Can I Give My Cat Crab Meat?
According to our modern stereotypes, there are two things cats love more than any other food: cream and fresh fish. Much like dogs and peanut butter, the relationship between cats and seafood has long inspired our imaginations—and the dietary choices we make for our pets. Well-meaning pet owners in search of healthy, whole food treat options for their pets often opt for fresh fish (or other seafood) as a way to give their feline friends a meal that is both decadent and healthy. When picking out seafood for our cats, we often project our own tastes onto them. For people who love crab meat, this raises one question: is crab one of the safe meats? Can cats have crab meat?
There has not been much research on the impact of crab meat on a cat’s health, but conventional wisdom suggests that it would be okay to give this food to your cat in moderation. There is nothing in fresh, unsalted, shelled crab meat that would be poisonous to healthy cats, so kitty parents have no reason to rush their furry child to the hospital if they find them eating crab scraps. However, it is important to note that crab and other seafood are among the most common feline allergens. If your cat’s body responds negatively to crab meat, stop feeding it to them and take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Though there is not much information on the role that crab meat plays in feline nutrition, a look at the nutritional makeup of this food suggests that it may help provide many key nutrients for your cat. Healthy lean meats like crab flesh may be among the most nutritious treats you can give your cat because cats, unlike people and dogs, are obligate carnivores.
As obligate carnivores, cats have spent the last several billion years evolving to meet all of their nutritional needs by eating the flesh of prey animals. Natural selection has given them all of the biological equipment they need to survive just by eating meat, and seafood is known for being among the healthiest meats. Cats and other obligate carnivores have much higher protein needs than omnivores and herbivores. Crab meat is perfect for this requirement—just three ounces of cooked king crab boasts a whopping 16 grams of lean protein with zero carbohydrates!
Feline bodies use protein for all of the same things that our bodies do. The amino acids in protein serve as the raw materials for all of your cat’s body structures, all the way from their hearts and powerful muscles to their fur and claws. Since the body’s structures are made up largely of proteins, your cat’s whole body will suffer from inadequate protein consumption. Cats who do not consume enough protein may develop skin problems like eczema, dandruff, and itching. In addition, they may suffer from hair loss, low energy, and depression. If your cat’s coat is dull and coarse, a boost of protein may be the key to giving them a thick, shiny, soft fur coat.
Things to Consider
Crab meat is also high in another important nutrient: Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 can be difficult to find in nature (especially in plant sources), but this vital vitamin is abundant in crab flesh. If your cat doesn’t get enough of this micronutrient, they may develop Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can cause chronic low energy, physical weakness, issues with the peripheral nervous system (like having problems jumping or walking), diarrhea, vomiting, and low white or red blood cell count. Vitamin B12 is a crucial element in maintaining brain, immune, and digestive health. Cats who are eating foods high in this vitamin may experience a boost in energy and immunity, plus improved cognition.
In addition to food allergies, there are few other risks associated with feeding pets crab meat. Like most seafood, crab can be high in sodium. Cats can’t handle salt in quantities nearly as high as we can, which means that it can be very easy for them to consume too much of it. In the long term, eating too much sodium can increase your cat’s risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. If your cat takes in too much sodium in one sitting, they may develop salt poisoning, or hypernatremia. Symptoms of hypernatremia include extreme thirst, behavioral changes, confusion, stumbling, seizures, coma, and death. Hypernatremia is a medical emergency that requires veterinary care.
In the end, feeding your cat fresh, shelled crab meat in moderation is not likely to do them any harm. This lean, low-carbohydrate, low-fat (in comparison to other meats) meat can be an excellent way to boost your cat’s protein and Vitamin B12 intake, allowing them to stay fit and healthy for many years to come. Just be on the lookout for symptoms of food allergies or hypernatremia, which both require veterinary attention.