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Can Cats Eat Minnows? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove


Minnows are popular pets because they’re relatively easy to care for. They have very gentle personalities, so they can easily situate any freshwater tank. If you have pet fish and a particularly curious cat living in your home, you might be concerned about what happens if your cat ends up eating one of your minnows.

Well, the answer to minnows being safe for cats to eat isn’t clear-cut. It heavily depends on the situation. For the most part, eating live or raw minnows can be a health risk for your cat.

Let’s dive in to see why it may not be a good idea for cats to eat minnows.

Are Minnows Safe for Cats To Eat?

It’s a popular belief that cats love fish. While it’s mostly true, seafood isn’t always safe for domesticated cats. Minnows have to be prepared specially to ensure that your cat won’t get sick from eating them.

cat eating out of food bowl
Image credit: PxFuel

Live and Raw Minnows

Cat owners should avoid giving their cats live or raw minnows because there aren’t any guarantees that they’re completely safe for cats to eat. Live minnows can carry parasites that can transfer to cats.

For example, minnows can be carriers of hookworm. Hookworm eggs can hatch within 24-48 hours if a cat ingests an infected minnow. Within a couple of days, the newly hatched larvae can start damaging the cat’s intestinal tract and cause internal bleeding.

It also becomes dangerous if you have multiple cats or pets in your home. Hookworms don’t just transfer by ingestion. Eggs can also be in fecal matter. So, if your cats share a litter box, there’s a great chance that hookworms and other parasites will transfer to another pet.

Therefore, wildly caught minnows should never be treats for cats because you just never know what kinds of parasites or infections they have.

Also, minnows from pet stores aren’t that much safer than wild minnows. Most commercial pet stores won’t regularly monitor for parasites in tanks containing small, common fish.

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Minnows That Are Safe for Cats

Not all minnows are dangerous for cats. If prepared the right way, they can be healthy and tasty treats.

One of the best and safest ways to give your cats minnows is to buy freeze-dried minnow treats. Manufacturers prepare these tasty snacks with methods that get rid of parasites and eliminate the possibility of your cat eating an unhealthy or contaminated minnow.

You might be thinking that the heat from cooking minnows will get rid of any parasites, but it’s not that simple. Hot water alone may kill some larvae However, most parasites–especially those in their adult form–can only be killed by ingesting medication, like ivermectin or praziquantel.

It can become quite the hassle to give your cat a homemade fish treat that’s been safely prepared. Therefore, the better option is store-bought treats.

maine coon cat eating
Image Credit: Lita Keire, Shutterstock

Nutritional Value of Minnows

Minnows are extremely healthy snacks when they’re safely prepared. They can also help cats receive essential nutrients that they need to survive.

In general, fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which promote brain and heart health. They’re also rich in the following vitamins and minerals:

Vitamins and minerals found in fish:
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iodine
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin D

Cat’s Natural Diet

Cats are obligate carnivores, so they thrive on a high-protein diet with adequate amounts of healthy fats. In general, an adult cat’s diet should consist of at least 26% protein, and some studies that tracked cats’ diets revealed that cats that ate a diet containing less than 40% protein experienced muscle mass loss over their lifetime.

Fats are also one of the main energy sources for cats, so it’s crucial for them to eat enough fats to stay active.

Cats also need several essential vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Here are some key vitamins that they have to consume regularly.

Key vitamins for cats:
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Biotin
  • Choline
  • Folic Acid
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Pyridoxine
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
Key vitamins for cats:
  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc

As you can see, minnows and fish contain many essential minerals for cats. So, not only are they a tasty treat, but they’re also very good for your cat’s health.

tuna fish
Image Credit: Pixabay


Minnows can be extremely healthy and tasty treats for your cat, but improper preparation of this food can completely negate their beneficial qualities. Cat owners should never give live and raw minnows to cats because it can lead to serious consequences that put their health at risk.

Fortunately, safely prepared minnow treats are readily available, so your cat doesn’t have to miss out on eating these delicious snacks. Your cat will love you for feeding them yummy goodies while you can rest assured in knowing that your cat’s eating healthy and nutritious food.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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