Can Cats Eat Shrimp Shells?

Can Cats Eat Shrimp Shells?

Shrimp is a generally popular treat for both humans and cats. I know my cat goes a little crazy for her shrimp cat food (though she’s less inclined towards the dried shrimp).

Shrimp is safe for cats to eat and has a lot of vitamins and minerals, not to mention proteins. They are best served cooked, to destroy the bacteria that can make a cat sick, and fresh shrimp is far better than processed and frozen. Just like humans, they cannot eat the digestive tract of shrimp.

But can they eat the shrimp shells? Humans certainly wouldn’t eat them, but what about cats? Can cats eat shrimp shells?

Short answer: yes, cats can eat shrimp shells and they often like them because they are nice and crunchy. There is no harm to shrimp shells save for a slight risk of choking. They are certainly not toxic. That being said, cats also shouldn’t live off shrimp or shrimp shells as they don’t provide all of the nutrition that cat needs.

Do Cats Like Shrimp Shells?

If your cat likes shrimp, it will probably like shrimp shells as well, especially if they are cooked until they are nice and crunchy. They like the shrimp flavor of the shell and the texture.

As usual though, this will vary from cat to cat. There are probably cats who like the shrimp but are quite disdainful towards the shell (They might not want to put the effort into crunching them. I suspect this may be the case with my cat who loves shrimp cat food, but often can’t be bothered with dried shrimp because it’s too crunchy). But it’s fairly likely that more cats will like shrimp shells than not.

Do Cats Hate Shrimp Shells?

Of course, there are always exceptions! Some cats will not like shrimp shells, usually because they don’t like the texture. They might also prefer to play with the shells rather than eat them. If this sounds like your cat, don’t worry about it.

Shrimp is a good treat, but missing out on the shells won’t do any harm to your cat. Just make sure to skin your shrimp before letting your cat have any of the shell is enough to put them off.

Can Eating Shrimp Shells Kill My Cat?

No, eating shrimp shells shouldn’t kill your cat unless your cat is wildly unlucky. There is nothing toxic in shrimp shells and they are small enough that most cats should be able to eat them without a problem.

The main issue with shrimp shells is that they can be a choking hazard if your cat doesn’t chew them up properly or if a piece of shell is too hard even for their teeth. In this case, the shell can get stuck in the esophagus or even in the digestive tract and cause injury or choking.

Eating a lot of shells or tails can also cause some stomach pain and diarrhea as these aren’t really things that are easily digested by cats, even if they don’t make a cat much sicker than a bout of sloppy litter box leavings.

The other consideration for shrimp in general, shell or not, is allergies. Some cats are allergic to shrimp and seafood in general – believe it or not, cats aren’t actually evolved to eat shrimp, so many cats don’t have a digestive system that can handle it. Symptoms of a shrimp allergy include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Excessive itching
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting

If you note these symptoms, don’t let your cat eat any more shrimp and talk to your vet. Your cat may need emergency care or may get better on its own.

Either way, don’t let your cat have any more shrimp (and likely they cannot handle seafood in general). I have actually had a cat who was allergic to seafood of all types and would get pretty ill when she had it, so it’s definitely a consideration.

If your cat is allergic to shrimp or other seafood, don’t worry that they are missing out. Shrimp and shrimp shells are definitely a treat for cats and shouldn’t be part of their regular diet. You’ll just have to find some different treats!

Other than the risk of allergies and the lesser risk of choking, the other harm of shrimp is that raw shrimp can carry bacteria that can make your cat feel sick. It’s best to feed your cat cooked shrimp rather than raw to mitigate this risk.

How Many Shrimp Shells Can My Cat Eat?

Shrimp is best given to a cat as a treat and shrimp shells are no different. In essence, if your cat is eating a shrimp as a treat, just leave the shell on if you want them to try it, or peel off the shell and break it up before giving it back to your cat if you are worried about choking.

The type of shrimp you want to feed to your cat is fresh, cooked shrimp which have either been fresh off the boat (so to speak) or freshly frozen and then thawed out.

Only plain shrimp should be given to cats and the shells should not have been soaked in brine. Shrimp that isn’t plain is usually far too high in sodium and other seasonings to be safe, which can cause a range of issues from simple dehydration and abdominal pain to poisoning if the shrimp was seasoned with something toxic like onion or garlic.

Shrimp shells are of course the same deal and in the case of the shells, they should not have been packed in brine, or else they will be far too salty and unhealthy.

The best way to serve a cat shrimp is to steam, grill, bake or boil plain shrimp and then let your cat eat them occasionally. You should not cook them with butter or oil as this just adds extra fat that your cat really doesn’t need.

As a note, kittens can also eat shrimp, but I’d be wary about giving them shrimp shells just because their little teeth may not do as good a job of crunching them properly.


Cats can absolutely eat shrimp shells and often enjoy them as a crunchy extra on their treat of shrimp. If you’re worried about choking, you can break up the shells ahead of time and then sprinkle them on top of the shrimp and give it all back to your cat.

Just be sure not to give shrimp (or shells) to your cat too often as it will ruin their appetite for their regular food and can lead to malnutrition.

But as a treat, shrimp is hard to beat for many cats and shrimp shells add some extra texture.

Does your cat like to eat shrimp shells?