Is Feeding Cats Tuna Safe?

Feeding cats tuna can be beneficial to cat health if you understand how much tuna to feed your cat and the best types of tuna to feed him. Tuna contains a number of beneficial nutrients from protein to omega-3 fatty acids. On the flipside, tuna, like many types of other fish, also contains mercury pollution. Fortunately, there are ways for your cat to enjoy the benefits of tuna without ingesting toxic amounts of mercury. First let’s discuss the pros and cons of feeding cats tuna.

Pros and Cons of Feeding Your Cat Tuna

The overwhelming amount of research online suggests that not eating tuna can be hazardous to your cat’s health. Unlike processed, tuna-flavored cat food, real tuna does not contain preservatives, coloring, fish meal, additives, or other synthetic chemicals that can damage cat’s organs and digestive system. A steady diet of hard, low-quality, processed cat food can also cause kidney and urinary problems. As a result, many veterinarians suggest a diet consisting of a mixture of premium brand hard and soft food. While it is okay to feed your cat tuna form time to time instead of commercial soft food, you should never feed your cat a diet that consists only of tuna.

If your cat eats tuna only, he will certainly consume a healthy amount of protein and omega 3s. However, your cat will not be getting enough vitamin E, calcium, sodium, copper, iron, and other essential vitamins, especially if you feed him boneless tuna. If your cat becomes deficient in any of these vitamins or minerals, several conditions may develop. For example, Vitamin E deficiency can lead to yellow fat disease. This condition causes inflammation and fat necrosis (damaged fatty tissue) under the skin.

Symptoms can be life threatening and include:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • hypersensitivity

Although it will take quite a bit of tuna to cause mercury poisoning in larger animals, for small animals such as cats, even one can a week may be too much.

Mercury poisoning can cause:

  • lack of coordination
  • muscle weakness
  • rashes
  • mental disturbance
  • memory loss
  • vision impairment

If you have been feeding your cat large amounts of tuna on a regular basis and he has any of the symptoms listed above, you should take him to a vet immediately. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, herbs or supplements, plenty of fresh water or all of the above, depending on the level of poisoning.

Feeding Your Cat Tuna Safely

According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), feeding your cat tuna as a treat here and there is perfectly fine. Tuna should be treated as a treat and not as a regular meal. So, a teaspoon of tuna a few times a week is ok. Feeding your cat tuna “nearly exclusively,” could pose significant problems (as listed above), according to the ASPCA. 

According to Mindy Bough, veterinary technician for the ASPCA Per Nutrition and Science Advisory Service, the bottom line is, premium commercial foods for domestic cats are best. Because these foods are specifically formulated to meet your cat’s special dietary needs, there is no danger of vitamin and nutrient deficiency or mercury poisoning. In addition to feeding your cat tuna—sparingly, table food should never make up more than five to ten percent of your cat’s diet.