Can My Cat Eat Tuna?

Bridget is a long-time cat owner, cat sitter, and cat lover with years of feline research and hands-on experience.

The Benefits of Tuna for Our Cats

Tuna is an excellent treat for our cats, and it provides many health benefits. For instance:

  • Tuna Boosts Immunity: Tuna is a food that provides vitamins B12, C, 6, manganese, and potassium. These improve the cat’s immunity!
  • Lower Blood Pressure: The compounds in tuna also reduce blood pressure and remove toxins from their bodies.
  • Lowered Inflammation: Tuna contains lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. These help get rid of free-radicals which cause inflammation and are even linked to cancer.
  • Growth and Strength: Tuna is rich in proteins and amino acids that help cats grow. These nutrients also help to strengthen muscles and tissues.

Our cats would be happy to know that they can enjoy so many great benefits from the tuna that they love! However, there's another side to the coin when we consider the downsides of tuna.

What Are the Risks of Feeding My Cat Tuna?

  • Lack of Variety: If our cats are eating more tuna than cat food, they are at risk for malnutrition because tuna doesn't contain the variety of nutrients that our cats need! The lack of nutrition can also cause seizures, especially in older cats.
  • Mercury: Tuna also contains mercury, and too much tuna for our tiny cat's bodies can cause mercury poisoning! This can cause neurological damage, which can lead to a loss of coordination and balance, rashes, vision impairment, and difficulty walking.
  • Steatitis: Too much tuna can also cause our cats to develop a vitamin E deficiency. This can lead to a condition known as steatitis ( known as “yellow fat disease,”) an inflammation of fatty tissue, which can be very painful, and involves fever, lethargy, pain when handled, abdominal pain, and a lump in the cat's fatty tissue.
  • Thiaminase Overload: Tuna increases the production of Thiaminase, which can prevent the production and distribution of vitamin B1. This weakens our cats' ability to defend the body against disease.
  • Behavioral Problems: Because our cats love tuna so much, they may begin to refuse other foods if they receive tuna too often (this is especially likely in kittens.) If so, this can lead to a problem where the cat becomes malnourished, and refuses the food with the vitamins and minerals they so badly need for growth and health, in favor of the best tasting treat.
  • Tuna/Fish Allergies: In one study of 56 cats with food allergies, fish was a responsible ingredient in 13 (23%) of those cases!

So Why Does My Cat Love Tuna?

It is interesting to note that even though tuna doesn't seem to be the best food for our cats' health, they all seem to love it with a passion like no other. Researchers still do not know exactly why this is.

One hypothesis is that cats lack the receptors for sweet or bitter-tasting foods, and are therefore driven toward salty, fishy foods.

Tuna, or any fish at all, is not a natural part of a cat's diet. So we can't assume that their cravings are based in evolution.

The truth is that right now, nobody knows exactly why cats find tuna to be so enticing, but it is clear when we open a can of tuna that they do! So while tuna has its pros and cons when it comes to our cats, the consensus seems to be that small amounts of tuna every so often lead to healthy (and very happy!) cats.


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© 2017 Bridget F

orangecandy on August 24, 2018:

I made the mistake of offering my cat tuna. Now she is obsessed! Maybe some cats are okay with receiving this treat every once n a while...but not mine. Now, every time a can comes out of the cabinet, she rubs feverishly against my legs. She comes and stares at me when I'm on the computer, waiting for another delectable bite of tuna. I wish I had never given her any at all! So now I have to wean her off of this new offering lots of play time and distractions instead!

Art C. on December 21, 2017:

A normal five ounce can of tuna is perfect for lunch. Four ounces for enough tuna salad for a nice sandwich ... half an ounce of tuna for each of my two cats. It's a party when I open the can.

Nancy Pawlowski from Casper WY on July 27, 2017:

I once heard that you don't see a cat fishing, only birding or mousing. But in the olden days the canned cat food was leftover fish parts from the canning factory. So back then it wasn't a great food to feed a cat (I'm surprised we didn't poison them all by accident with that garbage).

Now a days the food choices are healthier, and a lot of companies are putting out food where the first ingredient is not grain. If they like the smell, maybe a cat food with salmon or fish would be preferable to your tuna?

Jody Beskini from Rockvale, TN on July 19, 2017:

Very good info. Is a good treat once and a while.

Bridget F (author) from USA on July 19, 2017:

Thanks for stopping by Linda! My cats love it as well, it seems like they can smell it from across the house!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 18, 2017:

Thank you for sharing the benefits and disadvantages of tuna for cats. I had to smile when you mentioned a cat's reaction when we open a can of tuna. Whenever I open a can of tuna or salmon, all three of my cats run up to me and ask for a sample. Fish is their favourite treat.

Bridget F (author) from USA on July 18, 2017:

Thank you, it's true, they can be! And thank you for stopping by!

Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on July 18, 2017:

Nice clarification of the pros and cons of this feline favorite. The drawbacks can be sneaky if you don't know what symptoms to watch for.

How Should I Feed Tuna To My Cat?

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

You must first consult your veterinarian before you feed your cat tuna. They can give you appropriate serving sizes, advice for preparing the tuna, and let you know how often you can give tuna to your individual cat.

If your vet says you can try giving your cat tuna, give them a very small amount at first and see how they react. If they have symptoms of an allergic reaction or get sick, stop giving your cat tuna.

Tuna should be only a sometimes-treat for your cat, and it’s best to mix it in with your cat’s regular food. A full can of tuna is far too much for a single serving. One teaspoon of tuna a few times a week should be enough. It should not make up a significant portion of their diet.

You can serve your cat tuna from a can or fresh tuna. If it’s from the can, as mentioned earlier, make sure it’s real tuna in water with no additives or chemicals. You can use the water on your cat’s regular food to encourage them to eat, though this should not be done for a long period of time, and you’ll need to wean your cat off of it eventually.

If you want to serve your cat fresh tuna, make sure it’s boneless and has no added spices or ingredients that may be harmful to your cat.

Does your cat ever get tuna as a treat? What other kinds of food does your cat like to eat? Let us know in the comments below!

Can Cats Eat Tuna?

Tuna is a delicacy that is found in almost any region of the globe and is appreciated due to its great flavor and specific texture. Now the most common way you can find them is in cans but whatever the form you might ask yourself: can cats eat tuna? The answer isn’t as simple as you might guess.

The general opinion is that cats love fish and in popular media you often see cats eating tuna cans as their main meal although since they come in such a large variety there are many things to take into consideration.

Good Nutrients

The omega fatty acids and proteins from the fish are really good for your cat’s health (and for your own) so this is a strong reason for using this as their meal. They help boost their vital organs and their muscles while the potassium, manganese and vitamins B12, C and 6 will improve their immunity. Antioxidants are also helping and they get a lot of energy from the fatty acids or thiamine. Their circulation is also improved by iron, niacin, or riboflavin.

The problem is that many cans of tuna have a lot of salt or oil and those aren’t so good for your furry friend. They assimilate much less salt than us and can get poisoned by large quantities so only choose tuna that doesn’t have any added salt and is kept in water.

Used As Treats

Tuna and fish in general is great but it should be one treat that you give your cat once in a while instead of the main thing they eat. This meat causes a deficiency in vitamin E and this will lead to what is known as the yellow fat disease (or steatitis) which will cause the inflammation of their fatty tissues, a very painful symptom. The saturated fats from the tuna are also dangerous and this fish contains a lot of mercury (like most fish) that can poison your pet.

Cat Food With Tuna

The cans that contain tuna and are made specifically for cats try to balance the amount of fish with other things they need so that the problems mentioned above won’t show up. Since vitamin E deficiency is a risk the manufacturers add additional vitamins and minerals to compensate and thus these are a much safer alternative than simply giving your cat a share of the can that you opened for yourself.

If you have some cans of tuna lying around always check the ingredients before feeding it to your cat because these vary in quality and can be filled with preservative oils or flavorings that might do serious harm to your cat. Spicy variants, tomato flavors and those with a lot of added oil or salt should definitely be avoided because they will do more damage than good.

Short Answer:

Yes but it should be done in moderation since they can lead to some health issues if they are made an omnipresent part of their meal.

Can Cats Eat Raw Tuna? Things to Know About

Cats have a never-ending love affair with tuna. It’s tasty, smelly, and very nutritious. But the question is this: can cats eat raw tuna? I don’t usually recommend feeding raw fish to cats since it’s prone to contamination. Also, raw tuna may contain bacteria that can be killed through heat exposure or cooking. Whether your cat is healthy or sick, you should never feed it raw tuna. Always cook it and ensure that it’s prepared well.

Health benefits of tuna for cats

Before we dive deep into the potential harm of tuna, let me discuss some potential benefits. Take note that these benefits are only achievable if you serve tuna cooked and in moderate amounts. The following are some of the potential perks of tuna in cats:

  • A good source of Omega fatty acids. One of the biggest benefits cats get from tuna is its fatty acids. These substances help reduce the risk of heart disease while boosting the coat health of the kitty.
  • Ease arthritis. Initial findings suggest that small servings of tuna from time to time can help alleviate feline arthritis symptoms. This is due to the anti-inflammatory effects of the nutrients in tuna.
  • Rich in protein. Tuna is one of the fishes that boast high levels of protein. This helps build your cat’s muscles for a healthy body. However, tuna shouldn’t be the main source of protein for your kitty. It should be blended with other food items that don’t contain too much mercury.
  • Prevents skin diseases. Omega fatty acids also nourish your cat’s skin. This will help prevent the development of skin problems. Still, tuna is just one of the food that has this benefit. Proper grooming is still necessary for the health of your cat’s coat.

Can tuna upset a cat’s stomach?

Tuna itself isn’t going to upset a cat’s tummy. If well-prepared, it’s a good source of Omega fatty acids that keep your cat’s coat healthy.

However, the manner of preparation is the deal-breaker. Raw tuna might be tasty and appealing for your kitty, but it’s also mired with bacteria. Pre-packaged and frozen raw tuna is prone to Salmonella contamination. If your cat or you ingests it raw, the contaminated raw tuna can cause food poisoning.

But can my cat eat tuna sushi? Human-grade tuna sushi is usually safe for people, but not for cats. Even a small trace of contaminants can cause stomach upset.

Aside from that, the thiaminase level in raw fish is much higher than what your cat can handle. Thiaminase is an enzyme that breaks down the essential Vitamin B.

If your cat ingested too much thiaminase, its body supply of Vitamin B would dwindle. Over time, this will lead to neurological problems that will put your cat’s life in danger.

Skipjack and yellowfin tuna contain high thiaminase levels, so feeding it raw to your cat is a no-no. And for the sake of preventing food poisoning, you shouldn’t feed raw tuna at all. Take note that even if your cat’s diet has high Vitamin B levels, thiaminase can still overpower it.

Aside from that, not all cats love tuna. Some can have a fish allergy, much like how humans can develop the same condition. If your cat vomits and experiences diarrhea after eating tuna, you should bring it to the vet for proper treatment.

Mercury poisoning in cats

One of the biggest concerns with tuna consumption is mercury poisoning. This can happen to both humans and cats, regardless if the tuna is raw or not.

Tuna is high in mercury , which happens to be a highly toxic metal. Some signs of mercury poisoning in cats are lack of coordination, poor balance, dizziness, and weird behavior. If you notice these symptoms to your cat after eating tuna, you should bring it to the vet. It can either be due to thiaminase or mercury, which are both life-threatening.

Aside from that, consistent mercury consumption can lead to kidney disease. It’s said to increase the kidney’s protein levels that will become a burden to the vital organ.

Although a small serving of cooked tuna won’t hurt your cat, repetitive feeding can. You shouldn’t make tuna a major part of your cat’s diet. Tuna-flavored cat kibble is usually safe since it has controlled amounts of real tuna.

How much tuna is safe for cats?

Tuna should only be a supplemental treat and not a big part of your cat’s diet. A single chunk should be enough for the day. If you want to give your cat tuna regularly, it should only comprise 10% of their daily calorie intake.

Cats can get addicted to tuna, and they can consume dangerous amounts if you let them. Even if your kitty begs for more, keep its tuna intake to small amounts from time to time.

Also, tuna alone isn’t enough to sustain your cat’s nutritional needs. Sure, it’s rich in Omega fatty acids, but your cat needs more than that. Even humans can’t live off tuna alone.

If you’re going to feed canned tuna to your cat, choose one that’s in brine. Tuna in oil isn’t ideal since the oil content can fatten your cat.

Can cats eat tuna steak?

Well-done tuna steaks are fine for cats. However, you should watch out over the seasoning. Too much salt isn’t safe for cats as well as other herbs that may have toxicity to felines. Also, avoid too much oil, especially if you have an already overweight kitty.

No matter what the preparation is, you should serve tuna well-cooked and in small amounts. Also, it shouldn’t be a daily thing. Once a week should be fine.

Can cats eat albacore tuna?

Of all the types of tuna, you have to steer clear of albacore tuna when it comes to your cat. Albacore contains mercury levels that are three times higher than skipjack or other fishes. This is due to the fact that albacore is a larger tuna species.

Chunk-light tuna is the best option if you’re planning to feed tuna to your cat. If your cat happened to consume albacore, you should observe it for potential symptoms of mercury poisoning.

Aside from albacore, fishes like swordfish, king mackerel, shark, bigeye tuna, and tilefish contain high mercury levels. You should also watch out for ahi tuna, which can have moderate to high levels of the dreaded metal.

Is tuna cat food bad for cats?

Tuna cat food is usually tuna-flavored but with added veggies and fruits that are suitable for felines. Complete and balanced cat food is the best choice for your cat, regardless of its flavor.

Still, it’s worth checking the mineral components of the tuna cat food. When in doubt, you can consult with your cat’s veterinarian to know if it’s too much. The vet can also suggest safe options if you’re switching your cat to tuna-flavored cat food.


Can cats eat raw tuna? Vets agree that it’s not a wise decision. Raw fish contains bacteria and contaminants that can upset a cat’s stomach. Aside from cooking the tuna, you should only give it in small servings from time to time. It should never be a daily meal addition because tuna contains high levels of mercury.

Tuna is higher in mercury than other fish.

Most fish contain trace amounts of mercury, and the higher up on the food chain a fish is, the more mercury is accumulated in the fish. Tuna is relatively high on the food chain and therefore contains higher amounts of mercury than other fish, resulting in an increased risk of mercury poisoning. In particular, canned white tuna (albacore) has mercury levels almost three times higher than skipjack tuna (light tuna).

What should you feed your tuna-loving cat? Make sure the basis of your cat's diet is a high-quality pet food formulated specifically for cats. Healthy, grain free canned cat foods such as Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula or Blue Buffalo Wilderness have salmon as the first ingredient and may satisfy your cat's craving for fish.

If you choose to feed your cat human-grade canned tuna, limit it to an occasional treat. Try to choose "chunk light" tuna in water rather than "white" tuna. Better yet, consider a healthy cat treat such as Grizzly Salmon Fillet Treats, or PureBites which are freeze-dried, single ingredient treats.

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