Is there any image more stereotypical than a happy cat with a fish? As cat owners, we often worry about many aspects of our pet’s lives. Are they stimulated enough? Are they happy? One of the greatest worries is: are their diets varied enough? Typically, the answer is yes. But that doesn’t stop some owners wanted to treat their cats with extra bits, usually with food intended for humans.
Anchovies and other fish can make a tasty reward for a cat, one that they will pine over from the moment they first smell it. However, it is important when wondering if cats can eat sardines, to stress moderation. Oily fish will not nourish a cat in the same way, and may in fact cause future problems, though they may enjoy it all the same.
In this article, we will be asking: can cats eat sardines (whether in sunflower oil, or in soy bean oil, or in tomato sauce)? Then we will be looking at any alternatives that might be suitable instead. Finally we will deal with the issues commonly associated with feeding your cat canned fish, and talking about what you can do to maintain a healthy cat with a balanced diet.
Can cats eat sardines in sunflower oil?
Sunflower oil in small quantities can aid glossiness in a cat’s coat and ease the passage of hairballs. However, too much can induce vomiting and diarrhea as it does tend to have a laxative effect. Allowing the sunflower oil to drain from the can or tin before giving it to your cat is the best practice here.
Can cats eat sardines in soybean oil?
Despite the fact that soybeans in no way feature in the typical diet of a cat, you might be surprised to learn that it’s oil can serve as a natural alternative to the oil typically found in fish. As one expert recommends, ‘[…] soy oil isn’t considered ‘bad’ for cats, in fact, many vets are recommending it for situations and individuals who need a boost to their Omega-3 Fatty Acids’.
Can cats eat sardines in tomato sauce?
Letting your cat eat sardines in tomato sauce is not typically recommended. Cats cannot taste spices, not do their digestive systems cope well with acidic foods. Many sardines in tomato sauce also also garnished with garlic or onions, which are, again, unnatural foods for a cat and can prove toxic. On top of that, cats lack the tastebuds for the flavors and spice, so it is impossible to say whether they enjoy it or not. In any case, it is best to rinse the tomato sauce off the fish before you give it to your cat.
Issues associated with canned fish
As we’ve already discussed, oily fish will not cause damage to your cat’s health, unless it is given in large quantities. Fish do not contain a great deal of the nutrition that your cat needs in order to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. In the wild, and in ancient times before they were domesticated, cats did not typically eat a lot of fish, they were not natural prey. Instead, they would have eaten small rodents or baby birds. As such, fish can cause other health issues, such as:
- Thiamine Poisoning: Thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin that converts glucose to energy, Like all water soluble vitamins, it is not stored within the body so it is extremely important that the diet have a sufficient amount. However, unfortunately raw fish contains thiaminase – an enzyme that specifically deteriorates and degrades thiamine. Pet Education notes: “Pets fed these raw meats as a sole source of food will become thiamin deficient. A deficiency of thiamin results in loss of appetite, weakness, loss of reflexes, loss of nerve control, and eventually death.” Cooking the fish in advance, however, neutralises the enzyme that causes this issue – therefore cooked fish can be given without the risk of thiamin poisoning. Other issues may still remain, such as:
- Risk of Cancer: We previously mentioned that fatty acids are important in cats immune systems, however it can also be carcinogenic. “Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to slow the development and metastasis of certain cancers. Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, have been shown to stimulate tumor development.” Again, moderation is the key here.
- Weight Gain: While the cancer risk remains slight, oily fish is high in calories. Not only can cats gain weight and become obese, they may also develop digestive problems such as diarrhea. In this case, low calorie pet food may help redress the balance.
- Mercury Poisoning: This is an issue that mainly concerns tuna, although all fish contains mercury to some degree. Due to the quantity of mercury in the oceans, it is an inevitable fact that the metal makes its way into the food chain. The toxins accumulate as it goes up this chain, and is therefore most prevalent in tuna, the apex predator. It is recommended that one eats tuna sparingly, and so the same rule applies for cats (and given their size, they should eat even less)
Final thoughts: Can cats eat sardines?
When asking the question, “can I give my cat sardines?” the answer is yes, but with caution and a need for moderation. Traditional pet food is nutritionally balanced and designed to give your cat all of the vitamins, proteins, and other substances it needs to stay healthy and happy. Specially formulated pet food with occasional treat supplements bought from a pet store are a much better bet.
Cats can eat sardines – whether that is in sunflower oil, soybean oil, or tomato sauce (which has been rinsed first). Indeed, cats who require an additional source of omega-3 fatty acids will benefit from eating it. As CanIGiveMyCat notes: “Fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to your pet’s well-being. If you supplement your pet’s diet with fish, I suggest you use sardines packed in water. Sardines don’t live long enough to store toxins in their bodies, and they’re a terrific source of omega-3s.”
While you can give you cats sardines, you should not do so in order to give them a variety in their diet. Cats need consistency in their food, and any deviation can result in stomach upsets. It is better to give sardines as an occasional treat instead of a food replacement.