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Can Cats Eat Fish Bones? What You Need to Know

Cats are obligate carnivores. In the wild, they would eat a good variety of small prey, depending on availability, and they would make the most of their catch by eating all of their quarry.

Some cats may hunt and eat fish, and in these cases, they are likely to eat the bones too. Domestic cats are quite different from their wild counterparts, however, and too much fish is not only bad for cats, but the eating of fish bones can also be dangerous and may lead to choking and other problems.

If you do intend to feed fish bones to your cat, do not feed them cooked fish bones. Start with small fish, and always supervise your cat while they are enjoying the bones.

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The Dangers of Cooked Fish Bones

When fish bones are exposed to oxygen, especially when they are cooked, they become harder and more brittle. This means that they are more likely to snap and shatter when your cat is eating them. A snapped bone can easily become lodged in the throat, and because it is hard, it is more difficult for your cat to naturally shift. Therefore, you should avoid feeding cooked bones to your cat.

Raw Fish Have Softer Bones

Before the bones are cooked, they are softer and easier for your cat to manage. Even if one does get stuck, a cat should have the ability to safely and easily regurgitate the bone, removing any choking hazard.

If you do intend to feed fish bones to your cat, it is better to stick to raw and uncooked bones.

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Small Fish First

The size of fish bones depends on the size of the fish. Large fish have large bones, and these can easily get lodged in the throat. Choose a fish that is size appropriate for your cat, and especially at first, only feed smaller fish to your cat. They should be able to handle the small bones that are found in sardines and mackerel, for example, than those found in tuna.

Image Credit: Elle Katie, Pixabay

Dinner Supervision

When feeding your cat anything new and raw, it is a good idea to supervise their first meal. This is especially true if you are feeding meat or fish that contain bones. There is always a risk, even if it is somewhat minimal, that a bone can break, get stuck, and cause choking.

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What to Do If Your Cat Is Choking

If your cat is choking, the first step is to determine if there is a blockage and attempt to remove it. If you are unsure whether your cat is choking on a fishbone, gently open their jaws and take a look. You can gently move your index finger around the mouth to find any blockage, but make sure that you do not push any obstruction farther down the throat.

If you were unable to remove the blockage, you may have to perform a cat version of the Heimlich maneuver. Hold your cat with its back against your chest. Firmly but gently push against the belly and upward. Do this five times in quick succession. If this doesn’t move the bone, hold your cat up by their back hips, and tap against their back before sweeping the mouth again.

Once you have removed the bone or other obstruction, you should take your cat to an emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

cat is choking
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay

Feeding Fish to Your Cats

Whether cats would have eaten fish in the wild, the modern fish and the modern domestic cat are quite different. For these reasons, it is not necessarily a good idea to feed fish to your cats.

Cats are often portrayed as staunch fish eaters. In reality, however, they should not be fed fish daily. Doing so can cause a thiamine deficiency, which in turn, can lead to a loss of appetite and may even prove fatal.

Reasons that you should avoid feeding too much fish to your cats include:
  • Fish like salmon are fed dyes to give them a more salmon color. They are also given antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease. These are bad for your cat and can cause illness.
  • Tuna and large fish already have reasonable levels of mercury in their blood. They also eat smaller fish, which further increases these levels. Tuna is known to have some of the highest mercury levels, but these same feeding habits also mean that the larger the fish, the greater the concentration of pesticides and other harmful toxins.
  • Another problem with feeding tuna is that it can be highly addictive for cats. Even when fed only two or three times, your cat may refuse to eat anything else.

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Final Thoughts

We know that fish is a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are considered essential to good feline health. However, there are dangers to feeding fish to your cats, and the best and potentially, the only way to avoid these is to limit the amount of fish that you give to your feline friend.

If you do feed fish to your cat, try to remove the bones from cooked fish or feed them the fish raw. Although cats can usually handle fish bones quite well and even regurgitate them, if they do get one stuck in their throat, the brittle nature of cooked bones means that they are more likely to shatter and become lodged in the cat’s throat.

Related Read: Why Do Cats Like Fish? 4 Interesting Reasons

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Featured Image: antpkr, Shutterstock