Should cats eat fish? We humans eat fish as part of our balanced diets, and modern medicine recommends that people eat more fish--especially instead of proteins like beef. Is the same true for our cats?
First, the downside of fish treats for cats (and, really, for us):
Fish swim in polluted waterways. They pick up toxins like pesticides and microplastics. Plus, we’re all well aware of the heavy-metal contamination plaguing fish populations. Mercury and magnesium, for instance, are found in just about all shark and swordfish, as well as other fish toward the top of the food chain. Until we clean up our waters, fish poses a risk to all of us, cats included. That said, you can be smart about the fish you feed your cat--more on that in a minute.
Another thing to consider, in an allergy study, fish was found to be the third most common food allergy or sensitivity in cats, after beef and dairy. While we encourage common sense feeding and a balanced diet that includes fish, check with your vet if you’re concerned about an allergy. (Symptoms include the usual suspects: vomiting and diarrhea, itchiness, runny eyes, ear infections, and so on. If you spot any of these, call your vet pronto.)
So, should you skip fish for your cat?
Of course not! There are lots of health benefits to eating fish as a part of a balanced diet. For one thing, fish is a lean source of protein. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need meat protein to thrive. Fish provides that without the added fat.
Fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, a fat that can be beneficial to your cat’s overall health. In fact, many people supplement their pets (and their own) diets with fish oil because of the anti-inflammatory properties.
The key is to feed your cat fish as part of a healthy, balanced diet, not as the sole nutrition. Start by choosing fish that you would also eat and serve it to your cat in moderation.
We recommend treating your cat with fish!
Let’s look at some of the best fish treats for cats:
Mahi-mahi: A low-cal fish with tons of power-packed nutrition, like protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Salmon: An oily fish, salmon delivers a ton of health benefits like omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and many essential vitamins.
Bonito: High protein and low carbs, bonito flakes make a great topper for your cat’s food.
If you decide to feed your cat fish, choose wisely. Aim for single-ingredient treats or toppers. Fish flavoring isn’t nutritional, so get the real deal for your cat.
Finally, always choose fresh, not farmed. Farmed fish negatively impact the environment by causing pollution and diminishing biodiversity. Farmed fish also contain pollutants, diseases, and antibiotics. For a full deep-dive (pun kinda intended…) into the risks associated with farmed fish, check out Wellness Mama’s full investigation.
Ultimately, fish can be an amazing treat for cats. Choose single-ingredient treats that are wild caught rather than farmed, and feed your cat fish treats in moderation. Remember they're treats, not a meal.