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Can Cats Eat Fish? Vet-Verified Benefits, Dangers & FAQ

Written by: Adam Mann

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team


Can Cats Eat Fish? Vet-Verified Benefits, Dangers & FAQ


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Site after site claims you can safely feed your fish cat, and you’ll even find many commercial cat foods that use fish as a protein. But is fish actually as safe for cats as we’re led to believe? The truth is that it depends. Cats can eat most fish safely in moderation when is correctly prepared. However, it needs to be offered on top of a complete and balanced diet, it should never be raw, and it should never contain any bones. Let’s get into a little more detail down below so that you understand the best way to offer fish to your cat.

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Why Can/Can’t Cats Eat Fish?

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to feeding cats fish. But why is this? While there are some nutritional benefits to feeding certain types of fish to your cat, there are also a few reasons you shouldn’t.

When prepared correctly, most types of fish are safe for cats to eat in moderation. However, there are a few caveats to feeding cats fish regularly. For starters, fish on its own is not considered a nutritionally complete diet for felines. We aren’t talking about commercially prepared fish cat food, as this is nutritionally balanced to include all the nutrition a cat needs. Here we are discussing the pros and cons of feeding your cat a diet of fish.  While cats are obligate carnivores and require meat proteins, fish doesn’t provide all the nutrition that cats need to thrive. Historically, cats’ wild ancestors ate mice, rats, birds, rabbits, and small reptiles—not fish. Basically, fish is best offered as an occasional treat or in addition to a cat’s balanced diet.

Image Credit: IMG-Stock-Studio, Shutterstock

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Benefits and Dangers of Feeding Fish to Cats

There is no denying that fish is full of healthy goodness for our pets, especially protein. However, the nutritional benefits depend on the type of fish and how it was prepared. Fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which are needed for keeping your cat’s skin and coat healthy, as well as building and repairing muscle.  It is also a source of an essential amino acid, taurine, which is needed for a cat’s heart, brain and reproductive health, as well as their vision.

With that said, there are also some dangers to offering cats fish.

First and foremost, if you offer your cat fish, it should never contain any bones.  Fish bones can become a choking hazard and can even cause damage to a cat’s intestinal tract. It should also never be raw, as it has a higher chance of being contaminated with harmful bacteria. On top of that, raw fish contains thiaminase, which breaks down and depletes your cat’s thiamine levels, which is essential for your cat’s health. Thiamin deficiency can lead to weight loss, vomiting, poor appetite, tremors and seizures.

Another thing to keep in mind is that almost all fish contain mercury, which can be dangerous when consumed for prolonged periods or in high amounts. Fish with the highest concentrations of mercury are long-lived fish such as swordfish and king mackerel.

Image Credit: PawelKacperek, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Kinds of Fish Should Be Avoided?

Cod, haddock, and tuna are some of the most popular types of fish offered to cats. However, there are a few types of fish and seafood that should be avoided at all costs. These include:

  • Octopus: Certain octopus species are considered poisonous, such as the blue-ringed octopus, so it is safest to avoid octopus of any kind.
  • Pufferfish: All pufferfish should be avoided because they have tetrodotoxin in them, which is extremely toxic.
  • Any kind of fish or shellfish your cat is allergic to: Cats, like humans, could potentially be allergic to certain kinds of fish or shellfish, so these need to be avoided.

Is It True That Cats Can Become Addicted to Tuna?

Anecdotally, cats can become “addicted” to tuna, but this is a way of saying that some cats can go pretty wild for tuna.  Though offering this food as a rare treat is unlikely to cause any serious consequences, if you find your cat doesn’t eat its balanced diet because it is holding out for tuna, it might be best to quit with tuna altogether and feed your cat a tuna based commercial cat food. Tuna shouldn’t become part of an everyday diet for your feline friend.

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Just because someone says you can do something doesn’t mean you should. We don’t recommend feeding your cat fish as its main diet but adding a small amount of fish to your cat’s dinner plate now and then shouldn’t cause any trouble. If you have any questions or concerns, we recommend talking to your cat’s vet for advice specifically tailored to their needs

Featured Image Credit: Okssi, Shutterstock

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