If fish is bad for cats, why do they like it so much?

Discuss ways to improve the quality of your cat's life and longevity through proper nutrition; a place for all of your questions and answers about feeding your kitty!

Please keep discussions fun, friendly, and helpful at all times. Non-informative posts criticizing a particular brand or another poster's choice of food are not allowed in this Forum. References to any brand of food as "junk," "garbage," or other harsh names will be removed.

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Proud mother of- the Gang of- Four!
Purred: Sun Jan 11, '09 8:37pm PST 
The thread title says it all. It was only after joining Catster that I learned that too much fish in a cat's diet is not good. Yet all the cats I've ever owned or known (both in the U.S. and Japan) love fish. I am now trying to transition my cats to non-fish foods, but they still obviously have a preference for fish.

However, the point of this post is not how to transition my cats, nor is it regarding the reasons why too much fish is bad for cats (although if someone wants to refresh us on that point, please feel free to do so).

No, the point is that why would cats show a marked preference for a food that is not the optimum choice for them. Nature or nurture? My vote goes for nature; my kittens are being raised on chicken and liver kitten food, but when they get the occasional treat of El Cheapo fish flavor canned food, they go wild with joy.

Cats have always been associated with fish. In Japan, of course, where until modern times fish was the only kind of animal protein that was regularly consumed, cats have always eaten fish (if lucky; most of them ate rice mixed with bonito flakes). But even in the West, it is almost a cliche to picture a cat next to the remains of a fish dinner. Even Catster offers fish treats on each cat's page.

So, why do cats like something that we now learn is not so good for them? We know why people like sugar; can anybody give me a scientific explanation for cats liking fish?

Sable - ~Love you- Always~

Ride the Wild- Wind
Purred: Sun Jan 11, '09 9:26pm PST 
A lot of foods for people are oh so yummy, and we love 'em, but they aren't good for us. Just because a cat, dog, or human likes a particular food or non-food item, doesn't mean it's good for them. wave

kaya skye

not fighting my- demons-we joined- forces
Purred: Sun Jan 11, '09 9:37pm PST 
but there is a REASON why we crave the foods that aren't good for us. we crave foods rich in fat because those foods were a hedge against starvation. we crave sugar because it gives us energy. the problem is that those foods are now too cheaply attained-we don't have to expend energy hunting them down. but we have a TASTE for them because they enhanced our chances of survival.
kaya is an almost silent cat, unless she's managed to shut herself away in the laundry room-OR i open a can of tuna. the very first time i offered her tuna she startled me by meowing repeatedly. it's obviously hard-wired. i'm willing to concede that there might be some reason a cat shouldn't eat a steady diet of fish...but i'm fairly sure it's a rich source of something cats need, or it wouldn't get such applause from so many felines.
anyone out there know why fish isn't supposed to be good for cats? (until someone does, i'm going to keep giving kaya her tuna every so often, and her 9 lives canned tuna & shrimp...)


Get outta my- house and stop- making noise
Purred: Sun Jan 11, '09 9:44pm PST 
Yeah, I don't get it either. I can see how commercial made things like Cheetos and fast food are sprayed or have added sugars to make them addictive.

But I don't see how that same thing can happen in nature.


Proud mother of- the Gang of- Four!
Purred: Sun Jan 11, '09 9:46pm PST 
Sable--Thanks for your response, but I want a scientific explanation. There IS a reason why humans crave sugar and fats; there are chemicals in chocolate that make it irrestible to some people, just to give some examples. Aren't animals instinctually programmed to prefer foods that are better for them (unlike humans)? I do not want this discussion to descend to the level of "Just because your cat likes Friskies doesn't make it a good food" kind of debate. I want FACTS, not rhetoric.

Fish is a naturally occurring source of protein; why would nature arrange it that cats would show such a liking for something that is not as good for them as other foods? I'm afraid that comparisons with humans may not be entirely valid, since I suspect that human food choices have more of an emotional component than animal food choices do.

Please, I would appreciate an intelligent and informed response. And no, I am not trying to deny that too much fish is bad for cats, if scientific research says so. I just want to know why cats almost universally like something that is apparently not an optimum food choice.

Edited by author Sun Jan 11, '09 9:49pm PST



Purred: Sun Jan 11, '09 10:55pm PST 
I'm confused, too! I bought several cans of Blue Buffalo today--I'm giving it a whirl with my sick kitty, and he LOVES it, so...It'll probably be an ongoing part of his diet, now--and several of them were SALMON. Salmon was the first ingredient, and there were some other fishes in there, too (Whitefish, I think). I was under the impression that this was an excellent brand of food...so why would they make something that was inherently (??) bad for kitties? Perhaps a zoo keeper or some other such person would be the one to ask?

Quite frankly, I need some evidence proving that fish is bad for cats. Right now, it's all Chaplin wants to eat, and given his condition, I'm more than happy to oblige him.


Education is the- Key
Purred: Sun Jan 11, '09 11:08pm PST 
I know most of you will not want to hear my opinion, but im going to share this anyway, again, and it has been proven "scientifically"
There is freedom of opinion still right?
Myself I crave sugar (candy) I love it!! I know its not good for me lol! Anyhow, Im just putting this down, I dont want anyone bashing me for what I say, just take it or leave it.

Once was thought that magnesium in the fish was causing struvite, but new research shows this is not the case. Magnesium chloride acidifies the urine, and magnesium oxide makes a more alkaline urine. There are 2 different kinds of crystals here struvite and oxalate.
Salmon and some other cleaner fish is not as high in magnesium as Tuna, it is alot higher.

*I will only feed my cats salmon once a week, they do not get Tuna at all, here are some of the reasons why I dont feed Tuna (on a daily basis.)

-Makes for a picky cat ( cats need a variety in diet)
-Contains Mercury
-high in mineral salts (this is what is bad for the cats urine)
-high in polyunsaturated fats, which cats cannot metabolize.
-Tuna in vegie oil takes vitamin E away from the cat.


Proud mother of- the Gang of- Four!
Purred: Sun Jan 11, '09 11:55pm PST 
Au contraire, Shadow, your post was most welcome because you provided some hard facts regarding exactly WHY fish can be bad for cats, and the different dangers inherent in different species of fish. More posts with such scientific information are eagerly sought, as a lot of us are puzzled by this seeming conundrum.

However, I do wish that contributors to this thread would pay attention to the narrow focus of this question: why cats crave something that is not good for them. The argument that "I love sweet things even though I know they're bad for me" is neither scientific nor does it necessarily have anything to do with cats; if it does, I want scientific evidence of what fish has that makes cats crave a potentially dangerous food.


Fluffy butt
Purred: Mon Jan 12, '09 4:42am PST 
My 3 cats were never given fish flavored foods as kittens, and now when I actually try to introduce them to fishy foods they look at me like I'm crazy, they HATE it.

In my experience, the cats only love it so much if they're given it at a young age and grow up with it. My oldest, Aglaia, is 4 and the others are 2 years old. I did a lot of reasearch after rescuing Aglaia, and read about the issues that Shadow mentioned associated with fish. My cats eat an all Wellness wet food diet, their favorites are Beef & Chicken and Turkey. I've tried Turkey and Salmon, Beef and Salmon, and Chicken and Herring and they want nothing to do with any of it. They also HATE tuna. So that leads me to the thought that it might not be "nature", or maybe I just have some weird-o cats lol.

But ultimately I think it's what they're exposed to at a young age, or grow up with.

Edited by author Mon Jan 12, '09 4:44am PST



I play, therefor- I am!
Purred: Mon Jan 12, '09 4:51am PST 
Hi. I'm sorry, I do not know why cats like fish so much if it is apparently not good for them. I do think that this link does provide some hard scientific info though about feeding cats fish. http://www.felinefuture.com/nutrition/fish.php

I know that this link is on the website of a company that promotes raw feeding, but I have seen a lot of this info elsewhere (such as Wiki) so I believe much of it is valid.

I hope this at least provides some helpful information.

Smudge's mom

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