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Why Do Cats Like Fish?

Picture of a grey cat looking at a fish

Many people think that cats and fish go together like peas and carrots. Though it is true that many furry felines are bewitched by the alluring scent of tuna, sardines, or even salmon, not all cats love seafood, contrary to popular opinion. What is the connection between cats and fish? For those kitties that are firmly in the fish-loving category, why do cats like fish?

The Historical Connection

The earliest predecessor of the domesticated cat, the African wildcat, subsisted on a diet of mice, rabbits, reptiles, and birds. This account is compatible with the certainty that cats are opportunists who happily eat whatever food source is readily available. Since cats do not possess the ability to procure seafood easily, their taste for fish had to have developed with some human intervention involved.

Historians have asserted that the ancient Egyptians played a role in the cat’s newfound affinity for fish. The Egyptians, fascinated with these furry feline creatures, sought ways for cats to willingly enter their homes, so they could be domesticated and spend their lives as their pampered house pets. To accomplish this purpose effectively, it is believed the that Egyptians used various types of fish as bait to lure cats inside their dwelling places.

The domesticated cat and those felines related to it were designed to subsist on a diet of birds and small animals. Hunting was the main means for these cats to obtain their food.

Almost without exception, the earliest cats preferred a diet of land-dwelling creatures to those that came from the sea. However, there is one variety of cat that does hunt and feast on fish. This cat species is known as the fishing cat. Other wild cats such as tigers also enjoy fish when the opportunity presents itself for them to eat it.

What is important to note is that though cats may eat and enjoy fish, fish never played an important role in their regular diet. So, what is it about fish that makes some cats go wild?

What’s the Deal with Cats and Fish?

When cats became domesticated, they learned to appreciate and scavenge human food. It was not long before cats, a very intelligent species, became aware of an easy food source for themselves. Since fishermen unloaded their daily hauls at local docks, cats began to congregate there to snag a snack with very little effort invested on their part to source their dinner.

The fish these cats chose to eat provided excellent health benefits for them. Their coats become healthier and shinier, and their joints more supple and strong. With no need to focus on hunting for food, these cats now had additional free time to devote to other activities such as reproduction. Making use of fish as a viable food source enabled cats to reserve their energies for activities they valued more highly since hunting for survival was no longer required.

However, a cat’s digestive system was not designed for eating fish on a regular basis. For this reason, it is best to restrict feeding fish to a cat to an occasional basis to prevent gastrointestinal distress.

Should Fish Play a Regular Role in My Cat’s Diet?

Fish can be healthy for cats to eat if given in moderation only. A food that is high in protein, healthy oils, minerals, and vitamins, there is much to promote feeding fish to a cat.

However, cats are what is known as obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivores base the vast majority of their diet on meat with a smaller portion allotted to vegetables, fruits, and carbohydrates in the form of grains.

To remain healthy, cats require excellent quality proteins. It is from this food source that cats obtain the hormones, antibodies, and enzymes their bodies require to perform such important functions as:

  • Construct and repair tissue
  • Promote a consistent and correct pH balance
  • Provide fuel for the cat’s energy needs

But cats cannot survive on proteins alone. Their bodies also require healthy oils and fats. Many of these important nutrients are typically found in plants. However, since cats have digestive tracts that cannot readily break these materials down, they must obtain them from alternative sources.

In addition to being chock full of healthy oils and fats, fish is high in taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that plays a vital role in such functions as vision, digestion, reproduction, and even heartbeat regulation. Though many other animals’ bodies naturally produce taurine, cats must obtain it from an outside source.

Fish contains many of the nutrients cats need to thrive; however, it is not a complete food in that it does not meet all of the cats’ basic nutritional needs. Though it is rich in taurine, it is deficient in such important minerals as:

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Sodium

Fish can also be too high in phosphorous, iodine, and mercury, and depending on where it is procured, may even harbor toxins. With this in mind, too much fish can create a dietary imbalance, potentially leading to such health problems as Urinary Tract Infections and thyroid issues.

Many cats do like fish, and there is nothing wrong with allowing them to enjoy some as a treat on occasion. However, fish should not be the primary protein source in a cat’s diet as it is not properly nutritionally balanced to meet a cat’s daily needs.

What Fish is Best to Feed My Cat?

If you happen to own a cat that thinks fish is the best thing since sliced bread, feel free to give them some to enjoy on occasion. For cats that enjoy fish, the sky is the limit as to what you can serve your fave furry feline.

Experts recommend feeding cats tuna and salmon because they are high in omega 3-fatty acids.  However, moderation should be observed as these same fish species can also be high in mercury. Other good choices for cat consumption are such fish as:

  • Flounder
  • Cod
  • Halibut

How Much Fish Can I Safely Give My Cat?

For ultimate health and safety precautions, it is best to limit fish-based meals to no more than two to three times per week. Feeding more than this may lead to gastrointestinal distress.

Why do cats like fish? There is no question that fish is downright tasty to cats. However, the most likely answer is that it was once an easy protein source for them that they have now developed a taste for. For a special treat for your kitty, pick up a can of sardines today!

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