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Is there any image more stereotypical than a happy cat with a fish? As cat owners, we often worry about many aspects of our pet’s lives. Are they stimulated enough? Are they happy? One of the greatest worries is: are their diets varied enough? Typically, the answer is yes. But that doesn’t stop some owners wanted to treat their cats with extra bits, usually with food intended for humans.

Anchovies and other fish can make a tasty reward for a cat, one that they will pine over from the moment they first smell it. However, it is important when wondering if cats can eat sardines to stress in moderation. Oily fish will not nourish a cat in the same way, and may in fact cause future problems. Even though they may enjoy it all the same.

In this article, we will be asking:

  • Can cats eat sardines (whether in sunflower oil, or in soy bean oil, or in tomato sauce)?
  • Then we will be looking at any alternatives that might be suitable instead.
  • Finally, we will discuss the issues regarding feeding your cat canned fish.

can cats eat sardines

Can Cats Eat Sardines in Sunflower Oil?

Sunflower oil in small quantities can aid glossiness in a cat’s coat and ease the passage of hairballs.

However, too much can induce vomiting and diarrhea as it does tend to have a laxative effect. Allowing the sunflower oil to drain from the can or tin before giving it to your cat is the best practice here.

Can Cats Eat Sardines in Soybean Oil?

Soybeans are in no way in the typical diet of a cat, you might be surprised to learn that it’s oil can serve as a natural alternative to the oil typically found in fish.

As one expert recommends, ‘[…] soy oil isn’t considered ‘bad’ for cats, in fact, many vets are recommending it for situations and individuals who need a boost to their Omega-3 Fatty Acids’.

Can Cats Eat Sardines in Tomato Sauce?

Letting your cat eat sardines in tomato sauce is not typically recommended.

Cats cannot taste spices, not do their digestive systems cope well with acidic foods. Many sardines in tomato sauce also also garnished with garlic or onions, which are, again, unnatural foods for a cat and can prove toxic.

On top of that, cats lack the tastebuds for the flavors and spice, so it is impossible to say whether they enjoy it or not. In any case, it is best to rinse the tomato sauce off the fish before you give it to your cat.

can i give my cat sardines

Issues with Canned Fish

As we’ve already discussed, oily fish will not cause damage to your cat’s health. Unless it is given in large quantities. Fish does not contain a great deal of the nutrition that your cat needs in order to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

In the wild, and in ancient times before they were domesticated, cats did not typically eat a lot of fish, they were not natural prey. Instead, they would have eaten small rodents or baby birds. As such, fish can cause other health issues, such as:

Thiamine Poisoning

Thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin that converts glucose to energy, Like all water soluble vitamins, it is not stored within the body so it is extremely important that the diet have a sufficient amount.  However, unfortunately raw fish contains thiaminase – an enzyme that specifically deteriorates and degrades thiamine.

Pet Education notes: “Pets fed these raw meats as a sole source of food will become thiamine deficient. A deficiency of thiamine results in loss of appetite, weakness, loss of reflexes, loss of nerve control, and eventually death.” Cooking the fish in advance, however, neutralizes the enzyme that causes this issue – therefore cooked fish can be given without the risk of thiamine poisoning. Other issues may still remain, such as:

Risk of Cancer

We previously mentioned that fatty acids are important in cats immune systems. However, it can also be carcinogenic.  “Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to slow the development and metastasis of certain cancers. Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, have been shown to stimulate tumor development.” Again, moderation is the key here.

Weight Gain 

While the cancer risk remains slight, oily fish is high in calories.  Not only can cats gain weight and become obese, they may also develop digestive problems such as diarrhea. In this case, low calorie pet food may help redress the balance.

Mercury Poisoning 

This is an issue that mainly concerns tuna, although all fish contains mercury to some degree. Due to the quantity of mercury in the oceans, it is an inevitable fact that the metal makes its way into the food chain.

The toxins accumulate as it goes up this chain, and is therefore most prevalent in tuna, the apex predator. It is recommended that one eats tuna sparingly, and so the same rule applies for cats (and given their size, they should eat even less)

best food for cats with sensitive stomachs

Final Thoughts: Can Cats Eat Sardines? 

When asking the question, “can I give my cat sardines?” the answer is yes, but with caution and a need for moderation.

Traditional pet food is nutritionally balanced and designed to give your cat all of the vitamins, proteins, and other substances it needs to stay healthy and happy. Specially formulated pet food with occasional treat supplements bought from a pet store are a much better bet.

Cats can eat sardines – whether that is in sunflower oil, soybean oil, or tomato sauce (which has been rinsed first).

Indeed, cats who require an additional source of omega-3 fatty acids will benefit from eating it.  

As CanIGiveMyCat notes: “Fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to your pet’s well-being. If you supplement your pet’s diet with fish, I suggest you use sardines packed in water. Sardines don’t live long enough to store toxins in their bodies, and they’re a terrific source of omega-3s.”

While you can give you cats sardines, you should not do so in order to give them a variety in their diet. Cats need consistency in their food, and any deviation can result in stomach upsets. It is better to give sardines as an occasional treat instead of a food replacement.

The Fluffy Kitty

The Fluffy Kitty blog inspires cat owners around the world to live a more adventurous and eco-friendly life with their cats. Read more about our story on our about us page.

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  1. Hi my cat is a house cat and suffers frequently from stress cystitis. We have meds for him and he will only eat dry food unfortunately. Is there anything else I can do to try and reduce the symptoms occurring

    1. Hi Pat! What are the symptoms in your cat? If it’s straining to urinate, etc., then dry food won’t help. Dry food doesn’t have lots of moisture and that’s where UTIs become frequent in cats who have mainly a dry-food diet. Try to get your kitty a drinking water fountain to entice them to drink more. Or feed with wet treat toppers from Instinct for example.

  2. THE CAT that lived 21 years also ate raw meat that we killed in the fall also raw fish that i caught out of the lake he would sit by me when i milking the cow and I squirt milk right in his mouth . And he never had any commercial dry cat food . So what goes for one cat does not go for all . Every cat is different from one another . THE same as us humans .

  3. I had a cat that live to 21 years and he love potatoe chips yes potatoes chips . He was outdoor cat he could be ACROSS the field but when he heard me open my chips he was right there and we shared many a chips together

  4. I gave my cat Sardines, he almost ate my arm!!! I didn’t know that sardines were like caviar for cats…

  5. Hello, I would like some nutritional advice for my elderly cat (21 yrs). She is blind ( cataracts) so doesn’t go outside but she is still active and playful. She began losing weight about a year ago so I started supplementing her dry food with wet. She recently developed a UTI and the vet told me she likely had hyperthyroidism also but I couldn’t afford the test. She only weighs 6lbs now the UTI set her back some but she’s eating good now. How can I add healthy calories to her diet without upsetting her tummy?

    1. Hi Winnelle, thanks very much for reaching out to us!
      What did your vet say, was s/he concerned about your cat’s weight loss? We are by no means trained experts, but we do know that kitten food contains more, almost double the calories of regular cat food. You can try to slowly mix kitten food with her regular food, to try and give her extra calories without drastically changing her diet (kibble or wet kitten food). You can also try canned fish, such as sardines, but in small amounts.
      Try Hills a/d cat food for your sweet girl (which you can find on Amazon or on Chewy). It’s calorie-dense and made for cats recovering from illnesses who need to put on a little extra weight. We hope this helps! 🙂

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