Can Cats Eat Tuna and Is Tuna Safe for Cats?

Can cats eat tuna?

Cats can eat tuna in moderation but it must not make up a large part of a cat’s diet. Tuna is high in protein, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins A, B12 and D. Most cats are attracted to the strong smell of tuna, which makes it an ideal food to give with medication or encourage a sick cat to eat.

Pet owners must be aware that too much tuna is harmful to cats. The term ‘tuna junkie’ has been coined for some cats who love tuna so much that they refuse all other types of cat food.

  • Vitamin D toxicity: Fish is high in vitamin D which is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and other tissues.
  • Mercury toxicity: Tuna is high in mercury, a toxic metal. Toxic levels can build up as mercury isn’t excreted from the body quickly.
  • Malnutrition: A diet high in tuna is not complete and balanced and can lead to serious vitamin, amino acids and mineral deficiencies.
  • Steatitis: Also known as yellow fat disease or pansteatitis, steatitis is a painful condition characterised by a marked inflammation and yellow colouration of the adipose (fat) tissue. The discolouration of the fatty tissue is due to deposits of large amounts of ceroid pigment and is caused by feeding a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids and deficient in vitamin E. Oily fish, especially red tuna, but also sardines and white fish are the most common cause of this condition.

What kind of tuna can I give my cat?

Tinned tuna in spring water and not oil or cooked fresh tuna. Do not feed canned tuna which contain additives or chemicals, or flavoured cans including garlic or onion which are toxic to cats.

Diets high in raw fish can lead to thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, as uncooked contains the enzyme thiaminase, which destroys thiamine. If feeding unseasoned cooked fresh tuna, remove all bones first to prevent damage to the mouth or gastrointestinal tract.

Chunk-light-tuna (usually skipjack and tongol) is recommended as it is low in mercury. Yellowfin, big-eye and albacore are high in mercury.

Types of tuna in popular brands:

  • John West: Skipjack
  • Sirena: Yellowfin and tongol
  • Safcol: Skipjack
  • Greenseas: Skipjack
  • Aldi: Yellowfin
  • Chicken of the sea: Albacore

How much tuna can I give my cat?

The average 5 kg (11 pound) cat should consume 220 calories per day. The average 95 gram can of tuna in springwater is approximately 100-110 calories, which is half the cat’s daily calorie requirements.

Stick with a teaspoon or two of tuna and no more than once or twice a week. Don’t overdo it and always remember that the bulk of a cat’s diet must be a complete and balanced cat food that contains all the vitamins and minerals the cat needs. 

How often can I give my cat tuna?

Tuna should make up no more than ten percent of a cat’s diet. Better still, it should be reserved for special treats only such as when administering medication.

Can all cats have tuna?

Not all cats can have tuna, and we always recommend speaking with your cat’s veterinarian before introducing new foods.

  • Cats who are on a prescription cat food diet to manage an underlying medical condition
  • Cats who are on a hypoallergenic diet
  • Any cat with known toxicity to blueberries
  • Kittens who have not weaned onto solids
  • Cats on a weight loss diet
  • Pregnant and lactating cats

Fish is one of the top food allergies in cats, discontinue if your cat develops itching, redness and dermatitis. Even cats who have previously eaten tuna can go on to develop allergies.

Conclusion

Tuna is safe for cats to eat as long as it is in moderation, and not a large part of a cat’s diet. Always speak with a veterinarian who knows your cat’s medical history before introducing new foods.