Tuna is an affordable and easy to manage meat in many households, often making itself seen in sandwiches and casseroles.
Companies like StarKist have capitalized on that, creating different varieties of flavored tuna and canned tuna to let people pick and choose what they would like.
If tuna is a fixture in your house, you may also have noticed that it makes your cat come running, even for the stuff that has other flavorings in it. And since tuna is fish, and most people think cats eat lots of fish, feeding them tuna seems perfectly natural. But is it safe?
Can cats eat StarKist tuna (or any tuna)?
Short answer: While a bite or two of plain, unflavored tuna is fairly safe and can be beneficial, cats should never have the flavored tunas, nor should it be something that makes a regular appearance in their food bowl. Tuna may be fish, but surprisingly, many cats are allergic to fish, can’t digest it properly, and tuna, in particular, can be in calories and heavy metals, which are damaging to a cat’s health.
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Do Cats Like StarKist Tuna?
You would probably make your cat extremely happy if you fed them StarKist tuna! Many cats love tuna and will come begging for it whenever they smell it.
Tuna has protein in it, which cats crave, and they often enjoy the texture as well. So, don’t be at all surprised if you cannot prepare or eat food in peace if it has tuna in it.
Do Cats Hate StarKist Tuna?
On the other hand, some cats hate tuna and are even allergic to it! My grey cat that I had growing up was allergic to all fish, and my geriatric cat (up until recently), didn’t really like canned cat food with fish in it.
Cats vary in their food preferences, so some cats will completely ignore you while you prepare food with tuna. It’s just as well – tuna is not necessary for a cat to eat for a well-balanced diet, and there are other treats that might be better for your cat.
Can Eating StarKist Tuna Kill My Cat?
As long as your cat is eating plain StarKist tuna packed in water and only a small amount as a treat, it’s very unlikely that eating it will kill your cat. However, this assumes that:
- Your cat isn’t allergic to fish (and fish allergies are surprisingly common among cats)
- You aren’t solely feeding your cat tuna. Tuna is missing far too many nutrients that cats need and it’s high in calories, so you end up with a malnourished and obese cat who will not be living its best life and will likely get sick.
First of all, it’s important to note that cats can be allergic to tuna (and in fact to all fish). If they are allergic, they are more likely to be itchy, vomit, have digestive problems, and be lethargic after eating it.
Fish allergies are actually the third most likely food for cats to be allergic to, behind beef and dairy! You don’t want to subject your cat to being uncomfortable for hours after eating fish, even if your cat thinks it’s well worth it.
Tuna (including StarKist Tuna of course) is also high in mercury. Tuna is one of the most mercury-laden fish and mercury poisoning can make a cat very ill. (Remember that it doesn’t take nearly as much of something to make a cat sick as it does a human).
Symptoms of mercury poisoning include:
- Loss of balance
- Loss of coordination
- Neurological damage
These symptoms are also similar to other illnesses like thiaminase (Vitamin B deficiency) which can also come about as a result of eating too much fish! The worst offender is Albacore tuna which has three times the amount of mercury as other fish due to their size.
Other issues with tuna include:
- Tuna ‘addiction’ where a cat can get too used to eating tuna and won’t eat anything else
- Steatitis, or yellow fat disease, where the fat in your cat hardens can cause extreme pain
- High in mineral salts which can cause bladder stones
- Too much unsaturated fat
- Not enough vitamin E or other antioxidants
- High in calories
Now, before you empty your pantry, keep in mind that these things come about if your cat tries to live on tuna and isn’t given its usual food to eat instead.
When fed in a small amount once in a while as a treat, tuna is perfectly safe (assuming no allergies).
How Much StarKist Tuna Can My Cat Eat?
So, how much StarKist Tuna can a cat eat?
Well, first, we would recommend staying away from the Solid White Albacore tuna as Albacore has a much higher degree of mercury in it (not enough to hurt humans, but enough to hart cats if they eat too much).
Instead, we’d go with the chunk light tuna, packed in water, not the oils. And definitely stay away from the flavored tuna and it’s often flavored with things like garlic, oils, and pepper which will make your cat very sick.
Once you have determined that your cat won’t be allergic to tuna, figure on giving them a small bit of the whole can no more than once a week. The amount will vary depending on the type of cat you have with larger, active cats able to eat more than smaller, sedentary ones.
Never give your cat the entire can as that is way too much – instead, figure on a quarter to a half a can and save the rest for the next week or eat it yourself.
The tuna should never be mixed with other things like mayonnaise – just feed it to them straight out of the can. (Including the water).
Can Cats Eat StarKist Tuna Pouches?
We wouldn’t recommend feeding your cat the StarKist Tuna pouches (except for the Light Tuna in water one) because most of them have flavoring that will make your cat very sick. Keep those for yourself!
Health Benefits of StarKist Tuna for Cats
Assuming you are only feeding your cat a moderate amount of tuna, the benefits can outweigh the risks. While tuna is not nutritionally complete on its own, it does have some things to round out what your cat is already eating. Tuna is high in:
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for skin and coat health
Tuna is also low in carbohydrates, though three ounces or so is about 100 calories which can easily eat up half a cat’s daily intake. This is why we don’t recommend more than an ounce or so once a week.
Tuna can sometimes be used to encourage a picky eater to eat something and to encourage weight gain in underweight cats or cats who don’t want to eat anything and need their appetite prompted. But it should never be used to replace normal cat food.
However, you should never feed your cat any of the StarKist Tuna products with extra seasonings in them and it should only be used as a weekly or monthly treat, not as a regular part of their diet. As long as you can stick to that, StarKist tuna can be a beneficial treat for cats to enjoy.
Do your cats love StarKist tuna?
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.