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Does Your Cat Love Fish?

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Does Your Cat Love Fish?

If your cat loves fish, he has lots of company! However, it’s really not a good idea to feed fish to your cat; and here’s why:

The primary fish used in cat food are salmon, tuna, and tilefish (ocean whitefish). Let’s look at each of these.

Salmon: The vast majority of salmon today comes from farm-raised fish. In this form of factory farming, millions of these unfortunate animals are kept in huge, overcrowded pens in polluted coastal waters. They’re fed antifungals and antibiotics to limit the spread of disease, and dyes to make their flesh salmon-colored (otherwise it would be gray). Common water pollutants, such as PCBs, pesticides, and other chemicals, are found in farmed salmon at ten times the amount found in wild fish. These contaminants will be present in any product made with farmed fish, including pet food.

It has recently been revealed that krill, tiny shrimp that are the natural diet of many whales and other marine animals, are being netted in vast hauls, and processed into food for these “franken-salmon,” for their protein as well as their red color. The issues with krill are explained below.

Tuna: It’s the fish that’s most “addictive” to cats. They love it so much that they may stage a hunger strike by refusing their regular food until they get it!

Tuna and other predatory fish are at the top of the food chain. This means that they may accumulate high levels of heavy metals (including mercury) as well as PCBs, pesticides, and other toxins, by eating smaller fish. The older the fish, the more contamination.

Tilefish: (listed on pet food labels as “ocean whitefish”) are among the worst contaminated, along with king mackerel, shark, and swordfish. These fish are so toxic that the FDA advises women of child-bearing age and children to avoid them entirely; and the FDA recommends only one serving of albacore tuna per week due to its high mercury levels.

The fish used in canned pet foods is typically whole fish, or leftovers from processing whole fish, deemed unsuitable for human consumption; this includes guts, feces, and bones, which are high in phosphorus—a problem for cats with kidney disease. On the other end of the urinary tract, many sensitive cats develop cystitis (bladder inflammation) and even urinary blockages if they eat any kind of fish at all. Fish and fish meal are both problematic.

A small amount of fish, such as wild caught sardines, used as a flavoring in a properly balanced, fresh meat-based diet, is not a problem. But fish should not be the main course for the cat’s diet.

But what about Omega 3 fatty acids? Aren’t fish and fish oils the best sources of these essential fats for our pets? Indeed, daily Omega- 3 supplementation from a marine source is extremely important for our cats as well as for us. Among many other benefits, Omega 3s fight inflammation, which affects our cats as much as it does us.

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Celeste Yarnall

Celeste Yarnall, PhD shares musings on myriad of topics at her Celestial Musings Blog. She is the author of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care with Jean Hofve, DVM and Paleo Dog. Celeste is an actress/producer/activist/writer and keynote speaker. She and her husband Nazim Artist created the Art of Wellness Collection and are the producers of Femme: Women Healing the World. They live in Los Angeles, California with their beloved Tonkinese cats. Join Celeste at her website or on Facebook.


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2:06PM PDT on Oct 16, 2011


4:41AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

Good information, thanks for sharing...

2:58AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

Oh, and the canned is once a week treat, unless it's a holiday, then they get extra.

2:57AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

I can't afford to feed my cats real fish. They get Purina dry cat food, and fancy feast canned cat food.

9:58PM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

Yup, Helen, seen that! Problem is, cats can lose so much body weight in a day, it's scarey! I don't want mine gettng too thin, so I just don't get the stuff that I think she'll want but is bad FOR her. My vet said once that while it's best to feed the BEST stuff one can get, at some points in time, it's most important that they just EAT, period. I had an old cat that I rescued (he was almost 18 when I found him) and at the last stages before he passed (almost 21), he wouldn't eat, so I'd pour human tunafish JUICE on his food to entice him. I knew it wasn't good for him, BUT he needed to eat SOMETHING, ya' know?

Of my 5 cats, the two outside cats will eat anything, and one of the inside cats will, but she will upCHUCK the cheap stuff. One is very fussy and she's the one who was having seizures, was put on a raw diet, but now eats "selected" cans, only certain flavors. No seizures now in almost 3 months and no "meds".

1:19PM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

Yes, I agree with the hunger-strike-'till-I-get-my-TUNA. But then we went through a very poor phase when we had very little money and their volume of food was cut back (as was mine). It did us a lot of good and my cats will now eat anything. (And I lost 40lbs! the upside of the recession)

10:16PM PDT on Jul 19, 2011

Here's a link about krill (just one of dozens)............ for salmon, again, I live in Puget Sound, and over the years, caught more than a "few", and never saw a grey one yet. Sockeye, Coho and Steelhead are all different in flesh color. Copper River (from Alaska) makes them ALL "pale" in comparison, though, and at $19/lb, none of my 5 cats will ever get even a morsal of that. I can't afford it for myself!

9:50PM PDT on Jul 19, 2011

Basically, a well-written article. However, there are some assumptions made as well as unsustatiated rumors and falsehoods. For example, not all salmon is "red" or "orange" naturally, but grey? Hardly. It depends on the species, the age of the fish and where it's been feeding. Atlantic Salmon are NOT as brightly colored as Pacific Salmon, especially when they return to spawn, and Alaska Salmon are the reddest of all. Factory Farmed fish are probably duller in color because first of all, they never live long enough to mature and BECOME red/orange, which is from becoming older and with more fat. The more FAT, the redder the flesh.

Krill is one of the most abundant species on the planet, so it's false to assume that by using them as food for animals, or their oil (which is EXTREMELY HEALTHY for humans) it is contributing to the demise of the species.

I would agree about tuna, and also that fish as the main source of "meat" in a cat's diet is not good. While obligate carnivores, cats do better on a varied MEAT diet, and the closest to nature and raw, the better.

11:10PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Thanks for the info

8:22PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

My cat eats almost no human food at all -very little, although I let her see and smell what I'm eating. He just likes dry cat food only no treats and no canned food.

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Thank you for caring and sharing - hilarious cat - the other couldn't care less!


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