How to Feed Cats Sardines

Sardines are a nice treat for your cats.
Image Credit: Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Moment/GettyImages

Cats are intensely attracted to the smell of sardines. The rich, fatty fish is often recommended as bait for trapping feral cats who are hungry for the calorie-rich treat. Sardines can be an attractive food to give your cat for an occasional treat. Not only will your cat love the yummy fish, but sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which give your pet's immune system a boost and help prevent heart disease. However, sardines for cats aren't always a healthy choice.

Know canned sardine nutrition

Canned sardines contain 3.25 grams of fat and 59 calories in every ounce, according to USDA's FoodData Central. They also serve up minerals that include calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. The fishy treats are also a significant source of B vitamins and vitamin A.

Although there are 87 grams of sodium in each ounce of canned sardines, cats don't usually have ill effects from excess sodium the same way that humans do, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. Unlike their two-legged companions, cats don't suffer from hypertension-related cardiac disease, kidney disease, or gastrointestinal damage based on the amount of salt in their diet. Sodium is sometimes useful in helping cats with renal disease according to Winn Feline Foundation.

Sardines for cats

Fish are easily digested and can tempt a reluctant appetite to help prevent unwanted weight loss, or add variety to your pet's diet. However, sardines and other fish aren't as nourishing as feeding meat to your cat according to Pet Health Partnership. Limit feeding sardines or other fish to no more than two or three times per week, according to the organization, as overeating fish can leave your cat with a fishy smell and cause eczema and digestive issues. Take care to remove all bones before feeding sardines to your cat.

Sardines are a type of fish that contains high levels of thiaminase, which is an enzyme that breaks up the molecules of the B vitamin, thiamine, and renders it useless. As the vitamin is necessary to energy metabolism, your cat could suffer from chronic fatigue, weight loss, heart issues, and nervous disorders according to The Raw Feeding Community. If you prefer buying fresh sardines for your cat instead of using canned, wrap the fish in a layer of parchment paper. Then fold the parchment paper-wrapped fish into an aluminum foil packet to hold in moisture.

Don't add spices or oils—these can upset your cat's digestive system and the taste of the fish is what your pet craves. Of course, the easiest way to feed your cat sardines is right out of the can. Keep in mind that thiamine is not added to canned sardines intended for humans, so do not overfeed the fishy delight to your feline. Wet cat food containing sardines is the best way to add the fish to your cat's diet

Make healthier choices

Limit serving any type of fish to just two or three times per week, advises Pet Health Partnership. Instead of sardines, consider other types of fish that are thiaminase-free according to the U.S.. Food and Drug Administration's best choice list for low mercury levels. Smart choices include:

  • Black sea bass
  • Cisco/lake herring
  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Atlantic mackerel (Pacific mackerel does contain thiaminase per The Raw Feeding Community)
  • Perch
  • Sole
  • Tilapia
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