Dr. Dan Christian specializes in small animal medicine, with special interests in behavior and nutrition. He has been instrumental in establishing animal behavior residencies for veterinarians at leading veterinary schools and developing innovative programs with veterinary organizations in the United States. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association. During his professional career, Dr. Christian earned the American Association of Feline Practitioners Award. He has also appeared as a guest on television and radio pet health programs
nationwide, and to has authored numerous articles for pet health magazines.
Q: Is the canned tuna fish we eat OK to feed our cat? How about real fish from the table?
A: If your cat just loves a tiny lick of tuna or a little bit of cooked fish now and then (with all the bones carefully removed), give it only as a small treat. Make sure these little treats do not exceed about 8 percent of your cat's total diet (that's a very small amount!), so you don't throw his diet out of balance. And be sure you're not overfeeding kitty when you give him an occasional treat.
I would keep the tuna treats to a minimum, though. Because cats love the taste of tuna, they may become addicted to it and refuse to eat anything else. These cats are often referred to as "tuna junkies."
Certainly, cats cannot live on tuna (or any fish) alone. These foods do not provide 100 percent complete and balanced nutrition, and may lead to serious nutrient deficiencies and health problems. In addition, feeding only tuna may cause your cat to develop a vitamin E deficiency, which will lead to a painful inflammatory condition called Yellow Fat Disease. Raw or improperly cooked fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase, which destroys thiamin, leading to a thiamin deficiency that may cause serious neurological problems. There are good quality commercial cat foods that have fish varieties to satisfy your cat's craving for fish while providing all of the essential nutrients to remain healthy.