More often than not, cats are happy enough with a diet consisting of the standard cat food. It tends to be (not all brands..) nutritionally healthy and suggests suitable portions, and is available for cats of all ages and all health conditions. Nevertheless, cat owners often feel the need to include extra supplements in their pet’s diet.
One common addition to a cat’s daily diet is fish oil. The common trope of cats enjoying fish (despite it not being their natural diet) has long been enjoyed by cartoonists all around the world, but cats are not natural fish eaters.
In this article, we will discuss what fish oil is, why you would give it to your cat, we will discuss the various benefits and dangers of giving it, and answer the question: “can I give my cat fish oil?”
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil, simply, comes from the fatty tissue of oily fish. Usually, it is associated with providing high levels of Omega 3, and common wisdom calls it ‘brain food’. In humans, fish oil is used as a holistic treatment to mitigate the effects of rheumatism, arthritis, and high blood pressure – it is generally seen as a good thing to eat.
The situation when giving your cats fish oil is a little more difficult. The truth is, fish oil, whether delivered directly from fish, or through a supplement has many positive effects, but cats have different digestive systems to us. One cannot apply human dietary requirements over their pet and expect the same results.
The Benefits of Giving Your Cat Fish Oil
Fish oil can be very beneficial whether given as a supplement or fed in the form of fish. For cats, fish oil can help with the following:
Keeping Coats Shiny: Oil is a necessary component in keeping a cat’s fur glossy and sleek. More than that, it also helps alleviate issues that pets may have with their skin. According to PetCarerX:
“It will ease inflammation due to allergies, and reduce itchy skin and dandruff. This can also be an effective way to potentially decrease the incidence of hot spots on your pet.”
Helps ease the passage of hairball: After grooming themselves (and grooming their nice, new shiny coat) Cats need to be able to pass hairballs effectively to pass the loose hair and dirt that they have swallowed in the process. Oil can help induce the passage of a hairball, which looks like a dark, cylindrical plug when it comes out.
To keep joints healthy: In line with how humans use fish oil, this specifically concerns cats with arthritis and older felines. The fish oil, because it is anti-inflammatory can serve to alleviate the pain that they feel (especially when they jump, which they may start to avoid doing if they are in too much discomfort) in their legs.
- Other Omega -3 Properties: Omega-3 is a wonder substance, though not quite capable of working miracles.
As Pet Carer X notes of the other properties, it contains,
“DHA, the other omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil, is important in brain and eye development in puppies and kittens. Giving fish oil to pregnant or nursing pets can benefit the babies once they’re born. In some studies, fish oil has slowed the growth of cancer. Though more studies are necessary to reach conclusive results, some veterinarians recommend it for any pets with cancer.”
The Dangers of Giving Your Cat Fish Oil
However, despite the amazing qualities that fish oil possesses, one should be cautious when administering it to cats. As stated before, they do not need as much as humans, and giving them the same amount is inadvisable. Risks associated with giving a cat fish oil include, but are not limited to:
- The danger of allergic reaction in some cats: as Little Big Cat notes:
“Many cats are sensitive or even allergic to fish; it is one of the top three most common feline food allergens […] Fish-based foods contain high levels of histamine, a protein involved in allergic reactions.”
- Reactions to anti-inflammatory properties: While helping with joint pain is an obvious plus, anti-inflammatory qualities of fish oil can have negative effects, such as affecting the production of platelets. According to PetMD,
“The anti-inflammatory properties of EPA and DHA also interfere with wound healing. Inflammation at the site of a wound promotes the migration of white blood cells to the site to begin early wound healing processes.”
- Fish lacks nutritional value for cats: As mentioned before, cats are not natural fish-eaters, far more inclined to rodents and other small mammals in ancient times. When an owner gives their cat fish, it might be because they want to vary the diet, but they will not receive the necessary nutrition that they need, apart from a protein boost.
- Increased Calories: Beyond a lack of nutritional value, fish oil is also very high in calories. Cats, especially more sedentary ones or those who do not get much time outside, can easily gain weight. In return, they may develop further problems such as arthritis or a thyroid problem.
- Heavy Metal Poisoning: Although typically a risk for cats eating actual fish, it does bear acknowledging. As apex predators, tuna and swordfish contain a high level of Omega-3. This is because they ingested it from other marine life. Unfortunately, this means they also carry the greatest accumulation of toxins. Mercury remains one of the main culprits here – it does not degrade and can cause serious issues.
Conclusion: Can I Give My Cat Fish Oil?
When asking ‘can I give my cat fish oil?’ the answer is yes: but sparingly and only when necessary. It is advisable to give a dosage suitable for their weight. Cats love the smell of fish; it is often used to tempt cats with little appetite, and they can go crazy for it at the best of times.
Getting a cat to eat it is typically not an issue. However, some cats may have trouble or lack of interest in taking larger capsules. Far better, and avoiding many of the nutritional and toxin issues associated with fish, is to give them fish oil supplements to be taken with regular meals of nutritionally balanced cat food. Their coats, joints, and hairballs will improve remarkably, as long as you are diligent!
…now what about sardines? 😉