Can My Cat Eat Tuna?

Updated on July 17, 2019
Bridget F profile image

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

Cats love their tuna!
Cats love their tuna!

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 which 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.

While tuna is a nice treat, commercially prepared cat food is best for our cats!
While tuna is a nice treat, commercially prepared cat food is best for our cats!

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!

How Much Tuna Is the Right Amount?

It seems that the old saying "everything in moderation" applies to our feline friends, too. Tuna is lovely as a treat for our cats, but it should not be a regular or main meal. Instead, think of tuna as a special surprise, to be enjoyed every so often!

This cat is ready to feast on his fish!
This cat is ready to feast on his fish!

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 it's 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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2017 Bridget F


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    • profile image


      22 months ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Art C. 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • crochetkid24 profile image

      Nancy Pawlowski 

      2 years ago from Casper WY

      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?

    • doveroadsanctuary profile image

      Jody Beskini 

      2 years ago from Rockvale, TN

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

    • Bridget F profile imageAUTHOR

      Bridget F 

      2 years ago from USA

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

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Bridget F 

      2 years ago from USA

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

    • Penny Sebring profile image

      Penny Leigh Sebring 

      2 years ago from Fort Collins

      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.


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