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Is Tuna Bad For Cats?
Posted by Abby Rosenberg on July 3, 2012
Filed under PetMeds Spotlight

Cats love seafood, and most cats are especially fond of canned tuna and tuna juice. While tuna is fine for cats in moderation or as a treat, too much canned tuna can be bad for your cat. Fish is a great source of protein, but there are a few reasons why a steady diet of human-grade canned tuna can cause health problems for your cat.

Tuna alone is not nutritionally complete, and many cats are allergic to 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, leading to an increased risk of mercury poisoning.

Tuna is also high in unsaturated fats.  While it is healthy for humans to choose unsaturated fats in their diet, too much can be bad for cats. Consuming too much tuna can cause your cat to develop a Vitamin E deficiency, leading to an inflammation of the fatty tissue, a condition known as steatitis (“yellow fat disease”).  Cats that consume large amounts of red tuna in particular are more prone to this painful condition.

Commercial canned “tuna” cat foods are not just straight tuna, but have other added ingredients, vitamins and minerals as well as the amino acid taurine, which is essential to cats.  Just make sure to feed your cat a high-quality pet food formulated for cats, and if you choose to feed your cat human-grade canned tuna, limit it to an occasional treat.

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26 Responses to “Is Tuna Bad For Cats?”

  1. Susan Hernandez on 27 Dec 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    I feed my cat a couple of ounces of tuna a day as a treat (1 ounce in the morning and 1 in the evening). She still eats her regular cat food also. She seems to be doing fine. She is a 2 1/2 year old Tabby that weighs 9.6 pounds!

  2. Trevor Lowe on 06 Feb 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    I agree with Susan, I’ve got 2 rescued cats that share about 1/3 can of Tuna in water daily. They would attack and kill me in my sleep if they stopped getting it. I’ve had them both for over a year, and they are very healthy. Keep in mind, they eat cat food 98% of the time. The tuna is just an evening treat.

  3. A heads up for pet owners. on 19 Jun 2013 at 2:51 am #

    [...] to feed cats human tuna. Google it. You'll find all kinds of information on feeding tuna to cats. http://www.petmeds.org/petmeds-spotlight/is-tuna-bad-for-cats/#.UcFUm_mTjfM googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1364420449836-3'); __________________ Honor Student: School of [...]

  4. Mom on 07 Sep 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Cats can become addicted to human grade tuna. It should be given as a weekly or less treat.

  5. Russell on 03 Oct 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    I opened a can of tuna for my lunch today and my cat came running from the bedroom. He smelled it 45 feet from the kitchen and was just talking up a storm.So I gave him about 1/4 of the can and now he seems very lathargic. Getting on my lap and now sleeping on MY pillow. Please tell me I didn’t make my cat sick. I’m still paying off his $430.00 dental bill.

  6. Mark Brennan on 02 Nov 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Hi Russell,

    I’m sure your cat is fine. I have been feeding one of mine tuna 2 or 3 times a week for the last 12 years and she is fine :)

  7. LDV on 05 Nov 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    I have a 12 year old cat that I have given tuna reats (1/2 tsp of tuna) am every day for his life. He eats Purina cat food for his meals. I have increased the treats lately to pm as well and have noticed he has been in pain and has been having urinary spasms. Its not easy to notice…most cats are silent sufferers. I took him to the vet and they told me he has crystals in his urine. for the last two months I have had him on antibiotics, anti-inflammatorys, and a decrystalizer of some sort…Its like torture to him. I love my cat to be happy but I won’t sacrifice his health for a simple treat…we’ll find something else special. Thanks for the input.

  8. Robin on 21 Nov 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    The idea that a cat who is being fed canned tuna frequently (weekly or more) is “fine” is a misunderstanding of the health problems associated with tuna. The heavy metals accumulate in the liver, thyroid, pancreas and kidneys, and destroy the digestive system, causing issues that a owner may not see symptoms from for awhile. Please don’t be stubborn by continuing to feed your pet anything toxic, just because there are no immediate symptoms. You are shortening your pet’s life.

  9. Dawn on 14 Dec 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    I give my cats tuna and now one is very sick with digestive problems. I believe it is from eating tuna. I am not giving them tuna anymore.

  10. kim on 24 Dec 2013 at 9:36 am #

    with the Fukishima nuclear disaster the food chain is contaminated with radioactivity.
    It accumulates in phytoplankton /seaweed and works it’s way up the ocean food chain.
    It is already found in fish. It will soon work its way into many, many ocean products.

  11. Mectu on 29 Dec 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Hello everyone. The lead answer to this question is four and a half out of five stars. As for the other posts, some good, but most notably the one mentioning the nuclear accident in Japan. Please resist the urge to expound on the basis of ignorance. When there are science related issues, best to just listen if you are not knowledgable. 43% of US electrical power needs are met by hundreds of coal burning plants nationwide. Each plant burns the equivalent of a fifty car trainload of coal a day. Coal is about one to two percent uranium, thorium and plutonium. When coal is burned, these radioactive substances are released in the form of tiny particulate matter, which is fed into the atmosphere. The combined output of the world’s coal plants, mostly ours and China, puts approximately 15 thousand tons of radioactive material into the air EACH YEAR. The total amount of radioactive material released by all the nuclear accidents in history amounts to a few grams. This huge dump of radiation every day is because nuclear no nothings have stopped building of nuclear plants, and the only workable alternative (one we can use today, rather than talk about it and research it) is coal, which ironically puts as much radioactive material into the air as twenty thousand of your average car made entirely out of thorium, uranium and plutonium each year, which I believe accounts for many of our health problems. It is truly frightening what a small group of individuals, capitalizing on the fear and ignorance of people can do to make everything harder for everyone else, but that is exactly what the no nothing anti-nuclear activists have done. The Japanese power plant was less than one day’s output from the coal plants. Here endeth the lesson. To learn more, from one of our nation’s leading scientific minds, put “Dr. Bill Wattenburg” into your browser, and go to his site. Good day, and careful what you post.

  12. Derek on 30 Dec 2013 at 7:52 am #

    I love how there is a page devoted to the reasons why a certain food is bad for your cat yet immediately after there is a bunch of comments that say things like, “… well I’m feeding fluffy foo foo and she’s fine.” She won’t be fine when she ends up in the vet hospital. Then you’ll be blaming something else for the problem when it was your own stupid fault.

  13. Cjay on 20 Jan 2014 at 1:39 am #

    I just got 2 cats that are 1 year old on valentines day I ran out of their food and I have them a can of tuna to share I’m wondering if that can be harmful to them if it was 1 can between the two of them?

  14. dpprice on 06 Mar 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    I have a cat that has inflammatory gum decease and can’t be given pills orally ….. it has to be crushed up and hidden in a very small amount of tuna every night and I was concerned about feeding her tuna as well. I guess it’s a catch 22 for using tuna as a means of administering medicine.

  15. CB on 22 Mar 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    I’m reading comments here. When I hit a cash flow snag during a caregiver phase, I fed my cat human canned tuna. Within days – not making the connection immediately I noticed \Wow! What is with her fur- it feels like silk!!!!\ Then I started thinking back to any recent changes. Other than a minor other change of someone visiting less often, the only other change was the human tuna vs canned tuna.

    I’ve continued giving her some human tuna.
    Where I am going with this is I think I’m looking into making her own food and getting pet food recipes. There is something quality – wise I think in the higher grade tuna meant for people.

    With this said – I trust the Vet. So I’ll need to limit consumption.
    But otherwise she cries for soft food ( before the human tuna experiment), but leaves / wastes half.
    Human tuna she craves and wants more and more.

    I suspect maybe the question us the same as for people- \Do you enjoy quality of life and maybe lose a year or two — or do you eat right every day and maybe live to an old age?\
    Individual choice.

    Balance for me and my little one is important. And she sure loves her tuna – and her fur is proof.
    It’s absolutely beautiful! Shiny- silky- just a wow !

  16. RicRah on 27 Mar 2014 at 11:21 am #

    My cat Mr. Tibbs loves canned tuna, I ran out of regular cat food, and I only gave him half a can ( 16 lb cat so he’s pretty big – not fat just big ) although I did get very nervous feeding it to him because I know that you are not supposed to give cats onions, and unfortunately, canned human tuna is sopping with vegetable broth 90% of the time unless you are lucky enough to find ones that aren’t in your health food sections, and even then, most are. The issue is that vegetable broth almost always contains onions, and cats can get very sick from onions ( or garlic, chives, shallots, those bulb veggies ) it is known to cause anaemia and if too much is given, the cat could be lethargic, appear to have breathing problems or have vomiting or diarrhea, so please be cautious feeding human cat food! I used to put chicken broth in his water all the time, just a drop to make him hydrate more, and I stopped doing that for the same reason, I just didn’t realize how toxic those bulb veggies can actually be for the cats

  17. douglas on 17 Apr 2014 at 7:12 am #

    As George Burns always said “everything in moderation”. My cats are 9 & 10 years old and I have fed them canned tuna since they were kittens, but only off and on, never as a sold diet. My kitties are quite spry for their age and so from a decade of tuna feeding i say its ok (unless in the case of allergies) to treat them once in a while. Finally to the dipwad who wrote the 900 line article about power plants, this is about feline diet not your vaaaaast knowledge of environment. Kitties rule!

  18. seth on 30 Jun 2014 at 1:18 am #

    My cat passed 18 and he’s still in good health, mobile and eats about 1/2 can human grade yellow fin tuna every day (amongst other things). He’s not fat, never has been. The vet said that I should stop giving him tuna at the age of 8 (i.e., a decade ago) because it’d kill him due to his “failing kidneys” (high protein, phosphate and all these BS). He vent on a weeklong hunger strike, I gave in and he keeps getting his tuna ever since. Though his azotemia got worse over the past decade, he’s still not anaemic, still eats well and still seems happy; – as long as I don’t make changes to his normal diet. BTW, he always refused to eat the cat-specific tuna and most cat-specific seafood preparations. Either he’s a miracle cat or, perhaps, the cat-specific tuna/seafood is not so good for cats after all.

  19. Pris K on 01 Jul 2014 at 5:58 am #

    Im glad I found this , I either give my cat raw chicken as a nightly treat or a teaspoon of canned albacore tuna. I was wondering about the sodium content in canned tuna maybe not being good, but never thought about the mercury or other things that might be harmful.

    I give her a third of a cup to a half a cup of dry grain free cat food daily and lamb lungs as a treat.

    I will stop giving her the tuna and buy her some canned grain free cat food instead.

    thanks

  20. Bill B on 23 Jul 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    Is there any actual science or scientific studies that prove that canned tuna without added ingredients is bad for a cat, or is everything anecdotal comments about THEIR cat, old wives tales, or “professional” biased opinion? I am searching for actual science on the internet, but only find discussions like this. I don’t have a problem listening to actual evidence, but this opinion trading is just annoying. With Blue Buffalo at $1.49 a can and chunk light tuna at $.68, why not just use $.45 a can of shredded tuna Friskies? Tuna cat food is made from the same tuna (or worse) that goes into tuna cat food, so arguments about mercury, or radiation would be just as valid for tuna cat food as regular human canned tuna. I could see the issue of Taurine deficiency if you only fed canned tuna and nothing else, but a lack of Taurine would not HARM your cat per se, it only means that the cat would need to get that ingredient from another source. Does anyone have any science?

  21. Eliz on 01 Aug 2014 at 1:41 am #

    I have a one year old kitty. She’s small type but I know she needs more weight on her. Can someone help me put noticeable weight on her quickly. I wonder if it makes her feel bad. Also can someone tell me, how often do you feed your cats. I feed mine twice a day. Thanks!!

  22. SmartyCat on 08 Aug 2014 at 7:10 am #

    I gave my mother a kitten a month ago and aside from about 6-8 cans of special kitten food the lil’ pooper has been getting people canned tuna (with vegetable broth) because she (and I) believed it was a higher quality food. I’m glad I decided to see what else would benefit a kitten’s growth and health because canned tuna contains vegetable broth which contains onions and onions are toxic to cat’s blood, as I understand it. The kitten is far from anemic, in fact we should all wish for his energy and strength, but whether he likes it or not he’s going to have to eat cat tuna, or other canned cat foods. And earlier I learned that the worst canned cat food is better for pussy than the best kibbles. Unless the canned cat food is made overseas then all bets are off.

  23. Dennis on 02 Sep 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    I also give my 3 cats tuna, they share 1 can each day, and I leave them dry cat food to eat during the day with water. They don’t like the regular cat food in the can, they would never eat it, so I had to look for another alternative. They are doing fine.

  24. deidre ferrentino on 03 Sep 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    I was giving my 12 year old cat twice a day just a drop of tuna in a can amount less than
    a size of a dime, and never had a problem, however the Vet said NO TUNA SO I STOPPED
    as I did not want her to get sick or have a problem, just eats Royal Canin Duck and Venesion
    dry food at $61.00 a bag, I mix them together and that is all she has ever eaten. I give her
    the hyperallergent food as 1 vet said she has allergies. I must have a RX for this food.
    She looks for this Tuna every day and does not stop, I tried other treats and she will not touch
    anything. Do you feel NO OR NEVER TUNA? Thank You

  25. luna on 03 Oct 2014 at 10:06 am #

    mother fed her cat human tuna everyday; a 1/2 can. kitty lived to be 16 yrs old

  26. Poki on 13 Oct 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    I have 2 male cats that have had the crystalline disease. I believe their diet of fish and tuna were the major precursors for this disease. I now NEVER feed either of these foods to my cats, especially males. My vet suggested Whiskas dry instead of high-priced vet food and no fish product canned food. I found 1/8th cup with 1 tsp with a bit of warm water to make a gravy a good diet morning and evening. My young boy stayed slim and my older guy lost weight. After episodes of the crystalline disease before this diet I had no problems afterwards.

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