Can I Give My Cat Sushi?
When many people talk about “treating themselves,” they are referring to sweet, addictive desserts such as a piece of cake, a bowl of ice cream, a cookie, a brownie, or the irresponsible culinary brilliance known as the brookie. There are, however, a handful of flavorful, excitement-worthy treats that fall into the savory category, and one of these treats is sushi. Beloved by most people over the age of twelve, sushi is considered by many to be the best of both worlds: a treat and a health food rolled into one small, portable, easy to eat bundle. We love to share sushi with our friends and family, but what about our pets?
We know that we probably shouldn’t share our donuts, snack cakes, or sweet treats with our cats, but what about sushi? After all, pop culture has taught us that cats love fish more than any other food. Can cats have sushi?
The answer may surprise you: while not a life-threatening food, sushi is generally not recommended for cats. Despite the wide variety of fish-flavored treats and the large number of fish-munching cartoon cats, most sources agree that sushi is not an ideal food for your cat. That being said, sushi in and of itself is not toxic to cats, per se, so you have no need to panic if your cat gets ahold of a single roll on accident. A small amount of sushi on occasion is not likely to cause your cat any lasting harm.
Are there any potential pluses to giving your cat sushi? If there are any, they are small, and greatly outweighed by the negatives. Firstly, sushi often includes a significant amount of white rice, which is junk food for cats. There is no nutritional benefit, a lot of sugar, and what little protein rice contains does not have the correct amino acid profile to meet feline protein needs. These empty calories can increase your cat’s risk of becoming overweight or obese, which can lead to a whole host of health problems down the line. Cats who are overweight are more likely to suffer from diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular problems, arthritis, and reduced lifespan. To make matters worse, cats struggle to digest large amounts of carbohydrate, which means that they are prone to bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea if they consume too much.
What about the fish? While many people believe that fish is a healthy food for cats, the risks far outweigh the benefits. The raw salmon found in many sushi rolls may be high in protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, but it can also be dangerous to cats.
Contrary to popular belief, fish is not an ideal food for cats, and may even be harmful. Firstly, many cats are actually allergic to fish—it ranks within the top five feline food allergies, along with beef, dairy, corn, and wheat. Cats who have food allergies may experience unpleasant or even life-threatening symptoms if they consume fish, including excessive hair loss, skin rashes or itchiness, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive gas, recurring ear problems, and breathing problems like coughing and wheezing.
Also, many of the predatory fish species used in sushi, such as salmon, have high amounts of potentially dangerous substances, including pesticides and heavy metals like mercury. Due to their high concentration of metals and other pollutants, some predatory fish are even considered to be dangerous to humans. If salmon can be harmful to you, a 140-pound person, imagine the impact it can have on your 10-pound cat! Because cats are so small, it takes far less of a toxic substance to cause them significant, even permanent, harm.
Things to keep in MindPBDEs, which fish’s bodies produce during their life. The concentration of PBDEs can be even higher in predatory species like salmon, because it bio-accumulates with each rising link in the food chain.
And finally, feeding your cat fish-based foods is a bad idea because it has a tendency to ‘spoil’ them. While it does not happen in all cats, many cats who are fed fish semi-regularly adopt the habit of refusing their usual cat food in the hopes of being fed fish instead. Like a picky toddler, cats will go hungry in protest of their usual fishless kibble. For your sanity and your cat’s health, you may be better off avoiding sushi and other fishy foods.
In sum, feeding your cat sushi will not kill them, but it is generally thought to be a bad idea. The rice found in sushi is high in sodium and carbohydrates, which offer little benefit for cats and can contribute to obesity. The fish used in sushi can contribute to allergies, cause digestive problems, and increases your cat’s risk of consuming potentially harmful pesticides and heavy metals.