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Can Cats Eat Mackerel? Nutrition Facts & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Can Cats Eat mackerel

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It’s pretty clear to us all that cats love fish. Although fish isn’t part of a cat’s natural diet, it is a source of protein and fats that cats need to thrive. Additionally, it’s smelly and attractive to cats! Different types of fish have various nutritional values and benefits to cats. A fish you may find in the grocery store and consider feeding to your cat is mackerel.

Cats can eat mackerel. Mackerel is a protein source high in healthy fats and provides extra nutritional benefits. Fish like mackerel shouldn’t be given to cats as a complete diet as it doesn’t meet their nutritional needs. Instead, it can be used as a treat food.

There are a few tricks and tips to ensure that you feed mackerel and other fish safely to your cat, so read on to learn more.

Health Benefits of Mackerel for Cats

Fish raw
Image Credit: mschoettchen, Pixabay

Cats need a careful balance of nutrients to create a complete diet to fuel their bodies for happy, healthy lives. There is a range of essential vitamins and compounds found within fish that can benefit your cat.


Mackerel is high in omega-3 fatty acids. You can see it listed all over cat food packaging as a key marketing point and for a good reason. Fatty acids are vital for cats for their anti-inflammatory properties and support growth and development.

Omega-3s are also great for promoting healthy skin and coats in cats. Mackerel is one of the fish with the highest in omega-3s, and it can provide dietary supplementation.

Vitamin B12

Mackerel is also in the top ten for foods highest in vitamin B12. B12 is essential for cats’ immune, nervous, and digestive systems. Extra vitamin B12 is especially helpful in supporting cats with gastrointestinal problems, such as allergies.


Cats’ bodies have a high demand for dietary protein. It’s recommended to feed them a diet of 25% at the minimum. Mackerel is high in protein and is often used as an ingredient in commercially produced cat foods.

Moderation is Always Key

While mackerel inarguably provides cats a wide range of health benefits, it is not suitable as a replacement for an entire diet. Mackerel does not contain the full range of nutrients your cat’s body needs, so if it’s served exclusively, it will lead to malnutrition.

For example, canned mackerel does not contain adequate levels of essential taurine since it is destroyed during the canning process from the heat. Raw fish is not safe to be fed to cats to keep taurine intact.

Mackerel, however, is a good choice of fish to feed. It is relatively inexpensive and has lower mercury levels than other sea fish. Mackerel lives in lower, less polluted sea levels and, therefore, will have fewer toxins or heavy metals in its flesh.

Mackerel is better suited to be fed as a treat or supplementary food. Since its scent and taste are highly alluring to cats, it would be a great choice to attempt to hide any medication in!

Preparing Mackerel Safely

Can Mackerel
Image Credit: primorske, Pixabay

Fish like mackerel can be processed and used in many ways. Not all mackerel is equal when it comes to feeding it to your cat, and there are a few key aspects to consider when you choose to feed your cat mackerel.

Raw Mackerel

Never feed raw fish to your cat. Raw fish can contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella, which can harm your cat and your family. Raw fish also contains thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down an essential B vitamin, thiamine. Thiamine deficiency can lead to neurological problems.

Canned Mackerel

Canned mackerel is an inexpensive choice for many cat owners. It’s also handy as it does not need to be refrigerated until opened and has a long shelf life. Canned mackerel can provide all the benefits of mackerel to your cat without the risk of raw fish.

However, purchase brands without additional sodium, oil, or flavors. Canned mackerel in spring water is the best choice.

Cooked Mackerel

Home-cooked mackerel is another safe choice for your cat. It will rid the fish of harmful bacteria if served quickly. When cooking fish for your cat, do not use any additional oil, butter, salt, or spices.

Cats shouldn’t be fed smoked fish in large portions since it contains high sodium levels used in the curing process of smoking. Additionally, make sure all bones are removed from the fish to avoid the risk of choking or cuts to the intestinal tract.

Now that you know what you can safely feed your cat, it’s just as important to find a bowl that supports their health and well-being. With whisker-friendly bowls and a wide tray to catch any spills, our Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is our favorite option.

hungry white cat hepper nom nom bowl licking lip

Summing Up

Mackerel is a healthy treat to serve your cat in moderate amounts. While it is not nutritionally suitable as a total diet replacement, it can make a good choice for a snack. However, it’s best to check with your veterinarian before adding mackerel to your cat’s menu. Your vet can determine if it’s suitable for your cat and provide portioning instructions. If it’s okay for your pet, your cat will adore the occasional mackerel treat!


Featured Image Credit: Zanna Pesnina, Shutterstock

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