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Can Cats Eat Shrimp? Everything You Need to Know!

So, you know your cat loves fish, but she seems to be drawn to that shrimp you’re enjoying. Naturally, this will lead to your wondering if you can give your cat some of your shrimp.

Is shrimp safe for your cat to eat? The short answer is, absolutely! Shrimp is safe for your cat, but you should always speak with your vet if you’re considering adding human food to your cat’s diet, and there are a few rules to be aware of.cat face divider 2

The Healthy Shrimp

Cat wants to eat shrimp_Dmitry Vinogradov_shutterstock
Credit: Dmitry Vinogradov, Shutterstock

The shrimp is the most popular shellfish that people enjoy cooking and eating. Apparently, it is estimated that the average person eats about 4 pounds of shrimp every year! Shrimp cocktail, coconut shrimp, or shrimp with pasta, there are numerous ways to eat and enjoy shrimp, but what about its nutrition?

Shrimp is very low in calories and carbohydrates and very high in protein. It also contains at least 20 different vitamins and minerals, which includes 50% of the selenium you need every day, vitamin B12, iron, iodine, phosphorus, niacin, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, shrimp is a fantastic source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as astaxanthin antioxidants.

Some of the health benefits of shrimp can include:
  • The selenium promotes a healthy heart and reduces inflammation.
  • The iodine contributes to brain health and supports thyroid function.
  • It can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • May lower blood pressure levels and triglycerides.
  • The astaxanthin also reduces inflammation, helps prevent heart attacks, and increases levels of “good” cholesterol.

Shrimp has many health benefits for people, but does it have the same benefits for our cats?

Shrimp and Your Cat

Cats are obligate carnivores, which essentially means they are “true” carnivores that require the nutrients that are only found in animal meat to survive. Shrimp is high-protein and low calorie and makes the perfect snack for a cat.

Do the same health benefits of shrimp for humans also apply to cats? Definitely!

Many of the positive effects for people will benefit your cat as well, such as:
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Heart and brain health
  • Healthy coat and skin
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Building muscle mass

Shrimp has many benefits for cats but is there a downside for cats eating shrimp?

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The Downside for Cats

It’s clear that shrimp makes a safe and healthy treat for your cat but what about the negatives? There are a number of concerns you should be aware of.

Raw Shrimp

While raw shrimp might be safe for your cat to eat on occasion, it’s best to give them cooked shrimp. Any raw shrimp you feed your cat should be wild-caught as farm-raised shrimp is typically full of chemicals and antibiotics that could prove toxic for your cat as these elements are usually destroyed when cooked. Also, be sure to remove the digestive tract from the shrimp as cats shouldn’t eat shrimp that haven’t been deveined. Raw shrimp is also likely to contain bacteria such as listeria, E. coli, and salmonella.

Seasonings and Ingredients

If you plan on giving cooked shrimp to your cat, it should be steamed or boiled without any added seasonings or ingredients—no butter, oil, sauces, or ingredients such as onions or garlic. Chives, shallots, and onions as well as garlic are toxic for cats and can cause stomach upset and anemia. Any added fats can lead to obesity and pancreatitis, which, if left untreated, can lead to death. For more information, the ASPCA has created a list of human foods that pets should avoid.yarn ball divider

In Moderation

Shrimp should only be given on occasion as a treat and not as a meal replacement. Shrimp is high in cholesterol and sodium, which can lead to excess sodium issues with your cat if she consistently eats food that is high in salt. In general, the average-sized cat shouldn’t be given more than half of a jumbo-sized shrimp at a time.

Shell, Head, and Tail

The tail, head, and shell of the shrimp should be removed before giving it to your cat as they can cause stomach upset or become a choking hazard. While eating the head or tail might generally not harm your cat, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

If your cat has ingested the shell or tail, keep a lookout for these symptoms:
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Straining
  • Abdominal pain

You should take your cat to your vet if you observe any of these symptoms after eating shrimp shells.


Kittens sleeping after meals shrimp_vvvita_shutterstock
Credit: vvvita, Shutterstock

There’s always the possibility that your cat may have a food allergy to shrimp. Start by speaking to your vet before giving your cat her first taste of shrimp, particularly if she already tends to have food sensitivities. The first time you give your cat some shrimp, just provide her with a very small sample and keep an eye on her for a few hours.

Signs of an allergic reaction might include:
  • Bad odor from skin
  • Lethargy
  • Ear infections
  • Collapse
  • Excessive scaling
  • Hives and itchiness
  • Facial swelling
  • Diarrhea and vomiting (although skin problems are more common)

If your cat starts to come down with any of these symptoms, see your vet as soon as possible.

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So, feel free to give shrimp to your cat as an occasional treat. It’s full of protein and beneficial nutrients, and your cat will most certainly love it! Remember to serve it cooked without any added ingredients – steamed or boiled is best or if you opt for raw shrimp, ensure it is wild-caught. Clean it thoroughly before cooking (or before serving if it’s raw) and remember to devein it beforehand. And lastly, just give her a small amount: half a shrimp for an average to a petite-sized cat or a whole shrimp for a large cat.

Discuss the addition of shrimp to your cat’s diet with your vet before you actually give any to her, particularly if she tends to have allergies or sensitivities to other foods already. If you’re careful and give your cat some perfectly prepared, high-quality shrimp, she will more than likely enjoy this safe and delicious treat.

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Featured image credit: mattycoulton, Pixabay