If you have ever had sardines, you’ve probably had your cat sniffing around and begging really hard for them.
Most cats will at least want to try sardines as they usually enjoy fish and sardines are small, have chewy bones, and are easy to eat.
But sardines aren’t usually found in homes ‘as is’; they are often packed with sauces or packed in brine. If your cat is begging, you’re probably wondering: can cats eat sardines, and can cats eat sardines in brine?
Short answers: Cats can eat sardines (and sardines are generally quite good for them!) However, they should not eat sardines in brine – the sardines should be rinsed off before being given to your cat.
Do Cats Like Sardines in Brine?
Most cats will probably love sardines and will take them in brine if you don’t clean them off. It’s a little unusual when you think about it – fish aren’t really part of a wild cat’s diet, so it’s unclear where domesticated cats got their love for them. Pop a can of sardines though and watch your cat (and any other cats close at hand) come running!
Do Cats Hate Sardines in Brine?
There probably are some cats who don’t like sardines in or out of brine. My geriatric cat comes and goes on seafood – some days she likes it, some days she avoids it. And my old cat I had growing up was allergic to fish, so while she may have liked it, it most definitely did not like her. Like most other foods, sardines are going to be a matter of taste to a cat and not all cats will like them.
If this is your cat, it’s a shame since sardines are packed with nutrients but don’t force the issue and anyway, they can get those same nutrients from other sources that they may be more willing to eat, like shrimp or herrings.
Will Eating Sardines in Brine Kill My Cat?
You’ll want to be careful when feeding your cat sardines in brine. While the sardines themselves are safe enough (as a few times a month treat), how they are fed to a cat and what they are packed in can cause more trouble.
Sardines in brine can cause problems for cats because brine is essentially saltwater – heavy on the salt. Cats don’t need much salt in their diet and too much salt can very quickly lead to dehydration and even sodium poisoning. On top of that, sardines themselves have a high salt content, so you’re giving your cat way too much salt when they have sardines in brine.
Sardines packed in different oils (other than sunflower or olive oil which is usually safe) can also be hazardous and of course, if you are going to let your cat have sardines in tomato sauce, make sure there is absolutely no garlic or onion in it as these things are deadly toxic.
Sardines should not be fed raw to cats as they often have salmonella in them which can cause a bacterial infection in cats, causing them to vomit or have diarrhea (or both) and be very uncomfortable.
Cook frozen or raw sardines thoroughly to kill the bacteria. Canned sardines are already cooked, so they won’t have this problem.
The other thing you want to watch out for is heavy metal poisoning. Sardines, and many other fish, are high in heavy metals like mercury, which is why we humans shouldn’t eat too much of them either.
For cats, of course, the dangerous quantity is far less than it is for their owners. Heavy metal poisoning can cause all manner of problems for cats including tremors, seizures, and even death.
The best way to avoid all of these problems is to feed your cat either fresh/frozen and cooked sardines or make sure to carefully rinse sardines that were packed in brine to get rid of the salt. You can also feed your cat sardines packed in spring water as that’s perfectly safe.
And no, you don’t usually have to worry about bones with sardines – they are very soft and flexible, easy enough for cats to chew and swallow. But if you’re concerned, debone the fish and then cut it up in small pieces or run it through a food processor.
How Much Sardines in Brine Can My Cat Eat?
Assuming you have rinsed the brine off, cats can usually have sardines a few times a month, or once a week. A serving size for a cat is about half a can’s worth of sardine paste or a deboned sardine.
If your cat is going to eat them more regularly, cut back on their other food to ensure that your cat isn’t getting too many calories in a day. You can also cut sardines up into pieces and feed them to your cat that way.
Health Benefits of Letting Cats Eat Sardines (but Not In Brine)
Sardines have some amazing health benefits for cats, assuming they aren’t covered in brine or sauces. Sardines, like any other fish, are a high source of protein, and as oily fish, they are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are great for your cat’s immune system, skin, coat, and brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked to slowing aging in the brain, weight loss, and healthy coats and skin.
Aside from these big powerhouses, sardines are also high in:
These are all vitamins that cats need to stay healthy. Sardines are even good for cats to lose weight on because they are low in calories and the omega-3 fatty acids give them more energy to run around and play. Sardines are also better than a lot of dried treats because they hydrate your cat, unlike dried ones which don’t have any water content.
It’s important not to go overboard on feeding fish though because a cat that eats too many fish can become vitamin K deficient. Instead, sardines, and other fish, should be fed as part of a well-rounded diet of other meat.
Sardines overall make a really good addition to a cat’s diet and a really good treat. They shouldn’t have them more than once a week but having that to look forward to will make a lot of cats pretty happy.
Sardines in brine should be rinsed to clear away as much of the salt as possible though as too much salt can quickly lead to health problems for cats and undo all the good you were trying to accomplish!
But sardines themselves, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids, can really help your cat lose weight, improve brain function, improve joint health, and even stave off some forms of severe cancer.
So, if your cat is begging for sardines, rinse one-off and let your cat have it! You’ll have a happy (and healthy) cat.
Does your cat go ballistic for sardines?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.