Is It Okay To Feed My Cats Canned Tuna?

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

Here is a scenario:

You totally forgot about restocking your cat’s food until it came meowing with those round, hopeful eyes. You look around your kitchen for an extra bag or can somewhere, and found a can of tuna instead.

You know tuna is in many cat food recipes your cat enjoys. So you wonder: Is it okay to feed my cats canned tuna?

The answer is complicated. Tuna is a better alternative to table scraps in case you run out of cat food. However, it lacks many essential nutrients your cat needs and may contain mercury. Canned Tuna may be a safe emergency option for your cat but not something you should feed them too frequently.

Don’t get me wrong, tuna isn’t unhealthy for cats. Cats tend to love the taste. However, there are many reasons human-grade products aren’t exactly right for cat. They may not fulfill your cat’s dietary needs and may even affect their digestion. That is just one of the reasons you should only feed them canned tuna as a last resort.

Look at this kitty devouring an entire bowl of tuna. They actually do love it.

You might even be tempted to treat them with it every now and then. Before you do, here is all you need to know about the pros and cons of feeding canned tuna to your cat.

The Good

Let me reiterate: Tuna isn’t always bad for your cat.

Tuna, like any other fish, is rich in nutrients your cat needs. It has tons of essential fatty acids that keep the coat healthy and brain sharp. It has lots of healthy proteins to keep your cat physically agile and sharp.  

Nutrients your cat can get from tuna Includes Vitamin B, Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and plenty of antioxidants as well. Plus, let’s not forget how most cats love the scent of seafood and run for the bowl the moment you fill it up. So, if you have a picky eaters in the house, tuna can actually tempt them to eat.

Some breeds like British Shorthair love tuna and seafood in general.

The Bad

We have talked about all the nutrients tuna has to offer your cat – but then there are essential nutrients that tuna lacks as well. For instance, there is no vitamin E for your baby. Vitamin E deficiency in cats is a problem common among cats that live on table scraps, or cats that only eat single source cat foods. It can lead to several health issues such as steatites or yellow fat disease.

An let’s not forget that tuna is a deep-water. Even in the wild deep water fish like tuna are not a part of cat’s natural diet. Naturally, they don’t properly fulfill the dietary needs. They may have too little of one nutrient but too much of another.

Tuna, for instance, has more thiamine than your cat requires. While it is safe for occasional consumption, regular consumption carries a risk of thiamine poisoning.

Lastly, a slight oversight from your side can be extremely dangerous for your kitty. If you are not careful about the kind of canned tuna you are choosing, you might end up feeding your kitty too much sodium and other preservatives. High sodium content in cat’s diet is linked with hypothyroidism in cats.

The Ugly

I know I said tuna is generally safe, but there is a side that gets a bit ugly as well.

One of the biggest risk associated with canned tuna is mercury poisoning. It is a concern for us as well but the risks are much higher for your little kitty.

While all saltwater fish are known to have a little bit of mercury in them, tuna has slightly more than most of those fish. According to FDA, tuna has more mercury than salmon and sardines.  

Here it also helps to add that your cat may not even need the amount of unsaturated fats tuna has – not on a regular basis at least. Too much unsaturated fats may be good for us but our cats need only so much of it. Higher quantity of saturated fats also contributes to vitamin E deficiency in cats.

Learn more about the risks of making tuna a regular part of your cat’s diet.  

The Right Tuna for Your Cat

One thing you really need to make sure is that it is tuna in water and not in oil that you serve to your cat.

The one with oil is not a healthy option for cats. In most cans, the oil also contains salt and other seasoning, which may not sit well with your cat’s system. Be sure to check the label for any additives before you put that tuna in your cat’s bowl.

Also bigger tuna species such as Albacore may have more mercury than smaller tuna. So, if you really have to feed your cat canned tuna, go for tuna light.

Tuna in Cat Food

So far, it seems like tuna is not a good option. Before you come to conclusion, let’s revisit the main reason we are advising against regular consumption of canned tuna.

  • Tuna doesn’t fulfill your cat’s dietary requirements

However, tuna can make for a good ingredient in a commercial cat food that also has other ingredients to ensure a complete and balanced meal for your baby. If you think your cat is fond of tuna, you can bring home a bag of commercial cat food with tuna as one of the main ingredients.  

Two good options you can try include Castor & Pollux Pristine Wild Caught Tuna and Whitefish and Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Nicoise.

Related Questions

Are human-grade food safe for cats?

People tend to believe that what is safe for humans to consume might also be safe for cats. While human-grade food is hygienic and non-toxic it may not always fulfill your cat’s dietary needs. It ca always have too much or too little of something essential.

Is tuna a part of cat’s natural diet?

No, tuna is a deep-water fish and even the wilder ancestors of your cats didn’t bother to catch it. Naturally, tuna is not enough to fulfill your cat’s daily dietary needs. However, cats love the taste and you can always feed them as a treat.

Do all type of tunas have mercury?

Yes, all tunas have found to have mercury in them. However, the level of mercury contamination is the highest in bigger species i.e. Albacore Tuna. The least of amount of mercury is found in light tuna i.e. Skipjack or Tongol. If you want a low mercury alternative, you can go for cod, salmon, or sardines instead.

Conclusion

The verdict is simple: Yes, you can feed canned tuna to your cat – only if it is absolutely necessary for your cat. It is more of a treat alternative than a meat alternative for your cat. Picky eaters may show some interest in an otherwise bland food if you’ll add chunks of tuna on top.

However, there are a few things you need to make sure about the product you are putting in their bowl. It should be small tuna with no harmful additive, not even oil and salts, in it.

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