Many cats seem to love tuna, but is it safe and healthy for them to eat? This is a very important question as tuna can only be fed to cats safely if it is offered as an occasional treat.
Too much tuna or offering your cat raw tuna can be harmful to their health. As feeding your cat tuna can be a health risk, below we’ve taken a closer look at the benefits and risks of offering tuna.
While tuna can be fed to cats, it should not be fed as the main component of your cat’s diet. It can be fed as an occasional treat but when offering tuna make sure:
- The tuna has not been stored with oil or brine
- Your cat’s main dietary protein is coming from a land-based animal source e.g. poultry or beef
- The tuna is not raw
Tuna Can Be Harmful to Cats
While tuna can be a great occasional treat for cats, it can be harmful to their health in a few different ways.
The below risks are most likely to occur when your cat is eating too much tuna or eating small amounts of tuna too often:
1. Not Eating a Balanced Diet
Cats can become addicted to tuna, they can become so obsessed with the smell and taste of tuna that they refuse to eat other food.
If your cat has become overly fond of tuna it is important to introduce other food into their diet.
If they are refusing to eat other food, you can start slowly adding some good quality cat food (don’t be tempted to use cheap food as tuna will always seem preferable) into the tuna until you are eventually offering just cat food.
2. Nutritional Deficiencies
Tuna cannot provide all of the nutrition needs of a cat so a tuna-heavy diet can lead to vitamin deficiencies that can then lead to further health issues such as Steatitis.
Steatitis also known as yellow fat disease stems from a Vitamin E deficiency and is an inflammation of fatty tissue.
3. Mercury Poisoning
Tuna contains small amounts of mercury, eating large amounts or frequently eating tuna can lead to mercury poisoning in cats.
Mercury poisoning can cause muscle weakness, vision impairment, memory loss and lack of coordination.
Some cats are allergic to fish, including tuna.
If your cat coughs, sneezes, gets swelling or seems itchy after eating tuna they may be allergic to fish and tuna should not be offered to your cat again.
When fish (including tuna) is raw it can cause harm to your cat due to the risk of E.coli and salmonella.
Due to these risks, you should only ever offer your cat cooked tuna.
Your vet can help to determine whether it is okay to give your cat tuna as well as advise on the recommended serving sizes and how often tuna can be offered.
Ask a Vet
If you’re not sure if your cat is eating too much tuna we recommend you speak with a vet ASAP to help you work it out and make dietary adjustments if neccessary. JustAnswer allows you to talk in real-time to veterinary experts for a small fee.
Tuna should only be offered as a treat and usually one teaspoon of tuna is enough – one tin of tuna would be way too much to offer your cat in one go. It is better to mix a teaspoon of tuna into their regular food as a special treat, or alternatively you could choose a cat food with tuna already in it.
Can I Give My Cat Tinned Tuna?
Tuna in tins is preserved for a long time, because of this some tuna is packaged with preservatives and artificial flavours. A lot of tinned tuna is packaged with oil or brine and these should be avoided as the excessive salt and oil is not good for your cat’s health.
If you are going to offer your cat small amounts of tinned tuna, ensure it is 100% tuna with no added preservatives or flavours and make sure it has been packed with water rather than oil or brine.
Are There Any Benefits to Giving Cats Tuna?
Although you cannot feed too much tuna to your cat, there are some benefits to giving tuna in proper proportions. Tuna is rich in proteins and amino acids as well as manganese, iron, potassium, B vitamins and C vitamins.
Giving your cat a small amount of tuna as an occasional treat can be beneficial:
- The protein and amino acids are good for your cat’s growth and development.
- The omega-3, vitamin B and thiamine help Improve energy levels.
- The potassium and vitamins in tuna will boost your cat’s immune system.
The Safest Way to Feed Cats Tuna
With such a mix of benefits and risks, you may be concerned about offering your cat tuna in case you offer too much or their diet will become imbalanced.
The best way to offer tuna to your cat and ensuring they get it in a balanced and healthy way is by choosing commercially manufactured cat food that contains tuna. That way your cat can still enjoy tuna but while still enjoying a balanced meal.
Can I Feed My Kitten Tuna?
The risks of feeding a kitten tuna seem to outweigh the benefits. A kitten would be at greater risk of mercury poisoning, seizures and steatitis. There are many safer, healthier and kitten-specific treats to offer and these are better options than tuna.
An adolescent cat may be able to handle small amounts of tuna better than kittens but take care as there are better, safer sources of vitamins and minerals available.
How Much Tuna is Too Much?
It is easy to give a cat too much tuna and giving too much can lead to the health issues mentioned above. This is why tuna should only be given as a rare treat. Many of the concerns are only present when you overfeed tuna so keeping the amounts small can help avoid them.
To avoid giving too much tuna, only offer up to a teaspoon worth once or twice a week at most. a teaspoon may not sound like a lot but tuna has a very strong taste and smell and for a cat (that’s much smaller than we are) it’s plenty.
Keeping your cats diet varied is important. If your cat is eating more tuna than cat food they will be missing out on vital nutrients.
Even though tuna isn’t the best food for cats, you may find your kitty really enjoys tuna, to the point where they seem to crave it. It’s not clear why cats are so enticed by tuna but cats can become addicted to tuna and this leads to other problems so ensure the tuna is incorporated into your cat’s diet or is offered in a controlled way.
Cooked tuna and tuna that has been tinned with water can be fed to cats in small amounts (no more than one teaspoon worth).
There are even benefits to feeding your cat tuna in proper proportions.
However, it is important not to feed your cat raw tuna or offer tuna in large amounts or too frequently as this can lead to issues such as nutritional deficiencies, mercury poisoning and poor health.