It certainly seems that for many of our feline friends, the smell and taste of tinned tuna fish is considered a delicacy.They hear the sound of the can of tuna being opened, and come from nowhere!But how safe is it to feed canned tuna to cats?Whether it’s food fit for human consumption such as a can of tuna in brine, tuna in water or freshly caught raw tuna from the ocean, many cats are delighted to see fish in their dinner bowl.However, there is the risk that some cats will become addicted to tuna and just won’t eat anything else.And there are many conflicting opinions so read on to find out why you might want to reconsider feeding your cat a diet of tuna.
Can Cats Eat Tuna?
Fresh tuna or human-grade canned tuna are both not suitable as a major part of your cat’s diet.While tuna isn’t on the toxic foods list for cats, it certainly cannot be recommended if you wish to feed your feline friend a balanced diet.This is because neither fresh nor canned tuna is nutritionally balanced and complete for cats and over time, deficiencies can develop.There are also potential issues with nutrient excesses.A nutritionally balanced and complete diet is one that has the appropriate protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins and minerals in the amount for that stage of life.
Tuna Is An Unbalanced Meal For Cats
Tuna is high in phosphorus and while a healthy cat may cope with this, it won’t be good for cats with kidney disease.
Raw fish can contain thiaminase which is an enzyme that destroys thiamine, or vitamin B1.
Too much raw fish in a cat’s diet can, therefore, lead to thiamine deficiency.
Thiaminase is destroyed by heating so canned tuna isn’t going to cause this problem.
Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include loss of appetite, poor coordination and twitching.
The most common sign in cats is that they can bend their neck downwards so their chin almost touches their chest.
Raw fish contains high levels of fatty acids which can result in vitamin E deficiency in cats.
Vitamin E deficiency in cats causes a painful condition called steatitis – an inflammation of the fat in their body.
These cats have a fever and it hurts when they are touched or stroked.
Some sources of tuna are high in mercury which is toxic to cats.
Feeding lots of tuna may cause mercury poisoning with muscle weakness, trembling and even seizures.
Picky Eaters: Guidelines For Feeding Tuna
If you really want to feed your cat tuna, then the following guidelines are recommended to ensure your kitten or cat has a balanced diet:
Don’t feed raw tuna or canned tuna as the main component of your cat’s diet.
try to use tuna as an occasional treat only
a small amount of tuna is useful to hide medications
Cats can eat tuna as a treat and in small amounts, once or twice weekly at a maximum.
Choose tuna in natural spring water.
Avoid feeding cats tuna in oil or tuna in brine as these human tuna foods contain too much salt and oil so lack any health benefit.
Your cat’s main food protein sources ideally need to come from land-based animal species such as poultry or .
After all, cats were never ocean dwellers and didn’t evolve to eat large amounts of fish.
What If My Cat Is Addicted to Tuna?
It’s not uncommon to hear of cats developing a tuna addiction, therefore it’s important not to start something you may later regret.While it is important for kittens to be fed a variety of textures and meat proteins so that they don’t develop aversions, it’s vital that you feed a balanced diet to ensure optimal growth.If your feline insists on a fish only meal, you can try to gradually wean them onto other protein sources or use fish flavoured commercial cat food in wet or dry.Our tips:
Mix a small amount of new food with their fish.
Mush it all together.
Use tuna juice to add flavour rather than feed the meat.
Slowly add more of the meat-based cat food and decrease the amount of fish over the course of a week or two.
If there’s no chance your cat will change their taste from tuna to meat, try to entice them to eat a fish-based commercial cat food that’s nutritionally balanced.
Does your cat love tuna so much it won’t eat anything else? This isn’t good for their health. Contact Your Vet Online to have a consult with one of our vets to solve this problem.
Dr Leigh Davidson is a veterinarian with 20 years experience. Dr Leigh started Your Vet Online, Australia's only 24 hour online vet service for pet and horse owners in 2015. Her expertise is in equine, small animal and mixed practice as well as pharmaceutical consultancy.