Can I Give My Cat Tuna?

Anytime I eat tuna, my cats come up to see if they can steal a bite.  I even noticed that 2 of my cats started preferring tuna over their normal food! That got me wondering if it was okay for them to even be eating tuna.  It seemed like a healthy option, but I wanted to do some research to know for sure.

So, can I give my cat tuna?  Tuna can be included as part of a cat’s diet, so long as it is eaten in moderation and not as the sole food source.  Tuna contains important nutrients, such as protein. However, over-indulgence and reliance on tuna can lead to harmful health risks for cats.

The truth is a little tricky.

Like many things in life, it seems like tuna is great for cats, in moderation.  

Close-up of a cat eating tuna fillet food from white ceramic plate

You definitely don’t want to let your cat feast on tuna all the time, because there are some serious ailments that it can lead to.  

Like tuna addiction.


It’s a real thing!

But the good news is that there are some easy ways to regulate your cat’s diet so that your feline can enjoy tuna in a healthy way.

Is Tuna Okay For Cats?

If you’ve ever opened a can of tuna at home, you may have noticed that your cat suddenly wants to cozy up and be pals.  

This is certainly the case at my home, where tuna tends to have a magical power over my cats!

But there’s a lot more to tuna than just an excellent flavor that cats love.  

Tuna is a pretty healthy food source, making it a great option to include in a domestic feline diet.  

Tuna is not only okay for cats to eat, but it’s actually good for them!

In Moderation.

Tuna carries lots of nutritional benefits for cats:  

  • First off, it is an excellent source of protein, which is fundamental for a healthy body.  
  • Cats need protein in order to maintain muscle tone.
  • Protein is also wonderful fuel for energy, allowing your cat to remain active, playful and physically well.

The nutritional makeup of tuna extends far beyond protein.  

This particular fish also has omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and vitamin D.  

These are all essential building blocks for a healthy body.

Another great quality of tuna is that its ratio of good to bad components is fantastic.  

Many foods are packed with protein are also high in sodium and cholesterol, which aren’t as favorable.  

However, tuna has a relatively low amount of cholesterol and sodium, even though it is packed with other essentials.

Because tuna is both delicious and packed with nutrients, it is particularly useful for cats that need to boost their immune systems.  

Below is a great video with The Furry Family:


[Tuna, like salmon and swordfish, are carnivorous fish. This means that they can contain higher levels of mercury. And too much mercury for your cat isn’t a good thing.]

Senior cats, malnourished cats, and those who have lost their appetite from illness can benefit from a bit of tuna every now and then.

While these cats may not be feeling up for their normal meals, tuna may be just the enticement they need to get some substance in their system.

Also, tuna is much closer to a cat’s natural diet in the wild, making it a great treat.  

In many cases, tuna is much healthier and more desirable than processed pet food made with a myriad of artificial ingredients.

For all of these reasons, it is perfectly fine for felines to feast on tuna at home.  

The benefits are varied, meaning your cat can take advantage of nutrition, flavor and more.  

So before you label tuna as “people food,” remember that it’s a natural source of nutrition for felines, too!

Can Cats Eat Too Much Tuna?

As with most food sources, tuna is best included as part of a well-rounded diet.  

Even though it is packed with nutrients that can benefit cats, tuna is one of those delights that can turn into ‘too much of a good thing.’  

This means that reliance on tuna can actually be a harmful habit for cats.

One immediate concern that you should be aware of is the potential for an allergic reaction.  

Like people, cats can suffer from many different types of allergies.

If your cat is allergic to tuna, then even a small dish can trigger serious reactions.  

calico cat eating tuna and fish from a metal bowl outside

Every cat is different, so be sure to keep an eye on your feline friend if it’s the first time they’re tasting tuna.

Most cats, however, are not allergic to tuna, and they can safely eat a moderate amount.  

However, when tuna becomes the sole source of food in a feline diet, problems tend to pop up.

One risk of tuna reliance is malnutrition.  

While tuna is an excellent source of:

  • Protein
  • Vitamin D
  • Selenium and other essentials, it doesn’t contain everything needed to maintain a healthy diet.  

Cats that eat only tuna can become malnourished because they are not getting a sufficient amount of other nutrients.

Vitamin E deficiency can occur when cats eat too much tuna.  

This is a result of the high amount of unsaturated fats present in tuna.  

You might be thinking, I thought unsaturated fats are good.  

What’s the problem?  

Well, they are good: for people, not cats!  

When cats consume too many unsaturated fats, it can lead to a problem with the body’s fatty tissues and a vitamin E deficiency.

Another thing to be aware of is the amount of Mercury comprised in tuna.  

Mercury is a heavy metal that can be toxic when exposed to in high doses.

While most fish contain a bit of mercury, tuna typically has a higher mercury level than others.  

Too much mercury can result in mercury poisoning, which can have devastating effects on your cat’s wellbeing.

But perhaps one of the most realistic risks with tuna has to do with your cat’s attitude and appetite!  

Most cats adore the taste of tuna, and if this love of tuna turns into a subversion to other foods, you may have a problem on your hands.  

In a sense, cats can become addicted to tuna, meaning they refuse to eat other food you serve.

A reliance on tuna alone can lead to obesity since tuna contains tons of protein per serving.

Finally, too much tuna can lead to an unhealthy amount of salt intake.  

Some tuna is canned in brine, which is quite salty.

The average cat can suffer from a diet that is too heavy in salt.

 It’s even more important to be aware of your cat’s salt intake if it is suffering from diabetes, obesity or old age.

These complications can put your cat at a higher risk of eating too much salt.

How Much Tuna Should A Cat Eat?

For most cats, tuna eaten in moderation is a great contribution to a healthy diet.  

But how much tuna is too much?

fresh tuna caught from a boat

There are a few ways you can control your cat’s diet to make sure that a healthy relationship with tuna is established.

First of all, make sure that your cat is not relying solely on tuna as a food source.  

This means that other foods should be set out, including a variety of dry foods, snacks, and wet foods with different flavors, like chicken and beef.

Also, remember that just because you are serving your cat a variety of foods doesn’t mean that your cat is eating a balanced diet!  

Be sure to watch your cat at mealtime to make sure other food servings aren’t being skipped over.

If so, hold back on the tuna until you notice your cat eating other foods first.

Another way to regulate your cat’s tuna intake is to use it as a reward or treat instead of as a meal.  

Think about creating a schedule that your cat will become used to so as not to anticipate tuna at every meal.

You can play a large role in providing a healthy, well-balanced diet for your cat.  

The power is in your hands!

If you are using tuna as a significant meal source, limit servings to one can every other day and remember to supplement meals with other food sources.  

This can help establish a balanced menu for your cat.

Finally, remember that water is essential.  

Even though tuna has a significant amount of liquid to it, this is not an adequate source of hydration.  

Always keep fresh water available for your feline. Staying properly hydrated will also help your cat digest the tuna better.

What Type of Tuna Should I Give My Cat?

While there isn’t any specific type of tuna that is strictly off-limits for cats, different types of tuna carry different nutritional values.  

If you can’t bear the thought of cutting back tuna from your cat’s diet, you might want to consider switching to a healthier type of tuna to serve.  

Not all tuna is the same!

By swapping out a low-grade tuna for a healthier option, you can ease some of your concerns over whether you’re giving your cat too much of a good thing.

First, make sure that the tuna you’re purchasing is in water instead of oil or brine.  

Tuna in water is a healthier option because it cuts back on some of the harmful fats included in the juice.  

Also, tuna in brine is very salty, which can impact your cat’s diet… especially if your cat has diabetes or weight issues.

There’s another swap you can make when looking at tuna in the grocery store.  

Opt for Chunk Light Tuna:

Or SkipJack Tuna

This option is much lower in mercury than the alternative, albacore tuna.  

Because too much mercury can have toxic consequences, it’s better to choose a tuna that is lower in mercury.

Finally, if your cat just can’t get enough of that tuna flavor, consider moving away from the tuna aisle in the grocery store and heading for the pet food aisle.  

There are many tuna-flavored options that are specifically created for cats.

This can be a sneaky way of providing additional nutrition to your cat’s diet without depriving her of that delicious tuna flavor she craves.

Related Questions

Can cats eat tuna juice?  Yes, cats can eat tuna juice in moderation as part of a balanced diet.  Cats should not rely solely on tuna juice as a source of food or hydration.  Over-indulgence in tuna juice used as a primary food source can lead to health risks, including obesity, malnutrition and more.

What human foods can cats eat?  In the wild, a feline diet is based on carnivorous activity, suggesting a reliance on meat.  Cats can eat many human foods, including cooked meats, lean deli meats, fish and chicken, as part of a well-balanced diet.

Can cats eat tuna in brine?  Yes, cats can eat tuna in brine as a supplement to a balanced diet or as an occasional treat, but it is not recommended as a regular food source within a healthy feline diet.  Tuna in brine is often much higher in salt content than generally recommended for cats.

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