Can Cats Eat Sardines? Here are The Cat Facts!

Posted in: Cat Health - Last Updated: March 24, 2022 - Author: Rebekah Carter
Posted in Cat Health 
Last Updated: March 24, 2022  
Author:  Rebekah Carter
sardines snesxt to hungry looking cat

Can cats eat sardines? Cats and fish seem like a match made in heaven, but the foods your kitty often seems drawn to won’t necessarily be the foods they should be eating. After all, we all know how often the media presents cats as being lovers of milk, but as lactose intolerant creatures, dairy products can often make your feline friend sick

Sardines, just like tuna, are one of the many foods your pet kitty is likely to be drawn to if you’re snacking on them somewhere close. The intense smell of this food appeals to your kitty’s hunter instincts. What’s more, cats are naturally attracted to fatty foods, making sardines look like a fantastic treat.

The question is, should you be feeding your cats sardines as an occasional reward? Or are sardines more dangerous for your furry friend than you might think?

Can Cats Eat Sardines? The Basics

Cats love all kinds of oily fish packed with Omega 3s, so sardines are likely to be an appealing treat for your furry friend. However, they’re not necessarily a must-have in your kitty’s diet. Cats don’t generally eat a lot of raw fish in the wild, because they’re unlikely to hunt in water. 

You could be accidentally be exposing your best furry friend to harmful ingredients, enzyme, toxins, and foods that are troublesome for a cat's digestive system.

What’s really important for your kitty, is making sure they get plenty of protein into their daily diet. Since certain sources of fish can have the same amount of protein as white and red meat, some seafood can make up a significant portion of your cat’s diet. Sardines are relatively high in protein, as well as valuable minerals and vitamins

What tends to make sardines problematic as a food source for your cat, is when they’re offered from tins intended for human consumption, rather than in a pre-made cat food formula. sunflower oil, soybean oil, olive oil, brines, Omega-3 fatty acids, and sauces designed to make sardines more delicious for us people aren’t always healthy for your cat.

white and black cat eating fish

What Kind of Sardines Can Cats Eat?

Generally, it’s best to avoid any pre-prepared sardines designed for humans when you’re looking for a delicious treat for your cat. Most of the time, oils are less problematic than brines and other sauces, but it’s still a good idea to show caution. Regularly giving your cat oily fish can lead to weight gain

Here are some of the differences between the various kinds of sardines on the market today:

  • Oil: Sardines in sunflower oil shouldn’t be a dangerous substance for your cat, provided you give this food in small quantities. However, large quantities of oil can cause your cat to get fat and may lead to issues like diarrhea.
  • Brine: Brine is a kind of salty substance used to preserve food. However, salt is extremely bad for cats and sardines have a naturally high salt content level. This can lead to high blood pressure, hydration problems, and other issues. While a single sardine in brine might not be too problematic, too many can cause health issues.
  • Tomato and other sauces: Cats don’t need any fruit or vegetables in their diet. While tomatoes won’t necessarily cause any harm to your cat, they’re not the best source of nutrition for your furry friend.

If possible, stick to sardines included in recipes for well-regarded cat foods, or offer your cat sardines packed in spring water, for minimal issues.

Are Sardines Nutritional?

Per ounce, canned sardines contain around 3.25 grams of fat, and around 59 calories. They can be a slightly fattening food for your kitty, but they can be healthy enough in moderation. Sardines also offer access to a range of minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. These treats can also be an excellent source of vitamin A and B vitamins.

If you’re looking for sardines specifically to feed your cats as treats, it’s best to look for options with minimal unhealthy ingredients, like fatty oils, and high levels of sodium. Additionally, it’s worth making sure you limit how often you give your kitty these treats. 

Ultimately, while cats might love the taste of fish, products like sardines can be fattening and high in salt, which leads to health issues over time. You can always consider cat foods made with small amounts of sardines and other fish products if your kitty loves this flavor.

In fact, when prepared and offered correctly, giving your cat regular fatty fish in their diet can even improve brain health and reduce the effects of brain aging in older felines.

human feeding white and tabby cat sardines

Can Sardines Cause Problems for Cats?

Because they’re a natural source of protein and other useful ingredients for your cat, sardines are usually a relatively healthy choice for a cat treat. However, they’re not necessarily an optimal food source on their own, particularly if you’re buying sardines prepared for humans. When given in large quantities, sardines may cause issues like:

  • Diarrhea: This is common when you give your cats sardines tinned in oil. Diarrhea is a common problem for cats when they eat something with excessive amounts of oil. A comparatively small amount of oil for us humans could lead to a significant laxative effect for your kitty, so be cautious.
  • Choking Hazard: Most canned sardines could contain bones. However, these generally aren’t too large for a cat to handle if you have a fully-grown adult cat. Your cat will often be able to chew around bones and avoid any significant choking issues, but it’s still important to be as careful as possible.
  • Mercury poisoning: Cats eating large amounts of tinned fish can be more exposed to the threat of mercury poisoning, which is a result of sardines being low on the aquatic food chain. In some cases, mercury poisoning can negatively influence the internal organs of cats and lead to problems with your kittens’ development. This shouldn’t be a problem when feeding your cat one or two sardines, but it could be an issue if you give your kitty sardines from a tin on a regular basis.

Can Cats Eat Sardines as a Treat?

Typically, giving your cats sardines as a treat shouldn’t be a problem. Sardines aren’t dangerous to cats in moderate doses. However, it is a good idea to drain the tin and wash any oils or brine off the sardines before your cat eats them. You can offer sardines either as part of your kitty’s regular daily meal or as an occasional cat treat

However, if you’re giving your cats sardines prepared for humans, try to avoid giving them too much, as this can lead to problems over time. 

Lastly, if your kitty seems poorly or is vomiting continuously after eating any food, make sure you get them to the vets for a check-up. It's always worth it!

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About the author

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated animal lover. Her Savannah cat, Roscoe, has a lot of attitude, while her Maine Coon, Dukino, is full of love. When not writing, she’s looking after her cats and researching ways to help them live their best possible life. Her passion for animals and natural skill for writing led her to pursue pet blogging.