Shrimp is one of the most common types of seafood that people have on a regular basis, whether with pasta or other side dishes. Since cats are known to love fish and seafood, you might think that feeding your pet table scraps from any meal containing shrimp is fine. But it’s not.
In today’s article, we’re looking at whether or not cats should have shrimp, if it can provide them with any health benefits or nutrients and why you should never give your cat any table scraps.
Benefits of giving your cat shrimp
A low-calorie snack
One of the reasons why people have shrimp every now and then is that it’s not a very calorie-dense type of food. This means that it is also appropriate for overweight or obese cats.
It’s not too fatty
Another aspect that sets shrimp aside from other types of seafood and even other types of fish is the fact that its cholesterol content isn’t very high.
Therefore, shrimp is appropriate for all types of cats, including geriatric patients that might have stricter diets. Cholesterol can be quite crucial for cats, but they shouldn’t get too much of it.
Rich in minerals
Shrimp contains good amounts of phosphorus, potassium, zinc, magnesium, sodium, as well as calcium. It even has a small amount of iron, which is the building block of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin can be found in red blood cells, and it is in charge of transporting nutrients and oxygen to and from your pet’s internal organs.
All of the rest of the minerals that we mentioned are important for your cat’s osteomuscular system and for ensuring that all of the cell membranes in their body are functioning properly.
Risks of integrating shrimp into your cat’s diet
Whether you get your shrimp raw or you buy it fresh from the fish market, the truth is that it can be contaminated with germs. This is why feeding raw shrimp to cats is not recommended. The most common bacterium that can be found on shrimp is Salmonella spp., but Escherichia coli is no exception.
So, unless you want your cat to experience severe digestive distress as a result of food poisoning, combined with dehydration, bloating, and a myriad of other symptoms, do not give them any raw shrimp.
Since this type of seafood is harvested from the ocean and the sea, it goes without saying that it has a risk of having come in contact with some heavy metals.
This is the case for most ocean fish and seafood varieties these days. The most common heavy metal that can be found in these species is mercury, and it is toxic to cats and humans alike.
The harder parts of the shrimp, such as its tail and the shell itself, can cause some problems, although most cats pay attention when eating seafood, so they will do their best to remove these structures.
However, cats that are ravenous or kittens might be less careful, so they might choke on them, or they might swallow them whole, which can lead to digestive complications later on.
In any case, this is perhaps the best reason to ensure that the pieces of shrimp you give to your cat are always shelled and free of their tails.
How to safely feed shrimp to your cat
Once you’ve cleaned the shrimp and removed all of the hard parts, it’s time to cook it. The best piece of advice we have for you in this sense would be to make two separate batches – one for you and one for your cat.
While to the shrimp recipe you cook for yourself, you are free to add all sorts of ingredients, such as butter, seasonings, or spices, the one that you prepare for your feline companion should be as bland as possible.
Then we have to look at the ways you can cook the shrimp. Baking it in the oven, grilling it, boiling it, or steaming it are the cooking methods that we recommend. Frying the shrimp is not advised because that would increase its caloric content, so your cat will also ingest the butter or oil, which can lead to digestive distress.
Cats are lactose intolerant once they reach the age of 3 months, so butter and any other type of dairy can trigger digestive imbalances.
Fresh shrimp is always the better option, but frozen (and properly cooked) varieties can be just as safe for cats.
How much shrimp can a cat eat?
Due to the risks that we have previously mentioned, such as the heavy metal and bacterial contamination, we recommend looking at shrimp more as a snack rather than a primary food type.
One shrimp per week as a snack will not endanger your cat’s health in any way, provided that it is well cooked and unseasoned. This quantity rarely creates any issues with regard to iodine or mercury content.
Raw vs. cooked vs. canned shrimp for cats
We’ve already established that raw shrimp is simply unsafe to give to cats, whether as a treat or a main meal.
Cooked shrimp is the best option you have available because you have complete control over the cooking process and whatever you want to add to the recipe.
Canned shrimp, unless it is specifically marketed for cats, is not safe for this species. The main reason for this statement is that such varieties usually contain massive amounts of salt and other additives used to ensure that these foods remain shelf-stable for months or sometimes even years. Not only that, but canned shrimp can also contain other seasonings, depending on the specialty, including garlic or onion, which are inappropriate for cats.
So, can cats eat shrimp? Yes. Shrimp can be a great occasional treat for cats since it is low in cholesterol and calories, and it also contains a variety of minerals.
The best type of shrimp for this species is the one you cook yourself and use no spices, butter, oil, or seasonings. Ask your vet about your cat’s diet and what the ideal one should look like.