Due to mainstream media, cats are generally depicted as big fish lovers. But it’s kind of odd when you think about it, considering that these feline friends hate to immerse themselves in water.
Moreover, cats have short intestines and are carnivores. They are unable to fully digest plant materials, although some felines integrate a small number of grains, fruits, and vegetables into their diets.
With their build, cats have meat as their primary food source. In fact, the African wildcat, which is said to be the domesticated cat’s ancestor, had a diet consisting mainly of birds, mice, rabbits, rats, and reptiles.
One of the most popular theories is that cats have come to like fish so much since the Ancient Egyptians used it to lure them into their homes. However, this is false since the domestication of cats only started 10,000 years ago. Before such time, cats were mainly terrestrial hunters.
Considering that fish is not part of their natural diet, why do cats like fish so much?
Here are several reasons:
Reason One: Opportunistic Feeders
Cats are smart creatures and are often dubbed as excellent hunters. However, if they see a more comfortable and safer way, then they take it. Being opportunistic feeders, if the opportunity to get food quickly presents itself, they will not hesitate to go.
The fact that cats have been around humans for a long is an example. Hanging around people ensured cats that they have a steady and consistent food source. For one, humans feed them as their pets. If not, they can easily steal the food or parage through scraps.
These examples have in common that it eliminated the need for cats to hunt food on their own. Since food was just in reach, cats did not feel the need to hunt and instead, devoted that energy to other things such as reproduction and exploration.
Reason Two: Fish Smell and Texture
Like all animals, cats have a keen sense of smell. Fish produces one of the most intense aromas in food. Being carnivores, cats would find this scent attractive.
Moreover, some cats might like the texture of the fish. Since fishes are soft, they find it easier to eat and digest.
Is fish safe for my cat? Should I feed fish to my cat?
Yes, fish is a safe food source for your cat. In fact, adding it to you’re their diet can provide numerous benefits.
For one, fish is a good source of protein. This mineral is essential as they help build muscles and tissues, improving the body’s functions.
Moreover, it also helps create antibodies and enzymes and helps regulate the body’s pH balance. As a result, cats will get a healthier and more robust immune system.
Fish is also a good source of taurine, an amino acid known to regulate digestion, heart rhythm, reproduction, and vision.
Most mammals can produce taurine on their own. However, cats are unable to do this and, as such, must find other ways to integrate taurine into their diet. Eating fish is one to do so.
Fish is also known to have a fair amount of omega-3 fatty acid needed by their body to stay healthy. Like taurine, a cat’s body cannot synthesize omega-3 and thus, need to get them from their food.
Since fish has an adequate amount, it helps cover their omega-3 intake. Eating fish also provides a lot of health benefits. It helps reduce and prevent cancer and inflammatory conditions like arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and numerous skin diseases.
Not to mention, omega-3 fatty acids also improve your cat’s skin and hair. Adding it to your cat’s diet will result in shinier and glossier hair and stronger nails and teeth.
How much fish should I feed my cat?
While feeding your cats with fish is a good idea, the key here is moderation.
Fish may be a good source of protein, taurine, and fatty acids, but it’s not a complete source of nutrition to give your cat a healthy and balanced diet. For one, fish lacks vitamin B and E and minerals like calcium, iron, and sodium.
Fish also contains high levels of mercury, phosphorus, and other toxins. Feeding your cat with too many fish may cause urinary tract infections, hyperthyroidism, and thiamine deficiencies.
Aside from that, fish may also contain other dangerous content depending on where it was sourced. For example, the fish might have been raised in an unhealthy environment, such as a polluted river. Letting your cat eat this kind of fish is dangerous as it can result in severe and dangerous health problems.
To avoid future problems and complications, you should limit fish meals to no more than twice a week.
Can cats get allergic to fish?
Yes, cats can also develop food allergies and intolerance like humans. Cats are usually allergic to beef, fish, or milk.
Fish allergies in cats usually manifest in skin problems. Watch out for inflamed or reddened, irritated skin on your cat’s back or neck. You might also notice some wounds and cuts due to your cat’s frequent scratching. Allergies can also cause hair loss, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and the like.
Other symptoms include:
- Chronic ear trouble
As you can see, these symptoms can also be indicative of other severe conditions. As such, when you notice them, it is essential that you immediately contact your vet.
If your vet finds it to be a result of an allergy, he/she might put your cat on a “novel diet” wherein they’ll remove certain food items from your cat’s diet and replace it with substitutes.
Your cat’s symptoms should fade after about eight to ten weeks of this diet. At this point, you can slowly reintroduce some food items from your cat’s old diet to determine the cause of the allergies. Symptoms should appear in about one to weeks.
Once you’ve found out the source, you can then eliminate the food item from your cat’s diet.
What kind of fish is right for my cat?
There is plenty of fish available in the market; however, not all of them are good for your cat. To help you out, here are some things you might need to consider:
#1- How much fat does it have?
Too much fat is not recommended in your cat’s diet. For one, it causes indigestions and induces vomiting and diarrhea. It will also make your cat feel sluggish, sleepy, and unfocused.
As such, avoid high-fat fish like butterfish. Instead, focus on low- to medium-fat types such as cod, halibut, herring, flounder, salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna. They provide the same amount of protein, fatty acids, and other healthy nutrients with only a fraction of fat.
#2- Where did it come from?
You should know where the fish was caught, bred, and raised.
It’s best to stick with commercial fish since they are grown in regulated farms, ensuring their quality and nutritional value. Moreover, you even get a safety warranty from the fish farmer.
Avoid fishes caught in wild and sweet waters, ponds, and lakes as these fishes may contain parasites and bacteria that are harmful to your cat.
#3- How was it cooked?
Contrary to popular belief, you can feed your cat with raw fish. However, it would be best if you only did this sparingly and in small amounts, as raw fish might have bacteria and parasites that can be harmful to your cat.
Cooked fish is more suitable since not only does ii t eliminate lingering parasites and bacteria, but it also makes it easier for your cat to eat and digest.
However, please stick to only boiled or grilled fish. Avoid smoked, fried, and other cooking styles that use oil and additives since this might lead to health problems. It would be best to stay away from fish products such as breaded fish, fish fingers, and sticks.
You can also opt to feed your cat with canned fish. However, avoid buying those preserved in oil as this can cause indigestion. Stick to canned fish in the water or its own juices.
Are there professional cat food diets based on fish?
Yes, there are even various diets. Fish, being a healthy type of meat, is a crucial ingredient on some cat diets. Popular varieties include cod, tuna, and salmon since they provide the right number of proteins and fatty acids.
You can even mix-and-match different ingredients and create a meal plan that suits your cat’s tastes and preferences.
It’s quite natural to ask why do cats like fish so much, considering their natural aversion to water. Hopefully, this article has provided enough information to answer your question.
If you want, you can opt to add fish to your cat’s food intake. With its protein, fatty acid, and nutritional content, it’s an excellent supplement to your cat’s diet. Remember, however, to keep it in moderation to prevent problems cropping up.
If you spot any signs and other severe symptoms, contact your vet immediately.