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Can Cats Eat Goldfish? What You Need to Know!

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

Cat Watching Goldfish

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Vet)

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Cats and goldfish are two of the most popular pets people keep in their homes. Many people assume that a goldfish is bound to be a delicious lunch for a cat if the two pets are left alone. If you have ever had to stop your cat from devouring your aquatic pet, you might have wondered if it is okay for your cat to eat goldfish. Cats can eat goldfish, though you should try to prevent it. What should you do if you discover that your cat has eaten a goldfish? This article will help answer those questions and give you more information about what to do if your cat eats a goldfish.

Can Cats Eat Goldfish?

Technically, your cat can eat goldfish, although it’s not recommended. Although some wildcats have fish in their natural diet, like tigers and fishing cats, domestic cats are descended from desert cats that would not naturally have access to fish. Cats are known for their love of fishy flavors, but fish is not a necessary protein to provide a balanced and varied diet that meets a cat’s nutritional needs.

Domestic cats can eat many types of fish as part of a balanced diet, though. Fish are an excellent source of omega fatty acids, lean protein, and many vitamins and minerals. If your cat consumes a whole fish, including organs and bones, there are some additional nutrients they can receive, although bones can pose a choking and intestinal impaction risk.

Are Goldfish Good for Cats?

Although they are nutritionally dense, goldfish are not suitable for cats for a few reasons:

  • Whole fish have a ton of small bones. If consumed, these bones can lead to choking and intestinal impactions, as well as intestinal punctures and ruptures in severe circumstances. These are serious medical emergencies that can require pricey and risky surgical intervention to correct.
  • There is a risk of disease and infection. Goldfish are high waste producers and are often not kept in the cleanest of conditions. This could lead to parasites, bacteria, and fungi that may be transmissible to cats and even humans. If your cat snags a goldfish straight from the bowl, the issue is compounded by your cat consuming raw fish, which carries a risk of infections like salmonella.
  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency. Many types of fish including goldfish contain thiaminase, an enzyme which breaks down thiamine.  Eating a diet of raw fish can result in thiamine deficiency in cats resulting in neurological disease.
Cat Goldfish
Image Credit: Lizavetta, Shutterstock

What Should I Do If My Cat Eats a Goldfish?

If your cat consumes a single goldfish one time, there is a low risk to your cat, and it’s unlikely you’ll need to do anything. However, reaching out to your cat’s vet when you have questions or concerns is never the wrong decision.

If your cat ate a goldfish and you’re unsure if you should be concerned, reach out to the vet for guidance. They know about your cat’s health and will have some insight about your cat. The vet is likely to tell you to keep an eye on your cat for a few days for symptoms of illness, like lethargy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and inappetence, but there is a chance they may want to see your cat or preventively treat for infections.

In Conclusion

Goldfish do not belong in the normal diet of any cat. There is simply too much risk to your cat. There are far better fish options available to you that don’t contain bones and carry a much lower risk of transmissible disease to your cat. Cooked salmon or sardines are all better fish options, but in moderation.

Raw fish is never ideal for cats due to the risk of salmonella and other types of infections that your cat may get from the meat.

Ideally, you should only be feeding your cat foods that have been specifically formulated with the nutritional needs of cats in mind. Fish of any kind are not part of the natural diet of cats, but they can be part of a nutritionally sound diet.

Some cats really enjoy fishy flavors and may be attracted to the movement of your goldfish in its tank. Make sure your goldfish, and all other aquatic pets, are always kept in a location where your cat cannot get to them. This is the best way to keep your cat and your aquatic friends safe from each other.

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Featured Image Credit: Maleo, Shutterstock

Brooke Billingsley

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Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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