Feeding a cat is like feeding a baby. As a cat parent, it is your responsibility to ensure your cat’s nutritional needs are adequately met. Making the right dietary choices starts by acknowledging the fact that cats are obligate carnivores. This means cats thrive on meat – everything else is just a snack or treat.
Cats love fish. Whenever we think about cat food, the first thing that comes to mind is fish. However, fish are not part of the cat’s natural diet. In general, cats can safely eat different types of fish, fish sticks, and seafood but only as occasional treats. Cats can have a few bite-sized chunks of cooked and plain fish, fish sticks, or seafood.
Another consideration when feeding fish to cats is the preparation method. Raw varieties pose two principal risks (foodborne diseases and harmful enzymes); frying adds too many fats and adding spices wreaks havoc on the cat’s sensitive digestive system. Therefore, the safest option for cats is serving plain and cooked fish.
Fish sticks or more popularly known as fish fingers, are a highly processed fish product made of whitefish (haddock, cod, hake, pollock) that is additionally breaded or battered. Fish sticks are easily and readily available in most supermarkets’ frozen sections. After purchase, they need to be cooked as eating raw fish is unhealthy and dangerous. The cooking methods vary based on preferences and include oven baking, grilling, shallow frying, and deep-frying.
Well, although the primary ingredient in this food is fish, cats should not eat fish fingers or fish sticks.
Do not get us wrong, munching on a fallen fish finger or stealing one directly from your plate will not harm your cat, but feeding fish fingers or sticks regularly is not suitable for a cat.
There are several reasons why cats and fish sticks are not the perfect combination. First of all, human-grade fish sticks are a highly processed food usually made of a small amount of low-quality fish. Secondly, the product contains butter and bread crumbs – neither of these ingredients offers benefits to cats.
What’s more, the cat’s digestive system is not equipped to digest spices often added to the fish sticks. Consequently, cats may develop serious gastrointestinal upset manifested with temporary appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and abdominal pain. In more severe cases the spices may cause ulcerations in the stomach thus making the cat produce bloody diarrhea. Plus, fish sticks are packed with salt and sugar. Too much salt may cause salt poisoning and too much sugar causes obesity and increases the risk of developing diabetes. Artificial preservatives, additives and colorants have many negative health effects. However, the biggest concern is that these frequently used ingredients are associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Finally, as eating raw fish is forbidden, the product would have to be cooked. The cooking process will decrease the product’s already low nutritional value and add potentially troublesome ingredients – like oil.
Final verdict: No, cats should not eat fish sticks.
Portion size: A bite-sized chunk, occasionally or accidentally.
When it comes to seafood sticks, the rules and considerations mentioned in the fish sticks section are applicable. Having a few bites of seafood sticks now and then is not harmful. However, feeding seafood regularly is highly inadvisable. Seafood sticks have no nutritional value for cats, and the cons of feeding them outweigh the benefits.
As long as you are actually sure what you are serving are crab sticks, the answer is yes – cats can eat crab sticks. Keep in mind that crab sticks can safely be used only as small treats and on rare occasions.
Many commercially available human products labeled as crab sticks contain little to no real crab meat. They are made of cheap and highly processed fish and enriched with flavorings, spices, and seasonings. Not to mention, they are packed with preservatives.
Namely, you can use all crab products, from meat to sticks, as cat treats if you bought the crab locally and prepared it at home in a cat-friendly manner (cooked and plain).
Well, honestly, feeding cats fish sticks is never a good idea. However, if you ran out of cat food and have no cat-friendly ingredients to prepare a homemade meal, the bag of frozen fish sticks might save the day. However, you will have to prepare them right.
Namely, once thawed, it is advisable to scrape the bread crumbs or other coating off them. Then you can rinse them and put in boiling water for several moments. Basically, you should ensure you are using only the meaty part of the finger and then cook it adequately.
Salmon, cod, sardines, tuna, kippers, perch, pike, tilapia, trout, red snapper, flounder – cats can basically eat many different kinds of fish. They can also eat lobsters, squid, oysters, mussels, scallops, and octopuses.
However, the accent is put on the word “can”. Cats can eat fish and seafood, but they should not be part of their regular diet. Fish and seafood are not natural cat foods. However, since there is nothing harmful or toxic in properly prepared fish and seafood, these foods can safely be used as treats – in small amounts and occasionally.
When stating fish and seafood safety, we also mentioned the term “properly prepared”. By adequately prepared, we mean cooked. Cats should never eat raw fish. Just like humans, cats can get foodborne diseases if eating raw fish and seafood. The most commonly observed foodborne illnesses are infections with E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria. Another problem with raw fish is that it contains the enzyme thiaminase, which breaks down thiamin (vitamin B1). Vitamin B1 is essential for several body processes, but its primary function is maintaining a healthy nervous system. Cats eating raw fish are at risk of becoming thiamin deficient – a condition that manifests with neurological issues, such as tremors and convulsions.
Therefore, the safest and cat-friendly way of preparing fish is cooking, preferably boiling or oven-baking, without adding oils, spices, seasonings, or condiments.
Frozen fish and seafood are generally safe, as long as thawed and then adequately cooked. However, freshly bought fish and seafood are always a healthier alternative.
Packed with proteins and omega-fatty acids, salmon is the perfect treat option for cats. Although high in fats, salmon contains the good type of fats. It is relatively low in calories and will keep the cat satiated for hours. Finally, as one of the most popular fish choices, salmon is easily available.
Final verdict: Yes, cats can eat salmon.
Portion size: Few bite-sized chunks a week.
It is safe to say that cats are addicted to tuna – they love its smell, taste, and texture. However, cats can safely be offered tuna only as an occasional treat.
A steady, tuna-based diet is not suitable for cats because it is likely to lead to malnutrition, especially if feeding canned tuna formulated for human consumption. Additionally, human-grade tuna cans contain too many fats and can cause pancreatitis or unnecessary weight gain in the long-run.
Finally, overeating tuna can result in mercury poisoning. Mercury poisoning clinically manifests with dizziness, lack of coordination, and balance loss. It is worth mentioning that albacore tuna is three times richer in mercury than other tuna types.
Final verdict: No, cats cannot eat canned tuna.
If adequately prepared, shrimps can be a healthy treat for cats. By adequately prepared, we mean well-cooked and plain – no spices, seasonings, and condiments. Shrimps are low in calories but high in protein. Therefore, when giving shrimps as a treat, offer your cat an easier meal – you do not want to overdo it on proteins.
Shrimps are beneficial for weight loss and are packed with nutrients like phosphorus, copper, iodine, selenium, choline, and vitamin B12.
Shrimps should not be used as a meal substitute because they are not a complete and balanced food.
Final verdict: Yes, cat can eat shrimp.
Portion size: one or two shrimps a week.
Preparation method: cooked (raw shrimps can cause foodborne diseases and contain thiaminase).
As long as they are used as part of a complete and balanced nutrition, prawns can be a healthy addition to the feline diet. Since prawns are not part of the cat’s natural diet they should not be used as meal substitutes. Instead, prawns make excellent treats.
Prawns are rich in proteins yet low in calories – this feature is the reason prawns are the ideal treat option for cats on weight loss regimens. Prawns are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins A, E, B1, B3, and B12.
Final verdict: Yes, cats can eat prawns.
Portion size: one or two prawns a week.
Preparation method: cooked (raw prawns can cause foodborne diseases and contain thiaminase).
Lobsters are extremely low in carbohydrates and rich in essential amino acids and minerals. As long as used properly and moderately, lobsters make excellent snacks for cats. Just keep in mind that the lobster needs to be bought fresh and thoroughly cooked before serving it to your cat.
Final verdict: Yes, cats can eat lobsters.
Portion size: Two to three bite-sized chunks a week.
Oysters are packed with the enzyme thiaminaze. Unlike people, cats are extremely sensitive to this enzyme and small amounts of oysters are enough to cause a life-threatening vitamin B1 deficiency. This enzyme’s effects can be neutralized through cooking but since oysters are served raw, they enzyme deactivation is out of the picture. Therefore, it is logical to assume that oysters are not a cat-friendly seafood treat.
Final verdict: No, cats cannot eat oysters.
Mussels contain plenty of proteins, healthy fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. Mussels are becoming increasingly popular for battling arthritis and decreasing the arthritis-related pain in older individuals. As long as they are well-cooked and served plain, mussels make an excellent addition to every cat’s menu. They can be used as a treat or a frequent side-dish.
Final verdict: Yes, cat can eat mussels.
Portion size: A mussel or two ever few days.
Squids are a protein rich food that cats can benefit from. However, to be cat-friendly, squids must be carefully prepared – well-cooked (preferably boiled), without salt, spices and condiments and served finely chopped.
Squids are popularly used fried, in the form of calamari. The fried version is not a cat-friendly alternative as it is too fattening.
Final verdict: Yes, cats can eat squid, but they cannot eat calamari.
Portion size: A ring or two per week.
Scallops are rich in proteins, and minerals (zinc, selenium, potassium, magnesium) and low in calories. They boost the immune system, maintain healthy muscles, and promote healthy skin and shiny coat. If boiled and served plain, scallops can make an excellent treat for cats. What is more, occasionally, scallops can be used as an addition to the regular meal. Keep in mind that the only cat-friendly preparation method is boiling – frying will make them calorie-dense and rich in fats.
Final verdict: Yes, cats can eat scallops.
Portion size: If used as a treat – ¼ of a scallop every now and then, and if used as a meal addition – half to one smaller scallop a week.
Octopuses make a good cat treat alternative. To ensure safe feeding, the octopus should be well-cooked, plain and served in moderation. Octopuses produce natural chemicals known as saponines. If consumed in extreme amounts they can be toxic to cats. However, the amount of octopus cats are allowed to eat is not enough to trigger potentially dangerous effects.
Final verdict: Yes, cats can eat octopus.
Portion size: Two to three bite-sized chunks a week.
Cats like being treated with a fishy delicacy, such as caviar. However, just because they like luxurious indulgencies, it does not mean they can frequently feast on them.
Caviar can occasionally be offered to cats – in the form of a small treat. Caviar is not a complete food for cats which means it cannot be a meal substitute or an exclusive nutrients source. Using caviar in larger quantities can cause digestive upset, while using it as a meal substitute is likely to cause nutritional deficiencies.
It should be noted that eating caviar will make the cat produce smelly poop. Therefore, if you occasionally treat your cat with fish eggs, be prepared to clean the fishy-smelling litter box.
Final verdict: Yes, cats can eat caviar.
Portion size: few eggs a week.
While human-grade sushi is considered to be generally safe for humans, it is not entirely safe for cats. Namely, in cats, this raw fish delicacy is likely to trigger severe gastrointestinal upset manifested with temporary appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy.
When it comes to cats, raw fish poses another threat. Raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine (vitamin B1). Thiamine is an essential vitamin for cats. If the thiaminase breaks down too much thiamin, the cat becomes deficient. Thiamine deficiencies manifest with neurological issues, including tremors and convulsions.
When it comes to sushi dangers, the entire delicacy is risky for cats. Namely, cats are carnivores and as such do not benefit from eating grains – rice. Plus, sushi contains vegetables like onions and avocados which are extremely toxic to cats. The sushi’s wrap contains too much fiber and the soy sauce is not easily digestible.
Final verdict: No, cats cannot eat sushi.
Here is a Quick Overview:
Just because cats love fish it does not mean they can stomach them. As weird as it may sound, some cats can be allergic to fish and seafood. In fact, based on the Merck Veterinary Manual, when it comes to cats, fish is among the top food-based allergens.
A cat with an allergic reaction triggered by fish will experience itching and skin irritation. The itching provokes excessive scratching which causes skin swelling, development of red bumps, secondary bacterial infections, and hair loss.
In addition to skin issues, cats with fish allergies can also develop diarrhea, vomiting, excessive gassiness and temporary appetite loss.
If your cat has fish allergies, all fish and seafood products should be avoided at all cost. If an issue arises, take the cat at your trusted vet as soon as possible.
Happy Cat Keeping!
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