Popular culture often portrays cats as constantly thinking about tuna fish. The jaded alley cat peruses through the overturned aluminum trash bin, finally pulling out the bones of a fish and happily eating the scraps. Put a fish in a bowl and a cat will stare longingly at it for hours, as if was some sort of forbidden fruit.
You would think that cats spend their days dreaming of tuna. It’s only natural that as caring owners, we would want to give the cat a treat in the form of canned tuna fish. Tuna is easily available and we often have it in our homes for personal consumption. It would be selfish not to share.
Cats love tuna, it is difficult to dispute that. Open a can of tuna fish and it won’t take long before a furry head appears, sniffing the aroma and licking its lips. Nonetheless, a diet based exclusively on tuna is detrimental to feline health.
Can I Give my Cat Tuna Fish? Answer: Occasionally
In a similar way that a diet exclusively based on chocolate cake would be bad for us. The occasional tuna treat is no problem at all, but it should be given in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Tuna flavored cat foods exist that meet their dietary needs with the beloved taste of tuna.
A long term diet of tuna can have severe consequences to a cat’s health and until the problems get serious, it is unlikely your cat will complain about having tuna every day. But just as many children are disappointed they cannot live off of marshmallows alone, many cats will be disappointed to learn that tuna fish every day is just not right for them. Cats love tuna so much that they may eventually become “tuna junkies” and refuse to eat anything else.
Tuna Lacks Essential Vitamin E
Vitamin E is essential to cats. A diet composed primarily of tuna prepared for humans can lead to malnutrition because it does not contain all the nutrients our clawed companions need. Tuna does not contain enough vitamin E to meet the needs of cats. A deficiency of the vitamin can lead to an inflammation of the fat tissue known as steatitis or “yellow fat disease.” It is a painful condition, which causes muscles to atrophy and is coupled with other symptoms like fever and a decreased appetite.
Tuna Does Not Have Enough Taurine
Taurine is often found in energy drinks and even though it is disputed whether it is truly effective at giving us a boost in performance, it is an essential nutrient for cats. Cats are not able to produce taurine themselves and tuna lacks sufficient amounts of the amino acid to support them. Taurine deficiency takes many months to develop, once again proving that the occasional tuna treat is no problem. A long term lack of taurine, however, may cause hair loss and tooth decay in addition to affecting a cat’s reproductive and cardiovascular system.
Tuna Destroys Thiamine
Thiamine is also known as Vitamin B1 and is involved in many cellular processes. Cats that regularly eat tuna prepared for human consumption may suffer from a thiamine deficiency as tuna fish contains enzymes that destroy thiamine. Thiamine deficiency can cause neurological problems such as seizures and loss of coordination.
Tuna Contains Mercury
It is an unfortunate fact that the oceans are full of heavy metal pollutants like mercury. There is a general concern about the pollutants found in tuna available for human consumption. Due to the possibility of mercury toxicity, the American Pregnancy Association warns pregnant women to avoid certain fish, including tuna fish. Since mercury builds up over time, a steady diet of tuna increases the chances of mercury poisoning. Even if a cat walks, wears boots and speaks with a charming Spanish accent, it still needs a small amount of mercury to build up before it gets ill.
Moderation is key
Problems only arise when tuna is used as the primary source of a cat’s diet. A tuna fish treat every now and then will not harm cats. This is good news for them as they seem to love it. Just keep in mind that tuna is not an adequate diet for cats in the long term. As with nearly anything tasty in life, moderation is key.