Cats are obligate carnivores. In the wild, they eat a good variety of small prey, depending on availability, and they make the most of their catch by eating all of their quarry. Some cats hunt and eat fish, and they are likely to eat the bones, too. Domestic cats are quite different from their wild counterparts, however, and too much fish is not only bad for cats, but the eating of fish bones can also be dangerous and may lead to choking and other problems. Cooked bones are incredibly hazardous to cats and should never be served to them.
The Dangers of Cooked Fish Bones
When fish bones are exposed to oxygen, especially when cooked, they become harder and more brittle. They are more likely to snap and shatter when your cat eats them. A snapped bone can quickly become lodged in the throat, and because it is hard, it is more difficult for your cat to naturally dislodge it. Therefore, you should avoid feeding cooked bones to your cat.
Raw Fish Have Softer Bones
Before the bones are cooked, they are softer and easier for your cat to manage. Even if one gets stuck, a cat should be able to safely and easily regurgitate the bone, removing any choking hazard. Although feeding fish bones is not recommended, it is better to stick to raw and uncooked bones.
Small Fish First
The size of fish bones depends on the size of the fish. Large fish have large bones, which can easily get lodged in the throat. Choose a fish that is size appropriate for your cat, and only feed smaller fish to your cat. They should be able to handle the tiny bones found in sardines and mackerel, for example, than those found in tuna.
When feeding your cat anything new and raw, it is a good idea to supervise their first meal. This is especially true if you feed meat or fish containing bones. Even if it is somewhat minimal, there is always a risk that a bone can break, get stuck, and cause choking.
What to Do If Your Cat Is Choking
If your cat is choking, the first step is to determine if there is a blockage and attempt to remove it. If you are unsure whether your cat is choking on a fishbone, gently open their jaws and take a look. You can gently move your index finger around the mouth to find any blockage, but make sure that you do not push any obstruction farther down the throat.
If you are unable to remove the blockage, you may have to perform a cat version of the Heimlich maneuver. Hold your cat with their back against your chest. Firmly but gently push against the belly and upward. Do this five times in quick succession. If this doesn’t move the bone, hold your cat up by their back hips and tap against their back before sweeping the mouth again.
Once you have removed the bone or other obstruction, you should take your cat to an emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible.
Feeding Fish to Your Cats
Although feral cats have eaten fish in the wild, wild and domestic cats are quite different. Therefore, it is not necessarily a good idea to feed fish to your cats. Cats are often portrayed as staunch fish eaters. In reality, however, they should not be fed fish daily. Doing so can cause a thiamine deficiency, which can lead to a loss of appetite and may even prove fatal.
We know that fish is a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential to good feline health. However, there are dangers to feeding fish to your cats, and the best way to avoid these is to limit the fish you give to your feline friend.
If you feed fish to your cat, try to remove the bones after cooking it. Wild cats can usually handle raw bones quite well and even regurgitate them. However, cooked bones can be deadly if they do get one stuck in their throat, and they are more likely to break and injure your cat.