It happens to every cat owner sooner or later. Moments after sitting down to a nice seafood dinner, they begin to feel the watchful gaze of their kitty on them, imploring them to drop something. That’s when they ask themselves one fateful question: Is it safe to serve cooked fish to a cat?
As it turns out, the answer is yes; in fact, cooked fish is safer for cats than raw fish. There are a few things to be aware of before you share your supper, though, so read on before you let your furry friend finish your flounder.
Is Cooked Fish Safe for Cats?
You would think that you should only feed raw fish to your cat. After all, they’ve spent thousands of years catching and eating the things out in the wild. As it turns out, cooked fish is much safer for cats than raw fish. Raw fish can cause an upset stomach in your feline friend, and that’s if you’re lucky. It can also carry worms or bacteria that could do serious damage to your pet, and some fish (like tuna) can be high in mercury and other environmental pollutants.
There’s also a compound called thiaminase in raw fish. Thiaminase interferes with your cat’s ability to process thiamine, an essential B vitamin. If your cat doesn’t get enough thiamin, they could suffer a host of neurological problems, including convulsions and even death.
Note: Cats should not be fed raw fish (even if they are on a raw diet).
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t dangers lurking inside cooked fish, however. The biggest one is fish bones. If your cat catches a stray bone, it could get lodged in their throat or digestive tract, causing massive damage or even killing them.
Note: Before you give your cat any kind of fish, make sure all the bones have been safely removed and discarded.
Fish Is Healthy for Cats, Though, Right?
Certain types of fish can be healthy for cats, yes. You’ll want to avoid feeding your cat too much tuna or tilefish (also commonly called “ocean whitefish”), as these are the most prone to being filled with contaminants.
Also, some cats are allergic to fish. If you notice your cat itching excessively, developing more frequent skin or ear infections, or suffering from gastrointestinal problems after eating fish, they may be unable to handle it. Stop giving it to them and see if the troubling signs disappear. Consult with your veterinarian to confirm a suspected food allergy to avoid mishaps in the future.
Assuming the fish that you’re feeding your cat is safe and they can process it, fish has important health benefits for kitties. It’s high in lean protein, and they’ll get plenty of muscle-building amino acids without packing on excess weight in the process. Fish is an excellent source of fish oil, which is loaded with omega fatty acids. These are valuable antioxidants that do everything from fighting inflammation to helping keep your cat’s coat shiny and glossy.
Beyond that, many cats simply love the taste. If you have a finicky eater on your hands, adding a little cooked fish (or just the oil from the fish) may be all it takes to get them to wolf down their kibble.
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How Much Cooked Fish Should I Feed My Cat?
There are two types of fish to consider here: those found in commercially-sold cat food and the type that you cook in your own kitchen.
If it’s the former, feel free to feed it to your cat every day. Most commercially-sold cat foods have to follow rigorous safety standards, and it’s unlikely that your cat will suffer any ill effects from eating it every day. However, it is important to note that cats are notoriously picky and might get accustomed to such a diet to an extent where they refuse to try other foods (such as chicken food offered from the same brand).
When you’re dealing with cooked fish for humans, on the other hand, a bit more restraint is necessary. The biggest concern is seasonings that are often found on cooked fish intended for human consumption. Many ingredients commonly used in seasonings are either toxic for cats or not recommended for them. Garlic and onion are common in many seasonings and are extremely toxic for cats. Other seasonings, such as salt, are not immediately threatening but can cause issues if consumed in high amounts for long periods. Fish cooked for cats should be plain and free of seasonings. In addition, as previously mentioned, it should also be deboned.
Also, be careful with canned fish. These tend to be high in sodium and other preservatives, and they’re also loaded with polyunsaturated fats. This can lead to a myriad of issues if fed in excess, ranging from prolonged gastric distress to some very unfavorable diagnoses, such as pancreatitis.
As a general rule, it’s fine to give your cat cooked fish, but limit it to 10% of your cat’s overall diet or less.
How Should I Prepare Fish for My Cat?
If you’re cooking fish with the intention of sharing it with your feline friend, the most important thing is to remember to remove all the bones. Assuming that you’ve done that, here are a few preparation tips to ensure that your cat gets the most (and safest) nutrition possible.
The best ways to cook fish are to either bake or poach it with no seasonings. This ensures that it gets cooked thoroughly without adding any extra fats or other unwanted additives. It also preserves the flavor, ensuring that your cat will be interested in a bite or two.
Feeding your cat fried fish isn’t toxic, but it’s way too fatty. It can lead to obesity and other health problems in the long run, as well as digestive issues in the short term. Limit fried fish to a bite or two, if that.
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What’s the Verdict?
If you’re wondering whether that fish you cooked for your supper is safe to share with your cat, fear not—it’s totally fine (provided that it’s unseasoned and that you removed all the bones and used no seasonings, of course). It’s even safer than giving them raw fish. However, you should limit how much fish you give your cat, as it’s not ideal for everyday feeding. Try not to let the amount of cooked fish you give them exceed 10% of their total diet.
Good luck convincing your cat that they’ve had enough, though!