Health & Care

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.

Sassafras Lowrey  |  Aug 23rd 2018

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

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