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Can Cats Eat Mackerel? Is It Healthy for Them?

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	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ, Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you have cats and you’ve ever opened a can of mackerel around them, they’ve probably started meowing like crazy trying to get you to feed them some. After all, it’s no secret that cats love fish, despite fish not being the most common thing they eat in the wild.

It can be tempting to give our feline friends a taste of human food that they find interesting. But is it safe and healthy for cats to eat mackerel? Cats can eat mackerel as long as it is canned or cooked without seasoning. In fact, mackerel is used in some cat food recipes.

Mackerel contains many nutrients that cats need. However, eating too much of it can cause problems so it’s important that you only feed it to your cat in moderation. Continue reading to learn more about why mackerel can be a safe and healthy treat for cats.

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Do Cats Like Mackerel?

cat eating mackerel
Image credit: Shuttertsock, Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH

Mackerel is a type of fish that is very similar to tuna and salmon as far as how it is used in cat food and how it is consumed by humans. Cats love tuna and salmon, and many of them love mackerel as well.

But, it’s important to note that mackerel is not most cats’ first food choice in the wild. With the exception of a few species, many cats, including feral ones, prefer to eat a diet of rodents such as mice and moles, or other small animals such as birds, lizards, and even baby snakes.

For starters, these small animals are a lot easier for cats to catch than mackerel and other types of fish, considering that fish live in the water. Mackerel themselves can be around a foot in length, so they aren’t the easiest thing for a cat to kill.

Cats also don’t need to eat mackerel in order to get their nutrition, as they get plenty of nutrients from the other small prey that they kill. However, mackerel is still a type of meat so most cats will love it or at least want a bite if you’re eating it.

Is Mackerel Healthy for Cats?

Even though cats get all of their nutrients from their regular food and don’t necessarily need fish like mackerel in order to survive, mackerel can provide many benefits for cats. Mackerel is high in protein, and being obligate carnivores, cats need mostly protein in order to survive. However, all meats are high in protein, so what does mackerel contain that meat can’t provide?

One of the biggest benefits of mackerel, and fish in general, is that it is high in fatty acids. Fatty acids not only help your cat maintain muscle health, but they can also keep your cat’s coat looking shiny and his skin healthy. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids in particular, which aid in keeping several parts of your cat’s body healthy.

Omega-3 fatty acids not only provide energy but also help keep your cat’s heart, brain, coat, and immune system healthy. One specific fatty acid, DHA, is found in mackerel and other fish and is essential for brain development as well as promoting healthy vision in cats. Healthy vision is important for cats in the wild as it helps them hunt, but it also helps them to be able to see in the dark.

Another essential nutrient in mackerel is vitamin D, which helps to regulate calcium levels and keeps your cat’s bones healthy. Mackerel also contains selenium, which is an antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage. Selenium also supports a healthy immune system and lowers the risk of your cat getting certain cancers.

Finally, mackerel contains taurine, which is an essential amino acid that supports brain, heart and eye health.

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Why Might Mackerel Be Bad for Cats?

siamese cat eating
Image Credit: Axel Bueckert, Shutterstock

In most cases, mackerel is not bad for cats as long as it is given to them in moderation. However, there are certain instances in which mackerel might cause problems for cats. For starters, mackerel does not contain all of the essential nutrients that cats need to survive which is why it shouldn’t be the only thing that your cat eats.

But, your cat’s normal food often contains many of the same nutrients that are found in mackerel, especially if it has fish ingredients in the food. For example, cat food may already have fatty acids or taurine in it. And you know what they say, too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.

For example, if your cat eats mackerel too often or too much, especially if his other food already contains fish, it can lead to overconsumption of fish oil. Although fish oil is healthy in small amounts, too much can actually cause negative impacts on your cat’s body. This is especially true since cats are smaller than humans so it would take less to have an impact.

Examples of problems that your cat may experience from eating too much mackerel include:

  • Coagulation problems
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vitamin A toxicity, which may lead to liver failure

Mackerel can also be bad for cats if they eat the wrong kind. Some species of mackerel are low in mercury, but king mackerel is high in mercury which could lead to mercury poisoning if your cat eats too much. Mercury poisoning can cause problems in cats such as:

  • Blindness
  • Loss of coordination (ataxia)
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Convulsions
  • Paralysis
  • Shock

Finally, if you do feed mackerel to your cat, even in small amounts, it should be cooked or canned, never raw. This is especially true for kittens and older cats. Mackerel can carry parasites such as roundworms that can get transferred to your cat if he eats it raw. Any parasites are killed when the fish is cooked which is why cooked or canned mackerel is safe. Boiled or baked mackerel is preferable, but if you feed your cat canned mackerel, it should be low in sodium and free from any spices or excessive oils.

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Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that if your cat wants a bite of the mackerel you’re eating, it’s okay to give him some. But, cats should not eat mackerel that is raw, only cooked or canned. Cats should also only be given mackerel occasionally as a snack or treat. It can provide many health benefits to them in small amounts but can cause problems if they eat too much too often.

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Featured Image Credit: Pasja1000, Pixabay

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