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Can Cats Eat Tilapia? What You Need to Know!

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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As the fourth most popularly eaten fish in the United States, tilapia makes up almost 100 species of fish and can be found in bodies of freshwater throughout the world.1 Chances are that you have had your fair share of tilapia throughout your life. If you enjoy cooking tilapia at home as a cat owner, you are probably wondering whether you can share the fish with the feline member(s) of your home without consequence.

The short answer as to whether cats can eat tilapia is yes, they can. However, there are a few considerations and caveats to consider before you feed tilapia to your kitty household members. The first thing to note is that tilapia should never make up most of your cat’s diet, as fish is not a natural food for them. Tilapia should be treated as a supplement or occasional snack instead. Here is everything else that you should know about feeding tilapia to your pets.

The Benefits of Feeding Tilapia to Cats

British shorthair cat eating
Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

The health benefits of tilapia for cats are about the same as those for humans because they can absorb the same nutrients from the fish. This type of fish happens to have many vitamins and minerals that cats need to thrive, including:

  • B12
  • Niacin
  • Phosphorous
  • Choline
  • Selenium

Tilapia is also known to help prevent the onset of cancer, promote healthy bone growth, and enhance heart health, in humans. It is high in omega fatty acids, which is known to keep a cat’s skin healthy and help fight against arthritic joint pain, which is especially helpful for older cats.

Why Tilapia Should Be a Limited Offering

Tilapia is not something that cats could capture and eat in nature, so like all other fish, it would never be a natural part of their diet. Sometimes, fish like tilapia is included in commercial food but is typically only a part of the mix as a supplement to chicken or beef protein. Tilapia does not offer all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your cat needs to thrive as time goes on.

If tilapia makes up most of their diet, your cat may lack an intake of certain vital nutrients, which can make them nutrient deficient at some point. Therefore, your cat should eat quality commercial food, made by a reliable company, that is nutritionally balanced at mealtime. Tilapia should be offered as an occasional snack or as a small addition to your cat’s commercial food to ensure optimal nutrition intake.

Tilapia Feeding Suggestions

You can feed your cat tilapia a few different ways. First, consider simply sautéing  a little piece up, putting nothing else but water in the pan. Feeding your cat cooked tilapia without any additives is the healthiest way to do it. They will get all the nutrients of the food and none of the negative effects of things like fatty oils and spices like garlic (which can be extremely dangerous to cats!).

Just don’t add salt, pepper, and other seasonings to the fish, as these could cause digestive problems such as diarrhea, nausea, and a lack of appetite.

british short hair cat eating
Image Credit: Lilia Solonari, Shutterstock

Alternative Fish Options to Consider

Tilapia is not the only kind of fish that is safe for cats to occasionally consume. There are great options out there that can help round out your kitty’s nutritional needs. The best ones are those that have low mercury levels, including:

It is important to make sure the fish that your cat eats is wild-caught, not farm-raised. Farm-raised fish tend to have higher amounts of toxins and lower amounts of nutrients than fish caught in the wild.

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To Sum Things Up

Most cats love to eat fish such as tilapia, which makes it easy for us to offer it to them. If we give our cats too much tilapia, though, they are likely to eat less of their regular food and start to develop nutrient deficiencies. Therefore, your cat’s diet should be made up mostly of commercial food that is nutritionally balanced and then supplemented with snacks of tilapia and other healthy foods. Don’t feed your cat tilapia every day. Make for them on a special occasion, and you’ll both reap the rewards.

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Featured Image Credit: Image Credit: 6809042, Pixabay

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