Cats are resourceful and curious creatures. When they set their eyes on something they want, it can be difficult to keep them away. Often, you’ll find your cat snacking on something you never would have thought they would enjoy, like fish food.
I never dreamed my cat would eat fish food. However, one day I found fish flakes scattered everywhere. The container was open, and much of the food had been eaten. My cat loves fish food, but why?
Why does my cat like eating fish food?
You find your cat eating your fish food. You are slightly concerned, but also surprised. Why do they find fish food so attractive?
The simple answer is, because it smells and tastes like fish!
What’s That Smell
Fish food typically smells like fish. Not all fish are carnivorous. Some are herbivores, some are omnivores, and some are carnivores. In simple terms, some fish eat plants, some eat plants and animals, and some only eat other animals.
Fish food typically covers all the bases, including fish and aquatic plants to meet the needs of most fish.
Because it’s made from fish, and because many fish prefer to eat other fish, fish food smells and tastes like fish.
You probably know that cats love fish. This is why there are so many cat foods that have fish ingredients or flavors.
Why Do Cats Love Fish?
The legend is that Egyptians used fish to lure cats into their homes. This is supposedly how they domesticated them.
Cats are not a normal food for cats. Most cats hate water. You won’t find them fishing in your local stream. Instead, cats naturally eat small game like rodents, and birds.
Cats are carnivores, which means they have evolved to eat only meat. Fish is a source of meat, but not a source they evolved to eat in the wild.
Cats likely know that fish is a source of meat due to it’s smell and taste. The strong smell and taste of fish might make it more appealing than other protein sources. However, cats don’t just love fish. Cats love any type of meat.
Cats are opportunistic eaters. Despite their finicky reputation, cats have a tendency to eat whatever they can get their paws on, particularly if it’s high in protein. Toss a piece of steak in front of your feline, and they will happily gobble it up, just as they would a piece of fish.
Is fish food good for cats?
There’s nothing in fish food that is inherently toxic or bad for cats. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to feed them fish food. Keep in mind that fish food is created for fish, not cats.
Dogs love cat food. In fact, it’s a daily struggle to feed my cat and dogs, because they will happily steal each other’s food. However, it’s not healthy for them to eat food that’s not designed for them. It can create dietary imbalances.
What’s in Fish Food?
Fish food ingredients vary. This is because fish have different diets in the wild, based on their species.
Every standard fish food will include a protein source. Fish meal is the most common. However, it can also contain shrimp meal, squid meal, spirulina, and earthworms.
They will also include vitamins and minerals.
These include :
- Vitamins B, C and E
Lower quality fish foods often use filler ingredients. These include wheat flour, potato protein, and soybean meal. These ingredients provide little to no nutritional value for fish. They are added for bulk, and chosen due to their inexpensive price.
Types of Fish Food
In addition to standard fish flakes, there are a wide variety of foods for fish. Dry food includes flakes, pellets, and sticks. Flakes are the most common, but all are suitable mainstays for fish.
Freeze dried fish food is designed for carnivorous fish. This includes blood worms, krill, and other small marine life. These are a good source of protein, and potentially ok for your cat as an occasional treat.
Frozen fish food comes in a wide variety of types and ingredients. It’s typically higher quality than dry food, and has a longer shelf life. Just get out the portion you need, and defrost before serving.
Fresh food is also an option. Just like freeze dried food, this is for carnivorous or omnivorous fish. There’s a wide variety of fresh food, including worms, feeder fish, and water fleas.
Some of these may be ok for your cat occasionally. They are a good source of protein and amino acids. Keep in mind that they are not a replacement for cat food.
Something Fishy is Going On
Since fish meal is the main ingredient in many fish foods, it’s reasonable to wonder if fish is good for cats. Fish meal is essentially small fish or leftover fish parts that humans aren’t very interested in. It’s ground up into a powder, which turns it into fish meal.
Fish in general is healthy for cats in moderation. However, it shouldn’t be a staple part of their diet. It turns out, there’s a few reasons why you should use caution when feeding your cat fish.
One concern is allergies. Fish is one of the top 3 allergens for cats. This means there’s a chance your kitty could be allergic to fish.
Canned cat food made with fish has been linked to hyperthyroidism. This disease can cause unexplained weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea, and poor coat quality.
Domoic acid is found in algae. It can then accumulate in clams, mussels, fish, and seafood. It can damage the brain and the kidneys. There are limits to the amount of domoic acid that can be in food for humans. Unfortunately, this limit doesn’t apply to cats, or other pets. It’s possible for fish cat food, or fish flakes, to contain high levels of domoic acid.
Another concern is vitamin K. Cats can synthesize vitamin K, which is responsible for blood clotting, from most protein sources. However, they do not synthesize vitamin K from fish. This is another reason to limit your kitty’s consumption of fish.
Fish based cat foods might be problematic. However, these are at least designed for cats. Fish meal contains undesirable fish parts, and the health value or harm for cats isn’t clear.
Benefits of Fish For Cats
Fish and fish food aren’t entirely bad. Fish is very high in Omega 3s, which have significant benefits for cats. Fish oil has been shown to preserve healthy eyesight, prevent and treat arthritis, and improve brain health in cats.
However, not all fish are created equal. Oily fish, like tuna and makeral, contain a high level of Omega 3s. Other fish, like cod or whiting, contain lower levels of Omega 3s.
Your cat needs the proper balance of Omega 3s to Omega 6s to be healthy. These two fatty acids balance each other, providing the maximum benefit. Too much of either can cause health issues for your cat.
Fish flakes do contain Omega 3s. In addition to fish meal, many fish foods are supplemented with extra Omega 3s. This means fish food may be an ok treat, but it shouldn’t be a typical part of your felines diet.
Can cats eat fish food everyday?
It’s unwise to feed your cat fish food everyday for the reasons listed above. The most obvious reason is because fish food is created for fish. It is not nutritionally balanced for cats.
Should you worry if your cat helps themselves to a flake occasionally? Probably not. Should you feed it to them every day? No, you shouldn’t.
How much fish food can cats eat?
There’s no set amount of fish food that cats can eat. Instead, you’ll need to use some common sense. Remember, fish food is not created for cats.
View fish food as you would human treats. It’s ok to give a small amount as an occasional treat, but you should carefully limit the amount of fish food your kitty consumes.