There are few things more ingrained in our thoughts and beliefs about domestic cats than the connection of cats liking fish. It’s an interesting animal for cats to take an interest in, though. After all, most cats don’t like water, so how often are they actually going to attempt to get to a fish?
There are actually a few reasons that cats may take an interest in fish, and when you really think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense for cats to enjoy them.
The 4 Reasons Why Cats Like Fish
1. Their Movement
Whether in or out of the water, the movement patterns of fish are unusual and sometimes unpredictable, especially compared to land-dwelling animals. These movement patterns may pique the interest of your cat.
While they’re in the water, fish can make a fun and interesting show for cats to watch. The different shapes and sizes that fish show up in can also add to their level of interest.
If your cat comes across a fish that is out of the water, then they’re very likely to take an interest in the flopping and unpredictable movements of the fish. Both in and out of water, the movement of fish stimulates your cat’s natural hunting instincts.
2. The Smell
We all know that fish have a strong odor associated with them. For us, that smell can be unpleasant, but for cats, that odor increases the level of interest in the fish. Cats have a sense of smell that is about 14 times stronger than that of humans, which means your cat can smell far more detail in the smell of a fish than you can1.
While you just smell a fishy smell, your cat likely smells the components of the fish, including the skin, meat, blood, bones, and fat, in great detail. Your cat likely can also smell all the interesting scents associated with the water as well.
3. The Taste
Some cats like fish for exactly the same reason that many people do: the taste! The taste of fish can vary between species, but fish in general have a distinctively “fishy” taste. This taste can be quite divisive among people, and cats are no different.
Cats can be picky animals with very distinct and individual preferences, so not all cats will like the taste of fish. If you have a picky eater, then you likely have already figured this out about your cat. Some cats may snub a tasty fish treat, while others will go crazy for it.
When letting your cat eat fish, it’s important to make sure the fish is properly cooked to prevent the spread of parasites and infections from raw fish. Also, avoid canned or packaged fish that is high in sodium, contains lots of added oil, or contains seasonings.
4. The Nutrition
Much like their sense of smell, cats also have a very powerful sense of taste. Their sense of taste allows them to detect the general nutrient density of a food. Cats are obligate carnivores that require high amounts of protein and moderate fat in their diet.
The nutrition of fish will vary between species, but in general, fish is high in protein and healthy fats. It can also be a good source of B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, iodine, potassium, and magnesium. The rich, flavorful taste of fish will automatically cue your cat into the high nutritional value of this food.
The History of Feline Domestication
For hundreds of years, it was believed that cats were originally domesticated by the ancient Egyptians, around 3,600 years ago. However, once the early 2000s hit, archaeological and genetic advancements indicated that cats were likely domesticated in a different place and time than originally believed. Now, it’s believed that cats were domesticated around 10,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, also known as The Fertile Crescent.
During this time, people would have been developing and using early agricultural practices, including growing and harvesting grains. The storage of food likely drew in vermin like mice and rats, so it was only a natural move for cats to move closer to the humans. While the cats would have had a quick and easy source of food with these small animals, the humans likely would have left the cats alone since their ratting services were beneficial.
It’s unclear if cats were domesticated in one area, though. It’s possible that there were different groups of humans who were all unintentionally domesticating cats parallel to each other.
Some of the early interactions that cats had with humans could explain the affinity that felines seem to have for fish. Some people believe that ancient Egyptians would use fish they caught from the Nile to lure in cats, keeping them happy and fed enough to encourage them to stick around and protect food stores.
As cats became domesticated, they would have become distributed in more places, including along coastlines, which also may have encouraged their taste for fish. In all likelihood, though, domestic cats simply developed a taste for fish because live fish supported their instinctual desire to hunt, not to mention all the nutrients they get from eating it.
There are only a handful of reasons for domestic cats to like fish. These reasons all speak to the advanced senses that cats have, as well as their instinctual desire to hunt, especially for highly nutritious foods.
The earliest humans who were involved in feline domestication may have had a hand in helping cats develop their taste for fish, but it’s more likely that this was just a natural progression for cats when exposed to a new form of prey.
Featured Image Credit: DMITRII STARTCEV, Shutterstock