4 min read

Can Cats Eat Salmon?


By Aurus Sy

Published: 01/30/2023, edited: 02/01/2023

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Does your feline friend come running into the kitchen every time you prepare salmon for dinner? With salmon being one of the most consumed seafood in the US, this scenario is very likely in households with cats.

Is salmon safe for cats to eat? The answer is yes, and your cat may already be eating it as it is a common ingredient in commercial cat foods. Cats generally enjoy the taste of salmon, but don’t give your furry pal a big chunk just yet. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t give your cat too much salmon. But first, let’s take a look at why cats go crazy for this popular fish.

Do cats like salmon?

Cats are often depicted as being obsessed with fish, either looking hungrily at a plate of it or holding a fish skeleton in their mouth. Contrary to popular belief, fish is not a natural part of a cat’s diet. However, it is true that cats like fish, and that includes salmon!

So why does your feline friend lick their lips at your grilled salmon? As obligate carnivores that use protein for energy, cats are hardwired to find protein palatable and all types of fish are high in protein. Another explanation is that cats simply like the taste and smell of salmon.

salmon cooking on the grill

Health benefits of salmon for cats

Salmon offers several important nutrients for both humans and felines. Let’s look at some of the health benefits of salmon for cats.

Keeps joints healthy

Just like people, our companion animals can also experience joint issues as they age. Your feline friend may become less agile as they enter their golden years, but the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can help bring down inflammation in the body and maintain joint health. 

Promotes cardiovascular health

Salmon contains two types of omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA support the heart by reducing triglyceride levels in the bloodstream. This is very good, as triglycerides can contribute to the hardening of arteries and increase the risk of heart disease

Supports eye health

Salmon is high in taurine, an essential amino acid that is critical for normal vision. The DHA in salmon plays an important role in the development of the eyes and optic nerves as well. Low levels of taurine or DHA levels can lead to eye problems

Improves skin and coat quality

The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in salmon can also reduce skin issues such as rashes, dry or flaky skin, and even some skin allergies. In addition, having a good coat decreases the risk of developing hairballs as healthy fur is less likely to fall out and get swallowed by your cat when they groom themselves. 

Boosts cognitive function

Salmon is an excellent source of several B vitamins including B12, which cats cannot produce on their own. Vitamin B12 can help prevent cognitive decline in aging cats. It also supports the nervous system, gut flora, and immune system.

Provides several vitamins and minerals

Salmon is packed with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, selenium, and B vitamins such as niacin, B6, and B12, all of which play crucial roles in your cat’s health. 

What else does salmon contain? Here is the nutritional value of 100 grams of salmon that has been baked or broiled:

  • Energy: 274 kilocalories
  • Protein: 25.4 grams
  • Total fat: 18.4 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0.01 grams
  • Calcium: 11 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 34 milligrams
  • Phosphorus: 305 milligrams
  • Potassium: 452 milligrams
  • Selenium: 32.1 micrograms
  • Niacin: 10.6 milligrams
  • Vitamin B6: 0.733 milligrams
  • Vitamin B12: 3.87 micrograms
  • Vitamin E: 4.04 milligrams
  • Vitamin D: 13.7 micrograms
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids: 5.49 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids: 5.22 grams

How much salmon can I give my cat?

It’s not natural for cats to consume an entirely fish-based diet and salmon won’t give your feline friend all the nutrients they need, so it shouldn’t be their main food source. Also, if you feed your cat too much salmon, they may decide that they don’t want to eat anything else! 

It’s important to give your cat a variety of foods, and vets recommend that treats or human food make up only 10-15% of their total diet. That could mean feeding your kitty one salmon meal a week, sprinkling it over their regular food a few times a week, or giving it as a treat. However, that looks like, keep in mind that moderation is key. While there is no hard rule on how much salmon to feed your cat at one meal, experts recommend that it should be no more than one-tenth of a half fillet of salmon. 

Cats can eat pan-fried, poached, or baked salmon cooked without any butter, oil, salt or other seasonings, including common additives like lemon juice and garlic. And don’t forget to remove the bones, head and fins!

What if your cat eats salmon in their commercial cat food? Pre-packaged, complete cat foods that contain salmon are safe for your cat to eat and provide all of the nutrients they need.

Pieces of raw salmon

Is it safe for cats to eat raw salmon?

Since raw salmon can cause stomach upset and often contains harmful bacteria and parasites, it’s not a good idea to give it to your kitty. Always cook salmon before feeding it to your cat. 

Can cats eat salmon skin?

Yes, as long as it’s cooked through. Salmon skin contains a higher concentration of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s fine to leave it on.

Can cats eat salmon in a can?

Canned salmon contains a lot of salt, which can be toxic to cats in large amounts. Salt poisoning in cats can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, incoordination, and excessive thirst. In severe cases, it can cause seizures, tremors, and coma. Always serve salmon to your cat plain.

Can cats eat smoked salmon?

Smoked salmon may be prepared with additives, such as salt and other spices, so it's best to steer clear of commercial smoked salmon for your cat. Smoking salmon at home can ensure it is safe for your cat as you can control all the ingredients. 

Cooked salmon makes a tasty treat for your feline companion. Like all good things, let your kitty enjoy it in moderation!

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