Clean Cat Teeth Made Easy or.. Everything You Need to Know about Poultry Necks

by Dr. Deva Khalsa on November 28, 2012

Natural home remedies for cats include certain food and find out why now!

We’d all like to minimize having our cats go under costly dental procedures that also require anesthesia.  Chewing on poultry necks is a safe way for your cat to prevent tartar buildup on her teeth. Poultry necks, fed raw, play an integral role in dental hygiene for cats. The process of grinding and crushing the cartilage of the necks actually massages our cat’s teeth and gums, cleaning away any food residues, thereby helping to remove tartar development. This prevents plaque formation, bad breath, dental cavities and gingivitis. Cartilage, ligaments, and tendons are thought to act as a natural dental floss.  Additionally, the chewing of the muscle meat may also assist in keeping teeth clean.

Poultry necks are soft and spongy because they are made of cartilage rather than bone.  They’re ideal healthy snacks for your cat.  Easy to find varieties include chicken, Cornish game hen, turkey, and duck necks. Smaller cats may like Cornish game hen necks and these smaller necks often serve as a good first step for any cat.  Once they become accustomed to raw poultry necks cats might prefer the meatier turkey and duck necks.

Some cats will go into overdrive at first sight of a poultry neck, just as if they’re auditioning for a part in the movie, Born Free.  Our little carnivores instinctively know how to crush and chew a bone!     It   might be difficult to get an adult cat to start eating bones if she’s not used to eating fresh meat or if she already has bad teeth or a dental problem.  In fact, it’s good to get kittens started young with a regular routine so their teeth stay healthy.  If your cat displays any discomfort with raw necks, have your veterinarian do a thorough dental exam.  When cats have a great deal of tartar and gum recession, it’s not a bad idea to have a dental and start with clean teeth and then use the poultry necks to continue to maintain the teeth.

Never cook and never microwave poultry necks. Microwaving denatures the protein, destroys the natural enzymes, and renders the calcium in the bone unable to be absorbed.  Poultry necks are safe because they’re a spongy cartilage and cooking them renders them tougher and more brittle. If you have a cat with a gastrointestinal problem or an impaired immune system and you’re worried about bacteria, you can drop the neck in a pot of boiling water for a second.  Most cats like their food more if it’s not cold from the refrigerator so you can place the neck in some warm water to warm it up a bit or drop it- for just a second -into hot or boiling water.    My cats like it when I cut a chicken neck into a few pieces, turn on the broiler in the oven and put them in for just a second or two on each side.    Never leave them to cook for a long time for it makes the cartilage hard and the necks will not digest easily in the stomach.

While Cornish game hen necks are small and easy to manage, the larger poultry necks can be cut into smaller, easy to handle pieces.  Turkey necks can be cut into a half a dozen pieces and then sliced in half again, resulting in a semicircular tube.  Duck and chicken necks can be cut into a few portions.   As your cat gets used to handling and chewing on the necks you can increase the size.

If your cat is unimpressed with your new and wonderful idea, you can entice her by sprinkling a little tuna juice on the necks for her first few adventures.  You can also sprinkle the necks with dry powdered liver, powdered bacon bits, or catnip or rub some canned food on the surface of the neck.  A finicky feline may require a few attempts but don’t give up.   Particularly in the beginning supervise your cat’s poultry neck chewing until you know she’s got the drill down pat.

While our more finicky felines are less likely than dogs to gobble down an entire hunk of neck, it’s best to avoid bones of a size that will tempt them to swallow without chewing first.  Importantly, it’s the chewing and the work that goes in to eating the bone that cleans the teeth.


Poultry necks also provide nutritional value for your cat. Calcium present in raw necks is more digestible than most of the common calcium supplements available.  A chicken or turkey neck has a calcium/ phosphorus ratio of about 1.75 to 1.00.  It also contains protein, potassium, zinc, copper, magnesium and manganese.

The benefits of eating bones are greatly reduced by fully cooking them, and it can actually create dangers. Cooking bones changes the natural calcium so that it is almost unavailable for absorption, losing that vital source of mineral availability. Cooked bones are also tougher and more brittle and will break apart into large chunks more easily.  This can result in your pet swallowing a piece that’s too large to digest and then a quick visit for some veterinary attention.

I’ve been recommending poultry necks as both a healthy and delicious snack and as a preventive dental measure for over 25 years. I have never encountered a problem with my patients eating them.  In fact, most feline treats are loaded with ingredients I would not recommend while poultry necks provide cats with healthy and essential nutrition.   Cat’s need an external source of the essential amino acid Arginine and raw poultry contains this.

Adult cats can happily eat a poultry necks every day, but you can get dental prevention with necks at least twice weekly.  It’s all for the best if your cat decides that poultry necks are the highlight of her day.  They’re easy to find, inexpensive, easy to prepare and healthy to boot.  You know the old saying,   “A poultry neck a day keeps the dentist away!”


Deva Khalsa







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