It should seem like a no-brainer. Cats and fish, fish and cats. They just seem like they should go together. (Unless you own my cat who turns up her nose at all fish and glares at you if you try to give her any cat food with fish in it. Or my other cat when I was a child who was allergic to fish. We’ll get into that).
It may surprise you therefore to learn that while salmon is excellent for humans, it’s only so-so good for cats. Good quality, well-cooked salmon probably won’t hurt your cat, unless she’s allergic to it, but it’s not something they should have on a regular basis either.
Surprised? Cats didn’t actually evolve to eat fish, nor do they tend to eat it in the wild. Fish is not a good source for taurine and furthermore, many cats are pretty allergic to seafood. This, of course, includes salmon.
That being said, in moderation, salmon can be a great treat for cats to eat. Many cats enjoy the flavor (to the point that there are stories of cats getting addicted!) and it does have some nutritional benefit as a supplement to their regular food. Salmon flavoring is also found in many treats, giving testament to how much many cats enjoy it.
Before we dive (ha) further into this, a few considerations:
- Cats should not have canned or smoked salmon. The sodium content found in these things is far too high to be safe for a cat to eat
- Cats should not have raw salmon. Although serving raw salmon would preserve what little taurine there is in the fish, there is a lot of bacteria that can cause your cat to become ill
- Cats should only have cooked salmon with no seasonings and only a small amount
- Even better still, give your cat treats with salmon as a top-two ingredient rather than the fish itself, that way, they are getting other nutrients too
Let’s take a closer look at salmon and cats!
Do Cats Like Salmon?
Salmon is surprisingly controversial for cats. Some cats will go absolutely ballistic for it, some like it or leave it, and some hate it. I’ve had all three kinds in my history of owning cats. If you’re not sure, give your cat a small bit and see what they think.
Do Cats Hate Salmon?
Some cats absolutely hate salmon. My current cat won’t touch it unless it’s in one of her treats and even then she would rather have beef ones. Any sort of canned food with salmon, forget it, she won’t touch it. This was ideal when I had two cats as one enjoyed it and so her food would be safe from my cat who was otherwise a bit of a glutton.
Again, the only way you’ll know for yours is to try a little bit on your cat and see what it thinks. If your cat hates salmon as mine does, don’t worry too much. While salmon has some nutritional benefits, it’s nothing that they absolutely require.
Will Salmon Kill Cats?
No, salmon will not kill cats unless they live exclusively on it and end up with severe taurine deficiencies.
However, salmon can cause allergic reactions in many cats. A salmon allergy can manifest in several ways:
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and/or stomach pain
- Dehydration (due to vomiting and diarrhea)
- Runny eyes and nose
- Coughing, wheezing or sneezing
While these things won’t necessarily be fatal, they will be uncomfortable.
Salmon also has a lot of nutrients that cats can use, but the lack of taurine can cause severe issues in the long term such as blindness. Salmon also carries a risk of mercury poisoning. It’s a low risk, but commercially farmed salmon can carry toxic chemicals, so you’re much better off (you and your cat!) getting salmon from clean water.
The worst way for cats to eat salmon is to eat it raw. Raw salmon carries bacteria that can cause salmonellosis and E. coli which can cause salmonella poisoning. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include:
- Weight loss
Raw salmon also carries an enzyme that destroys thiamine, leading to vitamin B1 deficiencies. This in turn is connected to nerve damage and vascular injury. Signs of thiamin deficiency include falling, circling, poor coordination (for cats, this can be particularly devastating and can easily lead to injuries), and dilated pupils.
Cooked salmon is far better for cats to eat and it should not have any seasoning. The fact that it has to be cooked is what destroys what little taurine is in fish too which is why we don’t recommend cats eat too much of it.
How Much Salmon is Safe for Cats to Eat?
While salmon should not be a major part of your cat’s diet, it can be served as an occasional treat. It should not make up more than 15% of your cat’s daily intake of calories and it should really only be served a few times a month. This prevents cats from becoming addicted to it and ensures that most of their food is providing them with quality nutrition. Kittens shouldn’t eat salmon at all as their stomachs are generally too sensitive for it.
You could also go with treats that have salmon in them and are built more for cats to eat. This can let cats enjoy the flavor of salmon without the attendant risks.
What are the Health Benefits of Salmon for Cats?
While salmon is definitely in the arena of a treat for cats, there are several health benefits. These include:
- Anti-inflammatory acids which are good for immunity and strengthens bones
- Lean protein to aid in muscle growth and healing
- Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids for healthy skin, thick coat, and cancer prevention
- Vitamin A
While you don’t want to rely on salmon to give these nutrients to your cat, it does make salmon healthier than a lot of treats we often let them nibble on!
It may seem counterintuitive, but salmon (particularly raw salmon) isn’t the best thing for your cat to eat. It’s lacking in essential taurine, raw salmon can easily make a cat quite ill, and cats can become addicted to salmon, refusing to eat food that is better for them.
While salmon may be a superfood for us, humans, for cats, it should be a small part of their overall diet and treated as a nice treat, not as a meal. And some cats don’t like salmon while others are allergic to it!
However, if your cat enjoys salmon, you can certainly give him or her a small piece of cooked fish every now and again. Make sure that it is well-cooked, completely deboned, and has no seasoning, and watch your cat go ballistic for it! (Unless it’s like my cat, in which case you’ll get sneered at and it will be ignored. Cats.)
Does your cat like salmon?