Is Tuna Safe for Cats?
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Feeding a cat tuna is a little controversial. On one side, tuna has a great amount of protein, but it also has a high level of mercury. So, is tuna safe for cats?
In this AnimalWised article, we're going to talk about the pros and cons of feeding a cat tuna and how to feed our cats tuna safely. Continue reading to learn more!
Is tuna safe for cats to eat?
Yes, tuna is safe for cats in low quantities and at a low frequency. The tuna must be high quality fish and you should avoid canned tuna. Although cats can have tuna in low quantities, it's always best to opt for other fish with lower amounts of mercury as this can lead to serious health issues in your cat, such as poisoning which can be fatal.
Therefore, can cats eat tuna? Yes, with certain conditions. But, the real question is should cats eat tuna. The answer is no, not when there are much better options that won't lead them to (possibly fatal) health issues. Tuna isn't recommended for cats, however they can tolerate it from time to time.
With this being said, the answer isn't as straight forward as we would like it to be. There are pros and cons of feeding your cat tuna, and this will depend on the quality of the tuna, the quantity and frequency in which you feed them tuna and your cat's health history.
This is why in this article we're going to dive a little deeper into the subject and talk about tuna's nutrition, pros and cons, and lastly, how to feed tuna to your cat safely! We also encourage you to read our article about if cats can eat raw fish.
Tuna nutrition for cats
Cats love eating fish. We've known this as kids watching cartoons, and even as cat caregivers when we're making sushi and our cat suddenly decided they want to help out in the kitchen. But, is tuna the best fish to give our cat? Let's take a look at the nutrition facts of tuna:
- Canned tuna is a good source of essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, high quality protein, selenium and Vitamin D.
- Most tuna species have approximately 2 grams of fat per 113 gram portion and less than 45 milligrams of cholesterol and sodium.
- Tuna also provides an important dietary source of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids needed for good heart health, brain function and normal growth and development.
- Most canned tuna contain 0.32 parts per million of mercury, a toxic metal that can lead to food poisoning.
Although tuna has great nutritional value, it also contains high quantities of mercury, a toxic metal that can lead to food poisoning. This is especially dangerous for cats. Canned tuna contains even more lead content and should be completely avoided if possible. You may also be interested in our article about if cats can get salmonella.
Pros and cons of feeding your cat tuna
As this isn't a one answer question, we need to take different aspects into account when deciding to feed our cat tuna. Now that we've had a look at the nutrition of tuna, we can look at the pros and cons of feeding your cat tuna.
Pros of feeding your cat tuna
- Tasty treat for your cat
- Good source of protein
- Good source of omega 3s
- Easy and cheap fish to give your cat
Cons of feeding your cat tuna
- Can lead to fatal food poisoning
- Causes neurological disturbances
- Isn't nutritionally balanced
- Doesn't offer the nutrition your cat needs
In conclusion, tuna isn't an adequate fish option for your cat. Nevertheless, cats can eat it from time to time in low quantities. Learn more in our article about forbidden foods for cats.
The issue is when it is the base of their diet, as tuna isn't nutritionally balanced nor provides them with all the nutrients and minerals they need. Or, when tuna is given in high quantities or very frequently as the high levels of mercury can cause food poisoning in the cat.
Another study demonstrated how kittens experienced neurological disturbances similar to those of Minamata disease (ataxia, weakness and incoordination of movements) when given a long-term diet of tuna. In fact, microscopic examination revealed degenerations of the granular layer and some Purkinje neurons in the cerebellum.
How to safely feed your cat tuna
Now that we've established that tuna can be given with certain precautions, we're going to tell you how to safely feed your cat tuna. Before we dive in, we must remind you that it's best to completely avoid tuna as it can be a risk for your cat. If you're still not sure about it, speak to your veterinarian who will be able to better guide you in your cat's diet and nutrition. It's always a good idea to ask them for their professional approval before changing your cat's diet.
If you do choose to feed your cat tuna, it's best to choose fresh tuna. If you still go for canned tuna, choose chunk-light tuna which has less mercury than albacore tuna. Remember that if your cat is already eating tuna in their diet, such as in their dry or wet food, then it's best not to feed them any more.
Limit their intake. Feed them a small portion of fresh tuna as a small treat and not a meal. Make sure they have a rich and natural feline diet that will provide them with all the nutrients and minerals their body needs in order to properly function and stay healthy. Learn more in our article on the best diet for cats.
If you want to read similar articles to Is Tuna Safe for Cats?, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.
- R.B. Voegborlo, A.M. El-Methnani, M.Z. Abedin. Mercury, cadmium and lead content of canned tuna fish. Food Chemistry, Volume 67, Issue 4 (1999). Pages 341-345. ISSN 0308-8146. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0308-8146(98)00008-9.
- Joanna Burger, Michael Gochfeld. Mercury in canned tuna: white versus light and temporal variation. Environmental Research. Volume 96, Issue 3 (2004). Pages 239-249. ISSN 0013-9351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2003.12.001.
- Chang, L.W., Yamaguchi, S. & Dudley, A.W. Neurological changes in cats following long-term diet of mercury contaminated tuna. Acta Neuropathol 27, 171–176 (1974). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00687167