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Can Cats Eat Minnows? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Can Cats Eat Minnows
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

Vet approved

	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore


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

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If you’re a cat owner, you may have wondered whether your feline friend can snack on minnows. It’s a valid question — after all, fish are a natural part of their diet, in the wild, right? The answer is yes, so in this blog post, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of feeding your cat minnows. We’ll also discuss some other tasty fishy treats that your kitty will love!

divider-catclaw1Can Cats Eat Minnows?

The short answer is yes, cats can eat minnows. In fact, many commercial cat foods contain fish as an ingredient. Fish is a good source of protein and omega-three fatty acids, both of which are essential for your cat’s health. There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning on feeding your cat minnows, though.

Cooked Fish Is Better for Cats

maine coon cat eat treat
Image Credit: Nikola Cedikova, Shutterstock

First of all, make sure that the fish you’re giving them is cooked. Raw fish sometimes contain bacteria that can make your cat sick.

Bones are a No-Go

Secondly, avoid giving your cat minnows with bones in them — the bones can splinter and cause internal damage. You’re more likely to see tiny minnows that are a non-issue when it comes to bones, but nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning.

Moderation is Key

Sick cat in animal hospital
Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock

Finally, don’t go overboard. Like with any food, moderation is key. Too much fish can lead to digestive problems in cats.

So, there you have it! Cats can safely eat minnows, as long as they’re cooked, bone-free, and only on occasion.

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What are the Pros & Cons of Letting Cats Eat Minnows?

While there are some pros to letting your cat eat minnows, there are also a few cons. Let’s delve a little deeper and take a closer look at both sides of the argument.

Pros of Eating Minnows

As we mentioned before, fish is a great source of protein and omega-three fatty acids. These nutrients are essential for your cat’s health and can help to keep their coat shiny and their skin healthy. Fish is also a low-fat food, which can be beneficial for cats who are overweight or have diabetes.

Cons of Eating Minnows

cat having treat
Image Credit: Svyatoslav Balan, Shutterstock

Although there are many benefits to feeding your cat minnows, there are also a few potential drawbacks. Thiaminase is the biggest concern. Raw fish often contains thiaminase which can lead to thiamine -vitamin B1- deficiency in cats.  This is another reason that it is recommended to cook fish as this deactivates the thiaminase. Minnows along with many other fish species contain thiaminase.

Also of concern is mercury poisoning. Mercury is a toxic metal that can be found in fish, and it can build up in your cat’s system over time if they eat too much of it.

Another potential issue is allergies. Some cats are allergic to fish and may experience symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea if they eat it.

When in Doubt

If you’re considering giving your cat minnows, talk to your veterinarian first. They can help you to determine whether it’s a good idea for your individual cat and can give you advice on how to safely introduce fish into their diet.

Dangers of Puddle Minnows

While minnows from the pet store are safe for your cat to eat, there’s one type of minnow that you should definitely avoid feeding them: puddle minnows. These tiny fish are often found in stagnant ponds and puddles and can contain harmful parasites that can make your cat very sick. If you think your cat has eaten a puddle minnow, monitor them closely for changes and call your vet as soon as your cat shows symptoms.

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Signs Your Cat Needs to See A Vet After Eating Minnows

yellow sad sick cat
Image Credit: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock

While most cats will be just fine after eating minnows, there are a few signs that you should watch out for. If your cat is vomiting, has diarrhea, or appears to be in pain, call your vet right away. These could be signs of a problem that needs to be treated by a professional.

Other Fishy Treats for Cats

If you’re looking for other fishy treats that your cat will love, there are plenty of options to choose from! Here are a few of our favorite treats:

  • Canned tuna or salmon (be sure to check the label and choose a variety that doesn’t contain salt)
  • Cooked, deboned whitefish
  • Shrimp (cooked and peeled)
  • Cooked, deboned sardines

As with minnows these should also only be fed in moderation and are not a suitable substitute for complete cat foods.


As you can see, there are both pros and cons to feeding your cat minnows. If you decide to give them a try, be sure to cook the fish thoroughly and remove any bones before feeding it to your kitty. Don’t let them eat minnows from dirty pools, puddles, or other stagnant water supplies because of the danger of increased parasites and bacteria. And, as always, if you have any concerns about your cat’s health after they’ve eaten fish, call your veterinarian right away.

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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