Can I Give My Cat Shrimp?Some things in life just seem to go together. Peanut butter and chocolate, bowties and top hats, cookies and cream, rabbits and carrots, and of course, cats and fish. The trope of the fish-loving cat is inescapable in pop culture and urban mythology. But when we get down to it, figuring out what types of seafood are best for our cat can be tricky—should we stick to fish with fins and gills, or can we give them shellfish like shrimp? Shrimp are, after all, among the most popular sea creatures to serve on American plates. Many households eat them semi-regularly, so we have plenty of opportunities to drop a couple of these little creatures into Fluffy’s food dish.
Can cats have shrimp?
The answer is yes, cats can eat shrimp in small amounts. Most ‘people foods’ are unsuitable and unappetizing to our feline friends, but minimally processed, ‘healthy’ meat options like shrimp are an exception. This food is sure to satisfy your carnivorous cat’s meat-loving palate—and, even better, it contains some nutrition that may actually benefit their health. However, it is important to limit the amount of shrimp in your cat’s diet because it often contains high amounts of cholesterol and sodium. Use shrimp as a treat or a supplement and not as a dietary mainstay.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Cat Curry
What are the benefits of feeding your cat shrimp? This little shellfish is considered an excellent source of animal protein, which is the type of protein cats seem to thrive on. Humans can do rather well on plant protein because we can synthesize certain amino acids on our own, but our cats, who are obligate carnivores, have evolved to meet their amino acid needs by eating the flesh of prey animals. Cats who rely on plant protein may become deficient in certain amino acids that exist mostly in meat foods.
One of these amino acids, taurine, is abundant in shrimp. Cats lack the ability to synthesize taurine, so they have to get it through their diet. Cats who are low on taurine may suffer from symptoms like eye problems (even blindness), an enlarged heart, heart failure, reproductive problems (including birth defects and infertility), bone problems, skin problems, hair loss, tooth decay, lethargy, and weakness. If you suspect that your cat may have a taurine deficiency, it is wise to have a vet check them out to make sure that there is not an underlying problem. If the issue seems to be dietary in nature, feeding your cat shrimp (along with supplementation) may improve their taurine levels.
Shrimp is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B12. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to aid in reducing inflammation, which can help curb the devastation that comes as a result of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and other autoimmune or inflammatory illnesses. Healthy fats like those found in shrimp can also improve skin and coat health in cats. Dry, brittle coats that have lost their shine sometimes respond well to omega-3 supplementation. In addition, cats who suffer from dermatitis and other skin conditions may find relief in boosting their omega-3 intake.
Omega-3 fatty acids may have many protective effects for your cat. Though little research has been done specifically on cats, other animal and human studies have found that these fatty acids boost the immune system, combat heart problems such as high blood pressure and ventricular arrhythmias, and blood clots. Omega-3s have even been shown to slow the growth of some cancers. While these fatty acids are certainly not a cure-all or a substitute for veterinary care, they may reduce your cat’s risk of getting sick in the first place.
That said, fresh shrimp should not become a dietary staple—it is high in cholesterol and sodium, which can cause health problems for your cat. Consuming too much cholesterol can increase your cat’s risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Consuming too much salt may result in high blood pressure in the long term, or, in the short term, hypernatremia. Hypernatremia, or salt poisoning, can be fatal to cats.
Things to Consider
Shrimp, and all seafood, also comes with the risk of contamination and parasites. To protect your cat from parasites, only feed them fresh shrimp that has been cooked at a temperature high enough to kill any parasites that may be present. All shrimp should be cleaned—the digestive tract removed—but it is safe for cats to eat the head.
In conclusion, fresh shrimp is a safe food to give to your cat in moderation. It is high in animal protein, which is comprised of the amino acids that felines need to stay healthy. It also contains large amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B12, which can fight inflammation, protect immune health, and reduce your cat’s risk of disease. Just keep their portion sizes limited, because feeding your cat too much shrimp can easily lead to an overdose on salt or cholesterol.