Cats have a reputation for loving seafood. For most cats, the reputation is well-deserved. Offer your cat a prawn or shrimp and he will likely go for it eagerly! But, should you feed your cat prawns? Can cats eat prawns safely? The answer is yes but there are a few things you should know before you create a seafood buffet for your kitty.
We have all of the information you need to know about prawns and their shrimp relatives so you can safely share them with your cat.
Prawn is the common name for these watery crustaceans. Both prawns and shrimp have 10 legs and are known as decapods. Shrimp are smaller and live in saltwater. Prawns live in fresh or brackish water. Prawns are generally larger than shrimp. Prawns are slightly sweeter and usually cost a little more than shrimp. There are a few physical differences if you really want to look for them, but the two species are rather similar. You can certainly use the same recipes for each. Cats will enjoy both.
Both shrimp and prawns are considered to be very healthy foods. They are high in protein and low in calories. They are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, they have a very good ratio to omega-6 fatty acid. This makes them good for the heart.
They are also a good source of vitamin B6, B12, and niacin. And they contain good amounts of iron, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium.
Shrimp is also a good source of iodine. And it contains antioxidants such as a carotenoid called astaxanthin. It’s thought that astaxanthin may help reduce the risk of heart attacks and be good for brain health.
On the other hand, shrimp and prawns are high in cholesterol and sodium. They contain more cholesterol than other seafood. However, eating shrimp has not been linked to heart problems.
More than 80 percent of the shrimp eaten in the U.S. is imported from other countries such as India, Thailand, and Indonesia where it is farm-raised in industrial tanks. Much of the shrimp raised in these countries is treated with antibiotics due to the risk of disease. The United States doesn’t allow the use of antibiotics in shrimp that is imported. However, shrimp is imported in such large amounts that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn’t able to inspect every shipment. It is possible that some farm-raised shrimp, treated with antibiotics does enter the U.S. food supply. Antibiotics in shrimp may not produce any major health problems but it can contribute to antibiotic resistance.
If antibiotics are a concern for you, you should always look for wild-caught shrimp or U.S.-raised shrimp.
Shrimp and prawns are one of the top allergens in the United States for humans. Cats can also be allergic to these foods. Tropomyosin, a protein found in shellfish, is the most common trigger for shrimp allergies. Arginine kinase and hemocyanin are other proteins in shrimp that may trigger an allergic reaction.
Symptoms may vary but can include tingling in the mouth, digestive problems, nasal congestion, or skin reactions. It’s also possible to have an anaphylactic reaction to eating shrimp. This can lead to seizures, unconsciousness, and even be fatal unless it is treated immediately.
Can Cats Have Prawns?
Yes, cats can safely eat prawns and shrimp. If you have shrimp or prawns in your kitchen, your cat may be very interested in them and want to try a sample. The best shrimp or prawns for your cat would be fresh and wild-caught.
There is some debate about whether you should give your cat raw shrimp. Some experts say that cats can eat raw shrimp, as long as you de-vein the shrimp. Others say that you should also remove the shell – though some claim that the fragile shell is all right for cats to eat. Raw shrimp can carry traces of antibiotics, fungicides, or other chemicals, especially if the fish has been farm-raised. These issues should be less of a concern is you have wild-caught shrimp or prawns.
Cooked shrimp or prawns is generally safest for your cat. Make sure that you do not use any oils or seasonings when preparing the seafood. Again, experts disagree about whether you should allow your cat to eat the shells but they do agree that all shrimp should be de-veined. The dark vein in the shrimp is its alimentary canal. It contains the last food that the shrimp or prawn was digesting. There is no need for your cat to eat that fecal material.
Are There Risks with Giving Your Cat Prawns?
There can be risks with giving your cat prawns or shrimp. As already mentioned, some cats can be allergic to certain seafood, including shrimp and prawns. If you observe your cat having any problems after eating shrimp, see your veterinarian immediately.
You should also not use shrimp or prawns as a meal replacement. Shrimp and prawns are high in sodium and cholesterol so they should only be given to your cat in moderation.
Only give your cat plain shrimp or prawns. Spices, oil, and salt are out. Boil or steam these crustaceans for safety reasons. Make sure that you wash them before cooking.
Too much oil, fat, or seasoning can lead to pancreatitis or gastrointestinal upset in cats that aren’t used to eating shrimp and prawns. That means no butter!
Raw shrimp can contain bacteria that can infect cats (and you) such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and other things that can lead to infections.
If your cat eats the shells and tails, there is a risk of choking or even constipation.
It’s possible for any food to cause digestive upset in a cat for one reason or another. If your cat is having problems, call your veterinarian right away.
How Many Prawns Can You Give Your Cat?
As already mentioned, you shouldn’t use shrimp or prawns as a replacement meal. Use them as a treat or reward instead. You can offer a small amount to your cat unseasoned and de-veined. One-half of a large shrimp should be enough for a small cat; one large shrimp or prawn would be enough for a large cat.
How Often Can You Give Your Cat Prawns?
You should not give your cat prawns or shrimp too often. If you share a delicious prawn with your cat too often it could cause him to stop eating his normal food and start begging for special items. Once or twice per week would be often enough to let your cat enjoy a prawn.
Prawns and shrimp are high in protein and low in calories. Many cats love them. The safest way for your cat to enjoy a prawn is to wash it, remove the shell, and de-vein it, then cook it. If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, call your veterinarian right away.