Can Rabbits Have Raw Fish?
If you grew up watching cartoons (and which of us didn’t?), you are aware that the stereotypical diet of the animated feline consists of the following: freshly caught mice, cream served in a ceramic saucer, and fish snatched straight out of the bowl. The reality of our cats’ behavior only seems to reinforce this idea, as many of us constantly have to look out for the wellbeing of our poor goldfish! It seems that our cats’ predatory instincts urge them to go after our pet fish, so intuition suggests that it is only reasonable that fish would be a natural part of their diet.
Yet we know that our cats’ wild ancestors certainly did not clean fish and roast them over the fire. We also know that our cats probably didn’t batter and season their fish and shove them into the oven. No, intuition tells us: our cats’ wild ancestors would have eaten whole fish totally raw. But are wild cats truly fisherman, and are fish really a natural part of their ancestral diet? If so, are there any benefits to leaving the fish uncooked before serving it to them? Can we give our pets sushi scraps? Can cats have raw fish?
The answer is no, cats should not eat raw fish—ever. Most raw fish is not necessarily poisonous, in that the actual meat of a fish’s body is not toxic to cats, but it is still unsafe and unhealthy. This is because raw fish is at an extremely high risk of contamination, and contaminated fish may contain bacteria and parasites that can sicken or even kill your cat. It is also worth noting that fish, cooked or not, is not a suitable staple food for most cats; fish does not contain all of the necessary nutrients for felines, and a cat who relies heavily on fish will develop nutritional imbalances.
Proponents of feeding fish to cats are quick to point out its nutritional density, and they are not wrong. Many species of fish are loaded with several of the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids necessary for feline health, so certain types do have the potential to be helpful dietary supplements for growing or active cats. Salmon, one of the most popular fish among the health-conscious crowd, may be particularly healthy for some cats.
Salmon and some other types of fish are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Though fat gets a bad wrap, some types of fat are necessary for human (and feline!) health. Whereas unhealthy fats, such as saturated fats and trans fats, should be avoided whenever possible, healthy unsaturated fats are a key part of maintaining optimal health. Omega-3 fatty acids are among the most sought-after nutrients today.
There have not been very many studies about the role that omega-3 fatty acids play in our cats’ health, but research performed on other animals (including people) may be applicable to our pets. Though more research is necessary, a handful of studies suggest that the fats found in fish like salmon may be able to reduce your cat’s chances of developing several forms of cancer. In these studies, omega-3 fatty acid intake correlated with a slower rate of cancer growth. One study even found that omega-3s slowed the spread of cancerous tumors!
Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties, too, which means that foods containing them may alleviate symptoms associated with inflammatory diseases, including arthritis and inflammatory skin conditions. In theory, giving your pet foods that contain anti-inflammatory substances can reduce the swelling in the joints, which can alleviate pain and improve joint mobility. It is important, however, for all cats with arthritis to receive veterinary care. Foods should never be used to treat feline illness without the guidance of a veterinarian.
Things to Consider
Though fish have the potential to provide many nutritional benefits, none of these benefits are worth the risks associated with giving your cat uncooked meat. Raw fish is a breeding ground for all kinds of pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. These pathogens can cause all sorts of problems for your cat, ranging from mild food poisoning (vomiting and diarrhea) all the way to severe toxicity that results in organ failure and even death.
While it’s true that cats are carnivores who are well-adjusted to eating raw meat, the conditions in which fish are raised and processed today increase the risk of contamination. If you want to give your cat fish as a treat or a dietary supplement, you can make it much safer by ensuring that it is fresh and fully cooked!
Though some online sources suggest that cooking food seriously compromises its nutritional value, in reality, cooking has little impact on nutrient availability. Your cat will be much safer if you give them a small amount of cooked, unseasoned salmon. Raw fish has no place in your housecat’s diet.