Many cat owners can open a can of tuna and hear their pets come running. Some cats don't seem to be able to get enough of the fatty fish, but just because they love it doesn't mean it's good for them. There are serious risks associated with feeding a cat too much tuna. Owners armed with the facts can serve the fish to their cats in ways that won't lead to health problems down the line.
Anyone in the process of introducing tuna to a kitten should take them for a wellness check with their vet first. Your cat may have unique nutritional needs due to their breed or a health condition. Cats tend to love tuna and hate change, so taking the extra step to verify that tuna will be safe for them may save both owner and kitten heartache in the future.
Many healthy cat food blends are flavored with tuna, which might be a good alternative for cats that won't eat anything else. A kitty that's not feeling well might be enticed to eat if their regular food is laced with bits of tuna. Dripping some juice from a can into a cat's water dish can encourage them to drink as well.
Contrary to cartoons and old wives' tales, fish isn't always a healthy meal for a cat. In fact, cats are more likely to be allergic to fish than any other meat. If a cat has recently eaten tuna and develops red bumps on their skin, loses fur, starts itching, or vomits, that could be an allergic reaction.
Tuna has the highest mercury levels of any fish, and cats, with their tiny bodies, can develop mercury poisoning from eating too much tuna over a long period. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include an unsteady gait, seizures, abnormal behavior, loss of coordination, involuntary movements, and blindness. Cats exhibiting any of these symptoms need veterinary attention.
While tuna is risky in large amounts, cats who aren't allergic can have bits of tuna as an occasional treat. Many vets recommend a 10% rule; only 10% of a cat's daily calories should come from treats and snacks. Most of a cat's diet should be premium commercial cat food, though lean cooked meats like beef and poultry can be added for variety.
Cats should always eat human-grade meat, as pet meat or scraps could contain contaminants or additives that are bad for them. The head, bones, and tail should be removed if the tuna came whole. These bits can be a choking hazard for cats. Even when safely swallowed, the sharp edge of a bone could damage a cat's digestive system.
When feeding a cat a fatty fish like tuna or salmon, it's best to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. Raw fish is more likely to upset a cat's digestion and carries a higher risk of foodborne illness. Sometimes parasites or bacteria from uncooked tuna can be transferred from the cat to a human on their fur or mouths.
Not all varieties of tuna are created the same. Chunk-light tuna is lower in fat and empty calories. Tuna canned in oil or flavored with salt and preservatives are worse for a cat's overall health and digestion than fresh tuna or tuna canned in fresh water. Owners should avoid albacore tuna, as it has the highest levels of mercury.
Tuna has nutritional value for a cat. It's a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A and D. Owners who want their cats to have these benefits should supplement their diet with other foods that are high in vitamins E and B1. Feeding a cat any one food, unless it's nutritionally complete cat food, is a recipe for malnutrition.
Cats tend to be picky eaters, and a cat that has recently discovered tuna may begin turning their nose up at other foods in the hope of getting more. The solution is not to open up a tin every day. Discuss the issue with a vet, who may be able to suggest ways of getting the cat to eat healthier foods. One solution might be turning to commercial cat food with tuna as one component.
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