A cat with an empty food or water bowl or dish. Photography © PatrikSlezak | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Can Cats Eat Tuna? The Answer Is Complicated

Cats and tuna go together like peanut butter and jelly, right? The answer to, “Can cats eat tuna?” is actually much more complicated than you think.
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Cats are always eating tuna fish in old-timey cartoons. Tuna is so stereotypically associated with cats, but can cats eat tuna — and should cats be eating certain types of tuna? Let’s dispel some myths about cats and tuna.

Can Cats Eat Tuna If It’s Canned?

A cat looking at stacked cans of wet cat food or tuna.
Can cats eat tuna that’s canned? Photography © suiwuya | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Can cats eat tuna in a can? Sometimes and in certain circumstances. If it’s your regular, made-for-humans canned tuna that you’re thinking about sharing with your cat, Dr. Jeff Werber says it shouldn’t be canned with oil and salt.

If you’re thinking of sharing canned tuna with your cats, make sure the can of tuna only contains fish canned in water. Check the ingredients to look for added chemicals — in addition to being on the lookout for oil and salt as mentioned above.

Dr. Werber advises that beyond only purchasing tuna packed/canned in water, you will want to rinse the tuna again before feeding it to your cat.

Can Cats Eat Tuna If It’s Raw?

There are many debates about the dangers and benefits of a raw food diet for cats. So, can cats eat tuna if it’s raw — and should they?

“A cat eating raw food is the same as humans eating raw food — there can be risks,” Dr. Werber advises.

If you’re feeding your cat a raw food diet or considering making a transition to a raw food diet for your cat, consult with your veterinarian to see if it’s the right diet for your cat and if tuna is appropriate to include.

Can Cats Eat Tuna That’s Cooked?

If you want to cook for your cats, cooking tuna will kill bacteria and make the tuna safer for your cat to eat than feeding it raw. Cats need to eat their tuna plainer than might be to your taste. If you’re cooking for your cat, avoid adding salt, oil or other seasonings to the tuna. You may want to cook your cat’s tuna separately from your own for seasoning purposes.

Can Cats Eat Tuna in Wet Food?

The safest way to feed tuna to your cat is by purchasing commercially manufactured wet cat food that contains tuna. This means your cat gets his fill of tuna alongside other necessary vitamins and nutrients that keep her healthy. 

How Much Tuna Should You Feed a Cat?

“Tuna/fish should not be fed to a cat exclusively” explains Dr. Werber. In addition to tuna or any fish not being able to provide your cat with a balanced diet, tuna also has high levels of mercury.

The Final Answer to, “Can Cats Eat Tuna?”

The final verdict on, “Can cats eat tuna?” While some occasional tuna (especially if it’s specifically processed for consumption by cats) is okay, cats can get mercury poisoning — just like people. Only give your cat freshly cooked or canned tuna as an occasional treat, and not as a regular part of your cat’s diet.

Thumbnail: Photography © PatrikSlezak | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author whose novels have been honored by the Lambda Literary Foundation and the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor and assists with dog agility classes. She lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, a senior Chihuahua mix, a rescued Shepherd mix, a Newfoundland puppy, two bossy cats and a semi-feral kitten. Learn more at sassafraslowrey.com

Read more about what cats can and can’t eat on Catster.com:

12 thoughts on “Can Cats Eat Tuna? The Answer Is Complicated”

  1. Pingback: Can Cats Eat Cheese? | A Guide to What Cats Can Eat

  2. I personally can attest to the answer (at least in my case) is yes. I got my cat at two weeks old (regular orange male tabby) and have virtually given him a couple tablespoons of regular canned tuna in water (NOT OIL) as a supplement to dry food every single day of his life.

    He is a bit older than 4 now and is extremely muscular and healthy. Much moreso than the other cats I had growing up.

    Make sure the tuna remains a supplement to a primary food with the spectrum of required nutrients, if he gravitates toward only wanting the tuna dont give him any and eventually, if ones cat is obedient enough, any conflict will balance itself out.

    1. Want to edit this post. He is still the same, but he started to gain weight (4-5 years any cat can start to show). I immediately cut his treats in half, and cut his tuna down to: a half a tablespoon, squished into a silver dollar on a plate. He still gets this everyday. His weight loss was immediate. Still inhales dry food as he should.

      1. Yes. He wasn’t a pain when I cut back for weight loss, doesn’t complain much if I dont have it, and has no problem just eating his regular dry food. For the record though, he still gets it daily.

  3. Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was super long) so I
    guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m
    still new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for rookie
    blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

  4. I like that there are debates about feeding cats a raw diet. In the wild a cat’s food is raw. If youre careful a raw diet can be excellent for the cat. If you worry about e-coli and the like you can put the food together yourself. Check the Drs Pitcairn website for recipes.

  5. One can of tuna in water with a red bow on the top of the tin divided between my two is their “Christmas” present. They dont know, but it gives us pleasure to see them enjoying themselves “hoovering” up the fish. Then of course they complain if it’s just one tin.

  6. Pingback: Can Cats Eat Tuna? The Answer Is Complicated | Speaking of Pets at Rescue Pet Supply

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