive sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure and stress on the kidneys.
Aside from energy, vitamins and minerals, the heart also contains amino acids
, specifically large amounts of taurine
. Muscle meat in general contains fairly high amounts of taurine, an amino acid which is necessary for healthy heart and eyes in cats. Generally, the amount of taurine in chicken meat depends on how much work the muscle does, with darker meat indicating harder-working muscles and a higher level of taurine. The heart, being the hardest-working muscle in the body, contains the highest amounts of taurine. In my research, I have not been able to find any evidence that cats can get too much taurine, as any excess is metabolized and excreted in the urine.³
The bottom line is that large amounts of chicken heart, seven or more per day, could provide more than the recommended nutrients for your cat. My recommendation would be to limit chicken hearts to no more than two to three per day. This way you can be confident that you are not providing your kitty with too much of any one nutrient.
Note: Feline Nutrition provides feline health and nutrition information as a public service. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with your own veterinarian. Feline Nutrition disclaims all warranties and liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.
Dr. Elisa Katz, DVM, is a graduate of Ohio State University and is the owner of Natural Pet Animal Hospital in Bourbonnais, Illinois. She practices holistic and integrative medicine focusing on proper diet and nutrition. Dr. Katz shares her home with four kitties and one dog.