is it okay to feed cats sardines?
Cat Food and Hydration

Can You Feed Cats Sardines?

You already know that cats like eating sardines. Felines don’t hunt in water, and they don’t eat fish in the wild. Given that some human foods are toxic to cats, this makes many owners wonder if it’s safe to feed cats sardines.

Sardines are healthy for cats because they’re high in protein, which cats need for energy. Sardines also contain minerals like calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc, which cats require for a healthy coat and internal organs. Sardines also assist with hydration.

One reason why cats enjoy fish is the high protein content. However, you should only feed your cat sardines infrequently, and you must drain the can of any added oils, sauces, or brine. Sardines in spring water, without any added salt, are preferred.

Do Cats Like Sardines?

Cats enjoy sardines, just as they do all types of oily fish. It’s odd that they do. Cats don’t hunt in water, and they don’t eat fish in the wild. So, it’s unclear where they developed their taste for eating fish.

A cat’s diet should contain protein, which is why cats almost solely eat meat. Fish has about the same amount of protein as white and red meats.

Can Cats Eat Sardines?

Sardines are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, there are issues. Canned sardines may have bones in them, but these are small and bendy. So, your cat can digest them without any problems.

Another issue is whether the oils, brines, and sauces that sardines are covered, which are unhealthy. Each kind of sauce or oil should be OK, as long as too much isn’t consumed. Drain the sardines first so that you minimize how much of the sauce or oil you feed your cat.

Feed your cat sardines in spring water with no added salt. This avoids feeding your cat too much sodium or fat.

Oil

Sunflower oil isn’t bad for cats in small quantities. So, if you feed a cat one sardine with the sunflower oil mostly drained from it, that’s not a problem. Neither sunflower oil nor olive oil is poisonous to cats.

However, large quantities of sunflower oil (or any oil) can cause diarrhea. It will also fatten your cat up over time. So, don’t feed it too much. The same applies to sardines in olive oil. Olive oil is slightly better for cats, but still shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities.

Do cats like sardines?

Brine

Brine is a term for saltwater. Foods are stored in brine because it preserves foods, which is an ancient practice dating back hundreds of years.

Unfortunately, salt is bad for cats because it can lead to high blood pressure. Avoid feeding your cat too much brine. One sardine in brine won’t be a problem for an otherwise healthy feline, but you should wash it off first.

Tomato Sauce

Cats can eat tomato sauce without it causing health issues. Tomato is a fruit, and cats don’t eat fruit. But that’s not because all fruits are poisonous or toxic. It’s because fruit doesn’t contain the nutrition that cats need.

You can feed sardines in tomato sauce to your cat, and it will eat them because it likes sardines. However, it would probably prefer to have the sardines without any sauce on them.

Spring Water

Better than all of the above options are sardines in spring water. These don’t have any added sodium or fat, which is good. The sardines themselves still have all the protein, vitamins, and minerals that cats benefit from.

Sardine Nutritional Information

Sardines are a nutritious food for cats. They contain different minerals in high quantities and some vitamins in lower quantities. On a macro level, sardines are high in protein and contain some fat, with no carbs, which is optimal for a cat’s diet.

Here’s a table using data from NutritionValue.org, detailing the macronutrients that sardines contain. This table relates to sardines stored in sunflower oil. Other kinds of sardines contain less fat.

MacronutrientAmount per 100g
Protein25g
Fat11g
Carbohydrate0g
Fiber0g
Water59.6g
Calories208

Cats need protein because they’re obligate carnivores. Almost all of a cat’s diet should be meat, which means they need plenty of protein.

Sardines contain lots of water. Cats that eat lots of dry foods struggle to get enough water from their diet. Sardines make a good meal because they are rich in vitamins and minerals:

Vitamin/MineralAmount per 100g
Niacin (Vitamin B3)5.245mg
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)0.642mg
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)0.227mg
Vitamin B128.94ug
Vitamin B60.167mg
Vitamin E2.04mg
Calcium382mg
Copper0.186mg
Iron2.92mg
Magnesium39mg
Phosphorus490mg
Selenium52.7ug
Sodium307mg
Zinc1.31mg

Cats have a special need for calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium. Sardines offer much of the micronutrition that cats require. That doesn’t mean that sardines have everything that cats need. According to JSAP, cats fed largely fish-based diets can be deficient in vitamin K.

Are Sardines Good for Cats?

Sardines contain plenty of protein without much in the way of carbs or fat, unless they were stored in sunflower oil.

They contain protein, which cats need in higher relative qualities than other animals. Rather than using carbohydrates for energy, cats mostly use protein. Also, amino acids are required to build healthy muscle mass.

According to the Cambridge University Press, the fish oils in sardines may reduce the effects of brain aging in older cats.

Sardines are also better for cats than standard dried treats. That’s because dried treats can cause or exacerbate kidney disease. Cats hardly drink at all, getting most of their water from food.

What Are the Side Effects of Sardines in Cats?

While sardines are healthy for cats, they aren’t an optimal food source. They can cause several side effects when fed in large quantities.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea can occur when a cat eats something that’s too oily. While one sardine wouldn’t be too oily for a human’s digestive system, cats are significantly smaller.

Consequently, a comparatively small amount of oil could have a laxative effect on a cat. Feed a cat sardine in mineral water.

Choking Hazard

Sardines in cans may have bones in them. These bones aren’t too big for a cat to handle, unless your cat is small. Even then, your cat will chew through the sardine and eat around any bones that are too big.

Mercury Poisoning

According to the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, cats that eat lots of tuna can have elevated levels of mercury.

Mercury poisoning affects the internal organs of cats. It can also harm the development of kittens, if ingested by pregnant cats. Your cat won’t ingest enough mercury from one sardine to cause any health issues.

How To Make Sardines for Cats

You don’t need to prepare a sardine to feed it to a cat. Open the can, drain it, and place the sardine in your cat’s food bowl as normal. Feed it as part of your cat’s meal rather than separately because sardines are high in calories.

How Often Can Cats Eat Sardines?

Limit consumption to one sardine per week. You can feed your cat sardines more frequently than this, as long as you adjust your cat’s regular diet to contain fewer calories.