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Can Cats Eat Sardines? What You Need to Know!

Sardines are a polarizing food. You either really like sardines and enjoy them as a regular snack, or you’re repulsed by them and can’t stand the smell or taste. Cats fall squarely into the first category, pretty much across the board. But is it actually safe to feed your cat sardines?

Yes! Not only is it safe, but it’s also very healthy for your cat to eat sardines. They’re packed with nutrients that your cat needs to intake. But that doesn’t mean you should just feed them sardines all the time as they can also cause health problems if overfed.

If you want to feed your cats this nutrient-rich snack, then keep reading to learn how you can do so safely.


Are Sardines Safe For Cats? Yes, But in Moderation.

Cats can eat sardines in moderation with very little chance of complication. Sardines are a great occasional snack for a cat because they are full of health-boosting nutrients in large amounts.

They’re completely natural and non-processed, which is a major part of why many people consider feeding them to their felines in the first place.

Can Cats Eat Sardines
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Cats are Obligate Carnivores

Cats are what are known as obligate carnivores, which basically means they only eat meat. They can derive all of the nutrients they need from eating protein sources, such as other animals.

In the wild, their food sources consist almost exclusively of living animals. They don’t eat any carbohydrates, grains, vegetables, or anything that grows from the ground.

Obviously, fish is a meat protein source, but it’s not a part of a cat’s natural diet. Most cats in the wild aren’t fishing for lunch (though there is a cat known as the fishing cat in Asia that does). However, it’s still made up of the same basic proteins, which is why your cat can digest it without any problems.

Health Benefits of Eating Sardines

What health benefits can your cat get from eating the occasional sardine? Quite a few!

  • High in Protein

Sardines are packed with protein. As an obligate carnivore, protein is the most essential nutrient for your cat, so they need to intake a lot of it.

  • Healthy Omega-3 Fats

These fats can boost your cat’s immune system and even help prevent cancer. Sardines are very high in this hard to get nutrient.

  • High Levels of Vitamin B12

Sardines are very high in Vitamin B12. This essential vitamin plays many roles in your cat’s ability to function, including in the immune system, nervous system, and even the digestive tract.

  • Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation is the root of many diseases in cats, so reducing it can help your furry friend live a longer, healthier life. 

  • Provides Needed Minerals

Sardines have lots of essential minerals, specifically calcium copper and iron. These can provide many benefits like improving hydration, strengthening bones, and keeping your cat’s internal organs healthy.

Can Cats Eat Sardines
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Can Cats Eat Sardines Every Day?

So, if it’s safe for them to snack on, is it ok for them to eat regularly?

Actually, no.

While nothing in a sardine is going to hurt your cat in small doses, there are some risks regarding high levels of ingestion. Besides that, your cat’s digestive system simply isn’t built to digest fish regularly since it’s not part of their diet in the wild.

Heavy Metals

Mercury and other heavy metals that are detrimental to your cat’s health are often found in fish, including sardines. Pollutants in the water can also build up in fishes’ systems. When your cat eats the fish, all of these substances will then be digested into your cat’s body.

While we humans can generally eat these in moderate doses without too much problem, your cat has a much smaller body that will be able to handle much less of any of these compounds.

High Sodium Content

Cats don’t have any naturally high sources of sodium in the wild, so their intake of salt is very low. For this reason, they can’t process large amounts of it.

Sardines are packed with salt to help keep them preserved. Two tiny sardines have 121mg of sodium, which is the equivalent of five large crackers.

In your cat, this sodium can mess up their fluid levels and cause dehydration very quickly. Make sure that you’re giving your feline plenty of water to accompany any sardines you feed them.

Bacterial Infections (Salmonella)

Bacteria like Salmonella are sometimes present in fish like sardines. This can cause your cat to become very sick, exhibiting symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, bloody excrement, and vomiting.If you see these types of symptoms and you’ve been feeding your cat a lot of fish, there’s a high probability that they have a bacterial infection as a result.

High Levels of Fat

Sardines and other fish are very high in fats. While some of these fats, such as Omega-3, can provide health benefits for your pet, long-term over-consumption of fats can result in an obese cat.

How Often to Feed Sardines to Your Cat

So far, we’ve established that sardines are a healthy snack for your cat, but they can also have some negative effects on a cat’s health if consumed too often. That leaves us with the question — how often can you feed your cat sardines?

There is no hard and fast rule for this, so you’ll have to use your best judgment as a pet owner. However, a good rule of thumb is to give them this nutrient-rich treat about once or twice a week at the most.

That’s often enough to provide your cat with a great health boost, but not so often that you’ll risk the possible side-effects of over-consumption.

What Sardines to Feed Your Cat

Now that we’ve established how often you should be letting your cat eat sardines, the next obvious question is what sardines to feed them. There is some variety in the way that sardines are presented, stored, and served. Which is best for your cat?

Can Cats Eat Sardines
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Sardines Packed in Oil vs. Water

Oil is a liquid form of fat. In the wild, cats don’t have any high-fat sources in their diet. The animal proteins they eat tend to be very lean since they live very active lives.

When you give cats high levels of fat in their diet, their bodies have a hard time processing it. This causes more fat to get stored, which eventually results in an overweight and unhealthy pet.

Since sardines packed in oil are going to have a much higher fat content, it’s recommended that you feed your felines sardines that are packed in water instead.

Cooked vs. Raw Sardines

As a general rule, you should never feed your cat raw fish, even though it may be safe to feed them other raw foods. Fish, including sardines, are high in a thiamine-depleting enzyme. Thiamine is better known as vitamin B1, and it could mean disaster if your cat becomes deficient in it.

According to the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), cats can experience a host of health problems if they get too low in thiamine. This can start with a lack of appetite, gastrointestinal discomfort, and weight loss. Then, it can progress into neurological symptoms, like neuromuscular weakness and even heart problems.

Frozen vs. Room Temperature

This really comes down to your cat’s preference. If they’re happy eating them straight from the can, you can feed it to them that way. Alternatively, you can blend up some frozen sardine into a paste using a food processor. This can be added to your cat’s food or given to them straight.

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If your cat seems interested in devouring a delicious sardine, it’s completely safe for you to give them one. It may even provide some health benefits, like reduced inflammation, improved hydration, and even stronger bones.

Just keep in mind, if you feed sardines to your cat too often you could cause some detrimental health effects like thiamine deficiency, obesity, dehydration, and even bacterial infections.

When feeding your cat sardines, it’s best to opt for fully cooked sardines that are packed in water instead of oil. Never feed your cat raw fish to avoid the risk of thiamine depletion.

By following these few guidelines, you can ensure that sardines are a safe and healthy treat for your cat to munch on once or twice a week.

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