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Can Cats Eat Tuna?


If you’ve ever eaten tuna in front of your cat, you’ve probably noticed that your pet became very curious about your snack. Many cats love the taste and smell of fish—including tuna. 

The natural question you might ask when your cat starts to stare at that tuna snack is, “Can cats have tuna?” Is it as healthy for them as it is for humans? Is there anything to be concerned about when feeding your cat tuna? Cats—unlike their human pet parents—are obligate carnivores, and meat and meat-based foods should be the core of their diet. Based on that fact alone, you would assume tuna would be okay for cats. 

A small amount of canned tuna—and other types of tuna made for human consumption—can be fed to your cat as an extra special treat. It’s not toxic to felines, but for reasons we’ll explore below, it’s recommended not to let it become a regular component of their diet. Please consult your veterinarian before adding new foods to your cat’s diet to ensure it’s an appropriate snack for your pet. This is especially true for cats on prescription diets or who have ongoing medical conditions.

Health Benefits of Tuna for Cats

Much as it is with humans, tuna as an occasional treat can have some amazing health benefits for cats. The omega-3 fatty acids are good for your cat’s blood pressure, heart health and are essential in maintaining their skin and coat health. It is also believed to help reduce symptoms associated with allergies, arthritis, and gastrointestinal upsets. 

The protein, vitamins and minerals are healthy for them as well. Furthermore, the low carbohydrate content of tuna has many people believing that it’s a great food to mimic the potential diet of a cat living in the wild. 

However, there are some drawbacks to be aware of when feeding your cat tuna. 

Despite what some folks might think about tuna mimicking a natural diet, it still doesn’t contain all the nutrients your pet needs to live a full life. For this reason, it’s recommended that the primary element of your cat’s diet is veterinarian recommended cat food appropriate for your pet’s stage of life. High-quality commercial cat food is specially formulated to give your pet the proper balance of optimal nutrients for their health. Tuna can be offered as an occasional treat, but not a full meal for your cat. 

Another potential concern when asking ”Can cats eat tuna?” is this food’s contribution to unhealthy weight gain. Tuna is designed for human consumption and has inappropriate calories for cat consumption. When fed in addition to a regular veterinarian-approved diet, the extra calories add up quickly and can easily turn into weight gain. 

Tuna can also be very high in mercury. The mercury levels in tuna are generally not enough to affect a fully grown human adult but could potentially harm your cat if it’s offered to them too often. Signs of mercury poisoning include dizziness, loss of balance, lack of coordination and difficulty walking. This is especially problematic with albacore tuna, which is much higher in mercury than other types. If you see any of these signs in your pet, consult your veterinarian or contact pet poison control immediately.

How to Feed Your Cat Tuna

If you’d like to feed your cat tuna, the ideal way to do it is in very small amounts and only to offer it as an occasional treat. When considering providing tuna to your cat, it’s also important to consider what type of tuna you’re offering. 

Raw tuna is never a good idea for your pet. Although it might seem like the most natural food to give your cat, raw fish can accumulate bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Cooking the tuna kills these potentially harmful elements and prevents them from harming you or your pet when the tuna is eaten. 

When you cook tuna for your pet, be sure to cook it plain with no additional ingredients or flavorings. Popular extra seasonings that you might add to tuna for a human palate could include oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic or onion. All of these ingredients could potentially be harmful to your pet. 

Cat food and treats with tuna in them

FAQs About Feeding Your Cat Tuna

Tuna in all its forms should be limited to an occasional treat for your cat. It’s not a nutritionally complete meal for your pet, but it can offer many benefits to your feline as a part of balanced commercial cat food.

Kittens are still growing, so it’s all the more important to keep them on a strict well-balanced diet that will give them all the nutrients they need for their muscle and bone growth, as well as internal organ development. 

If your kitten does manage to get a couple of bites of tuna, they should be fine. However, it can be a good idea to keep an eye on them and watch for any signs of a food sensitivity reaction, such as vomiting, diarrhea, inflamed skin or excessive scratching. 

Kittens can also be extra sensitive to impurities, toxins or any other unsafe additives that could be found in tuna. This is another reason why it’s recommended to avoid feeding it to them altogether. 

You may also wonder, “Can cats eat canned tuna?” Canned tuna is a popular treat for pets. In fact, before the rise of commercial cat food, people would feed their cat canned tuna almost exclusively. But is canned tuna good for cats?

Canned and fresh tuna are basically trade-offs when it comes to nutrition and safety. Ensure that the canned tuna contains nothing but tuna and water. If the canned tuna is packed with any additional salt, oils, brine or other ingredients, it’s recommended not to offer that variety to your pet.

Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.

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