Cats should not eat fish bones as they can be a choking hazard to your cat and can damage their digestive tract as they swallow, try to regurgitate, or digest the bones. In the worst case scenario, fish bones can cause an intestinal blockage, which can be life-threatening.
If you think about food cats would eat in the wild, they would mainly feast on small rodents and birds. They do eat the bones of these animals, but those bones are very small, and of course, they’re uncooked, so they’re nice and soft and a cat is able to break the bones down with their teeth.
Your cat has likely led a life being fed commercial cat food, which may be soft wet food or dry kibble, both of which have the same consistency from one bit to the next. Your cat is probably not used to eating food with bones in it.
CAN CATS EAT RAW FISH BONES?
Cats should not eat raw fish bones. Uncooked fish bones are fairly soft, however, they can still cause choking and digestive issues, especially if they’re from a larger fish.
Think about when you’re eating salmon and accidentally eat a small bone; it’s not pleasant in your mouth or throat, and cat’s mouth and digestive tract is much smaller than yours.
The other reason cats should not eat raw fish bones is because they’re likely accompanied by raw fish.
Raw fish can contain bacteria that causes food poisoning in your cat. There are also certain types of fish that, when raw, contain an enzyme that destroys thiamine, a vitamin your cat’s body needs. This enzyme, thiaminase, can cause a thiamine deficiency in your cat.
A cat with thiamine deficiency may show symptoms of loss of appetite, vomiting, or neurological symptoms such as impaired vision, tremors, seizures, etc. (source).
CAN CATS EAT COOKED FISH BONES?
Vets warn against feeding your cat any kind of cooked bones (e.g. chicken bones), because they become harder and more brittle once cooked. Smaller fish bones remain fairly soft once cooked, and there are even methods to cook fish that softens the bones, however you still should never risk feeding your cat fish bones.
CAN CATS EAT COOKED FISH?
Cats can eat cooked fish with no bones, but it’s always best to talk to your veterinarian first before adding anything to your cat’s diet, especially foods they wouldn’t naturally eat, or if your cat has any health issues.
Cats cannot survive on cooked fish alone due to it lacking in thiamine; a vitamin your cat’s body needs. As mentioned, some raw fish even contains thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down thiamine in your cat’s body and can cause a deficiency.
If you do feed your cat cooked fish, bones removed, it should only be done so occasionally, as a treat.
You don’t want to feed your cat fish regularly because most fish contains mercury, and a buildup of mercury in your cat’s body can lead to mercury poisoning.
Your cat may even be allergic to fish, so if you’re feeding it to your cat for the first time, watch for allergic reactions.
You also don’t want to get your cat in the habit of eating fish, as they may start to turn their nose up at their regular food, and fish does not provide enough nutritional value to cats for it to be their main source of food.
TYPES OF FISH TO AVOID
Fish can accumulate heavy metals, and just as humans shouldn’t consume mercury, neither should your cat.
Fish that contain higher levels of mercury are:
- Ahi tuna
- Bigeye tuna
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
Tuna and salmon don’t have as high of mercury levels as the fish mentioned above, but feeding your cat too much tuna or salmon, can still lead to mercury poisoning.
As a general rule when it comes to mercury, the higher up on the food chain a fish is, the more mercury it is likely to have. Smaller fish (e.g. anchovies, sardines) will be lower in mercury.
Canned fish may be packed in oil or water with added sodium or flavorings; it’s best to avoid feeding your cat this type of fish. You should also avoid feeding your cat any fish you’ve cooked with added seasonings.
Alliums, such as garlic and onions (even in powder form) are toxic to cats. Too much oil can lead to weight gain, which creates many health issues for your cat. And although cats require some salt in their diets, too much salt can be toxic to them.
MY CAT ATE FISH BONES, WHAT DO I DO?
If your cat ate fish bones, call your veterinarian immediately; they will be able to tell you if it’s a situation that requires immediate attention or inform you of the symptoms to watch for.
When worried about the cost of a vet visit, let the veterinarian know upfront. It’s their job to care for your cat’s health, so in most cases, they will want you to bring your cat in to be on the safe side. However, if you let them know your situation, they may be able to offer guidance to help you monitor your cat closely at home, and let you know of any symptoms that indicate you should bring your cat into the clinic.
If your cat ate fish bones several days ago and is showing signs of an intestinal blockage or inflamed esophagus, you’ll need to get them to the veterinarian clinic immediately.
When your cat has a blockage, they may show signs of:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain/swelling
If the fish bones scratched their esophagus, it may be inflamed, and they may show signs of:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of appetite
- Hard time moving their head/neck
I hope this article has been helpful in understanding why cats shouldn’t eat fish bones and guidelines around feeding them fish 🙂
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