Can Cats Eat Shrimp?

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There’s no doubt that cats love eating shrimp. But is this shellfish okay to eat? I recently learned from my veterinarian that some ‘people foods’ are surprisingly off-limits for cats.  So now, I like to do my homework first before offering any table scraps to my cat.

So, can cats eat shrimp? It’s generally okay for cats to eat shrimp in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Shrimp offers unique nutritional value and mimics the naturally carnivorous lifestyle of the feline family. However, shrimp cooked with salt, oil, garlic or other seasonings shouldn’t be fed to cats.

black and gray cat pawing at a peice of shrimp outside on the grass

After reading up on the topic and consulting the experts, I can now rest easy about the feeding habits I set for my cat.  

I was so excited to learn this because I know my cat goes crazy over the smell of shrimp.  

It’s great to know that there’s a nutritional value that shrimp provides and that there are multiple parts of the shrimp that are okay for cats to feast on.  

But you do have to be careful, too.

Just because your meal has shrimp in it doesn’t mean it’s safe for your cat to eat!

There are helpful guidelines to follow to be sure your cat is eating shrimp safely and healthily.

Is Shrimp Okay For Cats?

Get ready for the good news, because your cat will be doing cartwheels when she hears: shrimp is generally okay to include in your feline’s diet!  

The smell of shrimp alone is enough to draw most cats out of the woodwork and straight to the kitchen.

So it’s great to know you can safely feed shrimp to your cat.

As a part of the Felidae category or Cat Family, domestic felines belong to a group of mammals that are natural hunters in the wild.  

They thrive on a carnivorous diet of meat and fish.

They also eat mice!

Because shrimp is a type of shellfish that could serve as a source of prey in the wild, it is considered a natural part of the carnivorous feline diet.  

Giving shrimp to a domestic cat is one way to mimic its natural food source.

Shrimp is okay to include in the diet of a domestic cat, as the feline digestive system is perfectly adept for handling it.  

Most cats are capable of eating shrimp without experiencing unwanted side effects.

With that said, shrimp shouldn’t be a sole source of nutrition.

Instead, include it as an occasional treat or meal within a well-rounded diet.

There are many nutritional benefits to including shrimp in your cat’s meal plan.  

Below is a video of a cat eating fresh shrimp (Love the crunching sound):


First of all, it is an excellent source of protein with relatively low levels of carbohydrates and fats.

Protein is necessary for the healthy development of energy, muscle tone, and strength.  

These qualities are super crucial for domestic cats because they need to adopt an active lifestyle.  

Having sufficient energy and muscle tone to move around and play can be critical for your cat to engage in enough exercise.  

All of these things contribute to your cat’s overall health and wellbeing.

Additional nutrients are served up in a helping of shrimp, too: 

  • Selenium
  • Vitamin B12
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium all come along as beneficial components of shrimp.  

These essentials keep your cat’s internal organs functioning properly and the musculoskeletal system robust.

So it turns out that shrimp is so much more than a tasty treat!  

Not only is it okay to include in your cat’s diet, but it can also actually be quite a healthy food source that loaded in nutritional content.  

[Just like giving your cat tuna]

Talk about a win-win for your feline!

Can Cats Get Sick From Eating Shrimp?

As with everything edible, there are some exceptions in which shrimp isn’t the best meal option for your cat.  

Once you know the particulars, it’s good to keep an eye out so that you can confidently please your pet by providing the delicious treat without risking health complications.

One major cause for concern is an animal’s allergies.  

Just like humans, cats can develop allergies to a wide variety of things, including food.  

Shrimp is classified as Crustacea, alongside crab and lobster.  

Typically, shellfish allergies stem from this particular group of seafood.

If your cat is allergic to shellfish, eating shrimp can trigger allergic reactions, some of which can be quite serious.  

Food allergies can take many different forms, but some of the most common reactions include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the mouth or tongue
  • Skin reactions can also occur as a result of an allergic reaction to shrimp and shellfish

If you are unsure of your cat’s food allergies, check with your veterinarian to see if any allergies can be determined based on your cat’s bloodwork or observed behaviors.  

If you know that your cat is allergic to shellfish, do not provide any amount of shrimp in her diet.

Another way that cats can get sick from eating shrimp is if there is not a healthy diet in place.  

When shrimp is the sole source of food for a domestic cat, there can be some ugly consequences.  

While shrimp has many beneficial qualities, it does not cover all the nutrients that are essential for establishing a well-balanced diet.  

Therefore, cats that are only fed shrimp may become malnourished.

But perhaps the most realistic danger that accompanies shrimp is not actually the shrimp itself—it’s what the shrimp is served with.  

Many ingredients that are commonly cooked up alongside shrimp for ‘people food’ are quite dangerous for cats:

  • Sauces
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Salt

Other seasonings can be extremely unhealthy for cats, and they can cause your cat to experience vomiting and diarrhea.

So yes, it is possible for cats to get sick from shrimp.  

The most realistic causes of sickness stem from allergic reactions, over-indulgence/unhealthy diet, and shrimp cooked with seasoning, sauce or oil.  

If you steer clear from these dangers, you have a better opportunity of treating your cat to shrimp without causing a health scare.

Can Cats Eat Shrimp Tails and Shells?

I was sharing this info with my brother, who likes to be a bit of a “smarty pants,” and his first reaction was to argue…

“What about shrimp tails?  

What about shrimp shells?”  

Of course, he was looking for some way to undermine my newfound knowledge.  

Well, the challenge ended in my favor this time, because I had already researched the answer for this, too!

In most cases, cats can eat shrimp tails just fine.  

The reason for this rebounds back to the basics: cats are natural hunters.  

Meaning if they would be interested in eating shrimp in the wild, their bodies are built to digest the tail, too.  

Check out the video below for “What part of the shrimp will my cat eat?”:


Because shrimp tails don’t contain a complex bone structure, it’s pretty safe for cats to eat.

The same logic applies to shrimp shells, too.  

While we humans may gawk at the idea of swallowing the hard shells that we work so hard to pick away from shrimp, cats have no problem digesting that part of the shellfish.

In fact, many cats enjoy the crunchy texture of shrimp tails and shells.  

So next time you’re cooking up some shrimp for yourself, save the tails and shells for your cat.  

What a great way for you to share the delight of shrimp without sacrificing some of your portion for your cat!

While cats are well-equipped for digesting shrimp tails and shells, these treats need to be eaten in moderation.  

Also, if your cat has any dental issues, such as weak or missing teeth, it’s better if they skip this crunchy part of the shrimp.  

Furthermore, if you’ve noticed particular digestive issues in your feline friend, ask your veterinarian if your cat is fit for digesting shrimp tails and shells safely.

What Type of Shrimp Should I Feed My Cat?

If you’re like me, then you’ll be thinking about your cat while perusing every aisle of the grocery store.  

Now that you know that cats can eat shrimp, you’re probably wondering which shrimp is the better option to stock your freezer.

[Note: According to Seafood Watch, some shrimp sold in stores are not really wild-caught. They recommend ” Best Choice” giant freshwater prawns and white leg shrimp farmed in the U.S.”]

It turns out that there aren’t too many holdups when it comes to cats and shrimp.  

So you won’t need to stress too much about which types of shrimp you plan to purchase for your feline.

With that said, wild-caught shrimp holds an edge over farm-raised shrimp, because it is often ‘meatier’ due to its natural environment.  

Similar to free range chicken, wild-caught shrimp has often thrived in a setting that offers more significant opportunity for developing free from added hormones, chemicals or artificial treatments that may alter the flavor and nutritional value.

Plus, there’s another advantage to serving up shrimp for your cat: how you handle it doesn’t impact its suitability for your cat.  

variety of shrimp for cats to eat

This is because cats are capable of eating shrimp whether it is raw or fully cooked.

You may, however, notice a difference in your cat’s preferences, as most cats prefer the smell of raw shrimp overcooked shrimp.

However, anytime a cat eats raw seafood, including shrimp, there is a risk that certain bacteria are being ingested, too.  

Unlike in the natural world, shrimp that comes from the grocery store or restaurant most likely isn’t being eaten immediately after being caught, which means bacteria has had the chance to develop.  

Unless you know exactly when the shrimp was caught or you catch it yourself, you may sleep easier cooking grocery store shrimp before feeding it to your cat.

If you do plan to cook the shrimp before feeding it to your cat, remember that it should always be served plain.  

Don’t use brine, salt, garlic or any other seasonings while cooking the shrimp.

If you do plan on using seasonings while cooking your serving of shrimp, separate a portion that you can save for your cat before adding all the tasty extras.

And definitely, don’t serve the shrimp to your cat if it has been bathed in sauce.  

While many people love smothering shrimp in cocktail sauce or rich béchamel, these salty and fatty dressings can be quite harmful to your cat.

Remember, you can always resort to the pet food aisle as an alternative to real shrimp, too.  

Many cat foods and hard treats include shrimp in them.

And while nothing compares to the real deal, shrimp-flavored cat treats are a great alternative to buying fresh or frozen shrimp packaged for people.

Related Questions

Can cats eat dried shrimp?  Yes, cats can eat dried shrimp in moderation as part of a well-rounded diet, unless an allergy is present.  Dried shrimp should not replace a domestic cat’s primary food source, and dried shrimp with salt, herbs or other seasonings should not be fed to cats.

Can kittens eat shrimp?  Kittens can eat a small amount of shrimp so long as a food allergy is not present.  When introducing shrimp for the first time, provide a small amount while observing the kitten’s response.  If vomiting or diarrhea occurs, reduce the amount of the shrimp supplied and consult a veterinarian.

Can cats eat lobster?  As natural carnivores, cats are capable of eating lobster as part of a well-balanced diet, unless a seafood allergy is present.  In addition to potassium and zinc, lobster can be a great source of protein for cats. Lobster alone should not replace a well-balanced feline diet.

3 thoughts on “Can Cats Eat Shrimp?”

  1. My cat (Siamese) loves shrimp (surprise, surprise), but I also find it a very practical food as it is eaten eagerly, there is almost no waste and it smells like ‘food’ which cannot be said about most tinned wet cat “food”. He will take both cooked and raw with alacrity and although it seems like an expensive food, I know that it is good for him and the fact that there is little waste is a big plus for me. He also has a dish of “Iams” on permanent offer to balance things a little but I often wonder if there might be something missing in his diet. He always seems to be in great shape with just the occasional fur ball to deal with and an occasional throw up when he has ingested a long blade of the wrong sort of grass

    1. Triston Butler

      You can offer your kitties coconut oil preferably cold pressed to eat,as it’s a natural lubricant and cats are less likely to get hairballs eating it. I know from personal experience my furry babies & real babies.

    2. What about dried shrimps. It is a little salty but if 1 add a little bit to their regular food, they goble up everything because they love the smell.
      Is it ok to give cats dried shrimp?

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