Can Cats Eat Sardines? - Cat Kingpin
can cats eat sardines

Can Cats Eat Sardines?

Cats are well known for their love of fish. And why not? Cats are carnivores, and fish are full of tons of vitamins, fats, and minerals that cats need.

Sardines are one of the cheapest and readily available fish on the market. Packaged in neat and convenient little tins and practically bite sized, sardines are a favorite all across the globe. Some people even put them on pizza! Because they’re so popular, lots of us want to share our favorite little fish with our cats. But should we?

Absolutely! Sardines can be a great addition to a cat’s diet, and it’s a good bet that your cat will enjoy them. The answer to the question “can cats eat sardines” isn’t as cut and dry as you may think, though, because there are some precautions you should take before opening that tin.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • Cats and Sardines – What You Need to Know
  • Can Cats Eat Sardines?
  • Can Kittens Eat Sardines?
  • Benefits/Negatives of Feeding Cats Sardines
  • Alternatives to Sardines for Cats

Cats and Sardines – What You Need to Know

Sardines can absolutely be a healthy addition to your cat’s diet.

Sardines belong the herring family and are likely named after the Italian island of “Sardinia,” where Sardines are plentiful and a huge part of the Sardinian diet. Sardines are not a specific species of fish, exactly, as the word “sardine” is mostly used to describe the size of fish. Many different species of fish (such as the pilchard and sardinella), can be packaged and officially called “sardines” as long as they are small enough.

Whatever the species, sardines are an inexpensive and very popular fish. Best of all, you can feel good feeding them to your cat!

These two Bengal cats are going to town on a plate of sardines:

Can Cats Eat Sardines?

Yes! And they probably will love them! Sardines have a lot of things going for them nutrition wise, including:

  1. Protein- a single serving of sardines has over 20 grams of protein.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids- which are great for your cat’s coat and joints, as well as preventing allergic reactions and seizure disorders.
  3. Vitamin D- which is fantastic for kitty bones.
  4. Vitamin B12- this heart healthy vitamin promotes feline cardiovascular health.

While you may not relish the idea of opening a can of sardines (some people find them kind of fishy), your cat will most likely be very enthusiastic.

These feral cats got their first taste of sardines… they certainly look happy!!

There are a few things to keep in mind before opening that can:

  1. Sardines are very caloric and oily, so they shouldn’t be your cat’s main source of nutrition. Add them to their regular dinner or offer them as a treat, but don’t go overboard!
  2. All sardines are not created equal. Take care to only feed your cat sardines that are packaged in water! Sardines in oil, soy, corn, or other oils can be detrimental to your cat’s health. If you buy sardines in a tin, the packaging will tell you what the fish is soaking in. If they are frozen they are likely plain sardines but be sure to read the label just in case.

Can Kittens Eat Sardines?

Kittens can eat sardines as long as they fed to them in moderation. When it comes to digestive health, kittens are more sensitive to new foods than their adult counterparts.

If you want to give your kitten a fishy dish, here are some tips:

  1. Only give them one or two. Never give a kitten too many sardines, as they are fat laden and very oily.
  2. Just like with adult cats, only give your kitten sardines packaged in water (never oil!).
  3. Be careful of bones! It may be a good idea to shred the sardines before offering them to a kitten, just to remove any particularly large bones.
  4. Keep an eye on your kitten after they’ve consumed a sardine or two, just to be sure they don’t become ill. If your kitten has an adverse reaction, don’t give them sardines again.

These sardines may not look particularly appetizing to us…but this kitten is in fish heaven!

Benefits/Negatives of Feeding Cats Sardines

There really are innumerable benefits to giving your cat sardines! They are one of the healthiest treats you can give them, as long as you are sensible about it. Too much of anything is a bad, and the same thing goes for sardines and cats. You shouldn’t dump an entire can of sardines into a bowl and let your cat have at it (though they might think that’s a great idea!)

Rather, sardines should be given to cats as a tasty addition to their food once or twice a week, or as a special treat (sardine birthday cake for cats, anyone?)

Just as with many human foods, sardines may be too rich for some cats. If your cat is sensitive to omega oils or has runny stools or any other adverse digestive symptoms after consuming sardines, cut way down or stop feeding sardines to them altogether.

Also, if your cat is on the chunky side and you’re encouraging them to lose weight, sardines are not a suitable treat. If your cat is dieting but loves fish, low-calorie fish based treats are a better option.

Something else to keep in mind is that because sardines have such a strong smell, they could be why your kitten has bad breath.

Alternatives to Sardines for Cats

If you have a hard time getting past the fishy smell of sardines, or if your cat is one of the rare kitties that simply doesn’t have a taste for them, there are plenty of other options! If you want to spoil your cat with a fishy treat, there are many fish flavored cat treats that don’t have the strong fishy smell that fresh or canned sardines do.

You can also try freeze-dried sardines, which are less offensive to the senses.

If you’re interested in some of the health benefits of sardines for cats, particularly omega 3 fish oil, you can even buy supplements that can be added to your cat’s food. These kinds of supplements are a great way to get all the nutritional benefits of sardines without having to, you know, actually have any contact with sardines!

So, Can Cats Eat Sardines?

Indeed they can! If your cat is crazy for sardines, you can feel good about feeding them to your beloved feline friend.

Here are a few final reminders about feeding sardines to cats:

  1. Make sure to only give your cats canned sardines that are packaged in water. Stay away from any type of oil, even the oil of other fish!
  2. Only offer sardines to your cat as a dietary supplement or a treat. Simply feeding your cat a can of sardines in place of cat food is not a good idea. While they’re tasty and healthy, cats need way more than just sardines for optimal nutrition.
  3. Keep an eye on your cat to make sure that sardines aren’t too rich for them. If your cat has diarrhea, an upset stomach, or any other kind of strange symptoms after eating sardines, don’t feed them to your cat again. If they symptoms continue, bring them to the vet pronto.
  4. Sardines are not an appropriate treat for cats that are battling the bulge. Because they are so caloric, you may be better off giving your cat low calorie treats until they have their weight under control.

If you’re also curious about if cats can eat tuna, you can click here to find out.

Does your cat enjoy a fish in their dish? How often do you give sardines to your cats? We want to hear your fish tails in the comments (Get it? Tails?)

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Amanda K.

After moving to New York City from Rome, Italy, I began working in the nonprofit world. Despite my day job, my passion has always been animals, especially dogs and cats, and writing. What better way to combine the two? I've been a pet owner for 15 years, and my menagerie includes dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional hermit crab. My beloved cat, Mozart, who I found as a newborn kitten, sparked my love for felines and is now nearly 15 years old. I am an enthusiastic volunteer at the local ASPCA, where I enjoy spending time with the cats and cleaning up after the dogs. I've been writing about pet ownership and care for the past five years.