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Contrary to widespread belief, the popular depiction of a cat with a fishbone in its mouth is not accurate. Although most cats would be delighted if treated with a nice fishbone, fish bones are not a risk-free food for cats.

The general rule of the thumb is that raw fish bones are a safer alternative to cooked fish bones. It is also generally accepted that smaller softer bones are less damaging that large, harder bones. However, all fish bones pose a risk to cats. Therefore, the answer to question whether cats should be given fish bones is no.

Can cats eat whole fish?

Generally speaking, yes, cats can eat the whole fish. However, it should be noted that not all fish parts are equally beneficial and safe. For example, the offal has more nutrients than the skin, while the meat is safer than the bones.

Are fish bones good for cats?

When it comes to providing long chewing time, yes, fish bones are good for cats. However, when it comes to providing healthy nutrients or other benefits, fish bones are not good for cats.

To be more accurate there are more risks than benefits of feeding fish bones to cats.

Raw fish bones vs. cooked fish bones

In terms of choking hazards and digestibility, raw fish bones are safer than cooked fish bones. This is because while raw, the bones are less oxidized and softer. On the other hand, cooked bones are more rigid and more prone to splintering.

However, in terms of triggering foodborne diseases, raw bones pose a significant risk. Raw bones often carry potentially lethal infectious agents such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.

Frozen fish bones are equally dangerous. Once thawed, they can be served raw or cooked, but the risks remain.

In general, raw bones from smaller fish are the safest alternative if you insist on feeding bones to your cat.

However, the best alternative would be to use a commercially available cat food based on fish protein. That way, your cat will be able to enjoy the fish taste without worrying about the consequences fish bones and raw fish may implicate.

Can cats choke on fish bones?

Yes, it is possible for a cat to choke on a fishbone. Although cooked fish bones are a bigger choking hazard than raw fish bones, all bones can be dangerous.

If your cat is choking on a fishbone call your trusted vet immediately. The vet will advise you to either remove the bone on your own or rush the cat to the clinic.

Even if you manage to solve the problem and remove the fishbone on your own, it is still recommended to visit the vet and have the vet perform a thorough examination.

What should I do if my cat eats a fishbone?

If your cat steals a fishbone from your plate or finds one in the trash, do not panic. Although eating fish bones is potentially dangerous, it does not mean all cats will experience side-effects.

Stay calm and carefully monitor your cat. If the fishbone gets stuck your cat will start acting unusually – excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, blood presence in the drool, coughing, or gagging. The fishbone can potentially get stuck between the teeth or in the throat.

How to remove fish bone from cat’s throat?

Accidents happen, and no matter how careful you are, your cat may steal a fishbone and get it stuck between its teeth or throat.

If the bone is stuck between the teeth, the cat will drool excessively and paw at its mouth in an effort to remove the stuck bone. Removing the fishbone is a two-person job. The safest alternative is to wrap the cat in a towel. One person should hold the wrapped cat and the other person keep the cat’s mouth open while removing the bone with fingers or tweezers. 

The second scenario – having a fishbone stuck into the throat is more serious. The first step is making sure there is actually a bone stuck. More often than not, cat parents assume their cats have a fishbone in their throats when the actual problem is an inflamed throat. It should be noted that having a fishbone stuck in the throat is not a common occurrence in cats. However, if it does occur, the affected cat will drool, paw at its mouth, cough, gag, or even have blood coming out of its mouth.

If your cat shows some of the above-listed signs and it was eating fish bones earlier, it is safe to assume the problem is a stuck fishbone. In such a case, it is advisable to take your cat to the vet’s office. It is nearly impossible for you to solve the problem on your own, at home, and in a non-sedated cat. Plus, the throat is very sensitive, and you can easily cause accidental damage while removing the fishbone.

If there is no veterinary help available in extremely rare circumstances, you can try pushing the bone forward. If you manage to move the bone forward into the stomach, it will no longer present a problem as the stomach acids will dissolve it. Pieces of boiled chicken meat and dry cat food can help force the fishbone further down.

How can I prevent my cat from eating fish bones?

The first step towards keeping your cat safe and healthy is education. Many cat parents unknowingly feed the fish bones or table scrap fish bones to their cats. Knowing the potential risks associated with this habit will prevent you from using the bones as treats or meals.

Cats can be skilled thieves. To avoid having your fish stolen directly from the plate, be extra observant while serving or eating fish. Finally, make sure you discard the fish bones and leftovers in a cat-proof trash can, preferably outside where your cat cannot reach them.

If preparing a homemade meal with fish, remove the bones. It is easier to remove the fish bones before the fish is cooked. That way you can ensure all the bones are safely removed. What is more, smaller bones are more easily visible in raw rather than cooked fish pieces.

Can cats eat fish heads? 

Feeding fish heads to cats has more cons than pros. Regardless of their form (raw or cooked), heads have too many bones that pose a choking hazard. Plus, the heads’ nutritional value is not so significant that it would outweigh choking risk.

Basically, besides the temporary munching satisfaction, eating fish heads has no benefits to cats. Therefore, the final verdict is that cats cannot eat fish heads, at least not safely.

The only safe way of offering fish heads to cats is cooking them and then carefully removing the meat. Only the cooked meat is cat-friendly.

Can cats eat fish guts?

Fish guts are not a cat-friendly food choice. Fish guts are packed with minerals like phosphorus and magnesium. In moderate amounts, these minerals are not just beneficial but vital for many bodily functions.

However, fish guts contain high amounts of these minerals and may cause problems in cats. Fish guts are particularly dangerous to cats with pre-existing urinary tract and kidney issues.

Can cats eat fish skin?

Cat love how fish skin tastes but they should not be allowed to eat this part of the fish. This is mainly because toxins tend to accumulate in the skin. What is more, if the skin is fried, it will add unnecessary calories and eventually may cause obesity.

Can cats eat fish fins and tails?

Although if offered most cats will happily feast on these fish parts, fins and tails hold no nutritional value. Plus, they are hard to chew, pose a choking hazard and cannot be easily separated from the skin. All in all, cats should not be fed fish fins and tails.

Can cats eat fish offal?

For every fish filet, the seafood industry throws away between two and three pounds of scraps. These scraps are commonly referred to as offal and are actually edible. In fact, in some countries, they are considered a delicacy.

Fish offal might be a delicacy for us, but what about cats? Cats enjoy feasting on red offal – kidneys and livers. However, they must be prepared in a cat-friendly manner, which involves boiling and serving them plain. Fried offal and heavily spiced offal, as well as raw offal, are dangerous to cats.

Here is a Quick Overview



It is a popular misconception that fish bones are a cat-friendly treat. Although most cats are willing to munch on fish bones, these tasty treats come with several risks. However, fish bones are not directly toxic. Basically, if your cat steals a fishbone or you accidentally drop a fishbone, and your cat is faster than you when it comes to picking it up, just observe your cat carefully for the next few hours. Feeding fish bones on purpose is strictly forbidden.

Some cats can eat fish bones their entire lives without experiencing problems, but even one fishbone can be enough to cause problems for others. Therefore, it is better to stay safe and avoid using fish bones under all circumstances.

Happy Cat Keeping!

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