Why Do Cats Like Fish?

why do cats like fish

Generally speaking, cats like to eat fish. In fact, at one point, domestic felines were eating more fish worldwide than people were. Cats are carnivores! Meat should make up almost all of their diet—and does for wild and feral felines. Fish is meat. So, it makes sense that cats like fish. Keep in mind that every cat is unique and tastes vary. Many cat owners will tell you their kitties prefer beef or poultry, while others run out of tuna faster than they can buy it. If cats could talk, perhaps those who love fish would say the same thing sushi enthusiasts do: Fish tastes good!

The Nutritional Benefits of Fish for Cats

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, veterinary nutritionists say high meat and low grain diets are ideal for cats. Adult felines actually need two to three times more meat and protein than adult dogs do, in part because they require specific amino acids only found in animal protein. 

Fish protein specifically provides cats with DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid essential to good brain development and healthy skin. For this reason, Hill’s Pet Nutrition supplements their kitten food formulas with DHA to ensure early development is as healthy as possible. 

What Type of Fish Can I Feed My Cat?

Never feed your cat raw fish! Domesticated cats can easily get E. coli or salmonella infections from raw fish. Cooked fish is the only way to go, as long as you don’t use fancy dressings, thick oils or herbs. Ideally, grill or bake the fish, chop it into bite-sized pieces and remove any and all bones.

Now, because fish oil (DHA) is so crucial to healthy kitten development, it’s best to serve your cat oily fish instead of white fish. Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. Whitefish, like cod and haddock, aren’t bad for your cat, they just don’t provide many nutrients.

As someone who resorted to canned tuna in the past when our wet food supply unexpectedly ran out, I’m glad to say canned tuna is okay to feed cats in tiny amounts. However, Hill’s Pet Nutrition notes tuna doesn’t provide many nutrients and the human canned versions often contain additives, like salt, that aren’t good for cats in large quantities. In fact, tuna in general shouldn’t make up a majority of a cat’s protein intake. Studies have shown eating commercial tuna fish can make cats more lethargic and its high mercury content can negatively impact mobility and overall health. Be sure to mix up the type of protein you feed your cat!

Why do cats like eating fish?

Wild and feral cats aren’t tripping over each other to eat fish. They primarily prey on land animals, not sea-dwellers. So why do some cats enjoy fish? It could be the strong scent alerting them to a high-protein snack or meal. It could be their carnivorous instincts kicking in when they can’t find other sources of protein. It could be life alongside humans who ate fish. Some cats like it for a little while, then change their minds. To be honest, every cat is unique and we’re not totally sure why cats like eating fish.

There is one species of wild cat, dubbed The Fishing Cat, known for preying on fish. Native to South and Southeast Asia, these cats enjoy swimming (gasp!) and eat small mammals, birds and fish. They may have developed a taste for fish simply due to their habitat’s proximity to water. Cats are often opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever protein is available. One habit of note: Fishing cats enjoy playing with their food and have been observed dropping it back into the water to catch it again. 

Why do cats like watching fish?

It’s likely fishing cats and other felines enjoy watching fish swim simply because swimming motions are erratic and entertaining. The same happens when they watch birds out the window. Keeping an eye on these small critters is a way to pass a curious cat’s time. For some kitties, movement like this triggers their hunting instincts, which is why it’s wise to keep a tight lid on all fish tanks.

Signs of Fish Allergies in Cats

Food is the third most common allergen in cats. VCA Hospitals says, “The allergy most frequently develops in response to the protein component of the food.” This definitely includes fish! A huge indication that your cat is allergic to something in her food is itchy, inflamed skin. Watch for excessive scratching on the face, ears and stomach. Too much grooming or licking on the paws, legs or armpits—which sometimes causes bald patches—could also indicate an allergy.

Of course, another way to spot an allergy to fish or food products is vomit or gastrointestinal issues. This is why it’s important to keep tabs on what your cat eats and what’s going on in their litter boxes afterward.

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Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...