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Is Fish-Flavored Food Bad For Cats?

Understanding the ingredients on the labels of food is a cumbersome process. As pet owners, we want to know what we are feeding our animals, just like we want to know what we consume. 

Most cats love the smell and taste of fish. But should you feed your cat fish because they seem excited about it? 

The answer is no, as fish-flavored food can be bad for your cat. While it makes sense to feed them what they love, and it can be tough to make the right decision, feeding cats fish-flavored food can be bad for their health. 

Read below for more details!


Why too much fish-flavored food is not good for your cat?

Why too much fish-flavored food is not good for your cat

Cats have sensitive stomachs and can develop health issues over time, depending on their diet. 

Some potential dangers of eating a diet rich in fish-flavored food are hard to identify and costly to correct. 

Some fish deemed unsafe for human consumption are used to process pet food. These fish flavored foods can cause the below dangers in your cat.

Too many chemicals

Your cat could signal that it wants more fish at every meal but may be losing weight. That is a sign of hyperthyroidism, an illness that causes the thyroid to produce too many hormones. 

One of the signs of hyperthyroidism is weight loss, even with an increased appetite. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by consuming fish that contain PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers).  

PBDEs are chemicals organically produced in marine organisms; they are also used to make products like flame retardants. 

Your cat may show other symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, and a disheveled coat. 

With the correct approach, hyperthyroidism can be caught and treated by a veterinarian. 

Too much mercury

Cats are susceptible to mercury poisoning if their diet is built around foods with fish like tuna and mackerel. 

Mercury poisoning in cats can show up as a loss of coordination and balance, and signs of neurological disorders. 

Mercury is not recommended in high doses for cats, yet many pet foods have a higher than the recommended quantity of mercury in them. 

If you are feeding fish-flavored food to your cat, it is best to stick with small species of fish like anchovies, sardines, and scallops because the mercury content is lower in smaller fish.

Too much phosphorus 

Kidney disease is already a prominent ailment in cats, especially older ones. 

Because many fish flavored foods contain mostly bones, adding too much fish to a cat’s diet can cause kidney issues due to phosphorus in the bones. 

When a cat has kidney issues, you’ll see symptoms of dehydration, lack of appetite, and occasional weight loss. 

This will sometimes be confused with hyperthyroidism and should be checked by a vet. Kidney disease can be very serious, but your cat can live a long life if this is caught and treated early.

Too much magnesium

Fish-flavored food often contains magnesium. Does your cat meow during urination? Does it seem like the cat is struggling to urinate? 

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Too much magnesium buildup from fish-flavored foods can cause urinary crystals to form, making it uncomfortable for your cat to urinate. 

Some food manufacturers are working to restrict the amount of magnesium found in pet food which is a solid start to helping keep pets healthy. 

A buildup of any chemicals from eating high quantities of fish flavored food will be painful for your cat.

Too much fish

Allergies can happen in response to the immune system defending itself. If your cat develops allergies after eating fish-flavored food, it can be frustrating for you and the cat. 

Like allergies for humans, cats can develop allergies to the foods they eat. 

Fish is one of the most common food-related allergies found in cats because it contains high doses of histamines. These allergies will cause cats to have troublesome skin conditions. 

One of the main issues is hot spots or acute moist dermatitis, angry, red spots that show up on their skin. These can be itchy and painful for the cat and should be treated quickly. 


What if your cat only wants to eat fish-flavored food?

My cat will only eat fish flavored cat food; what should I do

It can be a struggle to get picky cats to eat different food. Because it is dangerous to feed them fish flavored food consistently, you want to work with your cat to find foods they can enjoy. 

Mix foods

If your cat loves fish-flavored food and you are working toward a more balanced diet for its health, try mixing fish-flavored food with other foods for meals. 

Start out with a mixture of half fish flavored food and half of a different flavor. Over several weeks, use less and less fish flavored food in the mixture. 

You can do this with dry food or wet food. Don’t always use the same two mixes; try to mix the fish flavored food with chicken at one meal and with turkey at the next meal. 

Eventually, your cat will get used to the other flavors and be less picky about different flavors. 

Use tuna water

Weaning your cat off fish flavored food will not happen right away. Another way to try changing their diet is to mix some tuna water with their food. 

Using water-based tuna, you can make tuna water for your cat’s meal. 

Mixing a little bit of tuna water with their meal provides them the taste of fish and will hopefully entice them to eat whatever other flavor you put in front of them. 

Over time, you want to use less and less tuna water, and once you’ve weaned them off fish-flavored food, use tuna water only as an occasional treat. 

Because cats sometimes struggle to drink enough water, tuna water can also help ensure your sweet feline gets additional hydration. 

Warm up the food

One way to make eating special and fun for your cat is to warm up their food a little bit. 

If they always eat dry food, pick a chicken or turkey flavor, add some water or chicken broth, and warm it up for a few seconds. 

If they eat wet food, pick a different variety than the fish flavored food they are used to, add a little bit of water or chicken broth, and heat it up for a few seconds. 

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Doing this adds water to the cat’s diet, which helps keep them sufficiently hydrated. 

It also gives them something more exciting to eat, which should help convince them to enjoy different varieties of food. 


How much fish-flavored food is okay?

How much fish food is okay for cats

Cats will often love the taste of fish flavored food, and like humans, it is fun to eat something delicious once in a while and in moderation. 

Here are some ways to give your cat the benefits of fish without feeding them fish flavored food.

Occasionally as a treat

We’ve all heard the term; everything in moderation. Cats can have fish flavored food occasionally without issues. 

You can feed them fish flavored wet food or allow them some chewy treats that are fish flavored. 

It is best to stick with fish flavored treats that contain smaller species, like anchovies and herring, as their main ingredients. 

Another option is Bonito flakes, a treat made from a fast-growing tuna that accumulates fewer toxins. 

These treats can be used as a reward for good behavior or to let your cat know you love them. Either way, they will enjoy the delicious treat. 

Occasionally with the healthiest nutrients

When feeding your cat, always look for brands with healthy nutrients and ingredients you can read. 

Choose brands that have fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, as those are full of benefits. 

Foods rich in omega-3s support a strong heart and help give your cat a shiny coat and healthy skin. 

It is imperative to give them food with a short ingredient list, items that you can easily pronounce. 

Because of how manufacturers can produce their food, it is more important to check the nutrients than the ingredient list. 

Your cat needs to have a healthy balance of fats, carbohydrates, water, vitamins, and protein in its food to have a long, healthy life.

Occasionally in the form of fish oil 

Another way to get your cat plenty of omega-3s is to use fish oil. 

Not only does fish oil help support their heart, but it also provides a shiny coat and can help senior cats maintain strong joints, strengthen their cognitive function and help prevent kidney disease. 

Fish oil gives your cat the benefit of a fish flavor without causing some of the health issues associated with too much fish flavored food. 

It is important to note that fish oils should be carefully selected for their quality of ingredients, picking ones that have sardines, anchovies, and herring. 


Final thoughts

We all want our pets to be happy; feeding them what they want is an easy way to do that. 

Because there are so many potentially dangerous ingredients in fish flavored food and that certain fish ingest harmful chemicals, it is essential to keep fish flavored food out of your cat’s diet. 

There are enough potential hazards to protect your pets from; what they eat should not be one of those hazards. 

Like people, cats should have things in moderation. If you want to treat your cat, do it! Give them fish flavored treats sporadically and only once in a while. It is something they are sure to love!