Unlocking The Truth: Can Cats Eat Sardines?

Does your kitty go wild for the smell of fish? If you’ve ever cracked open a can of sardines and been bombarded with pleading meows, you might wonder: can cats eat sardines? The answer is yes, but with a few important caveats. In this post, we’ll dive into the world of feline-friendly seafood, exploring the health benefits of sardines for cats, how to serve them safely, and how much is just the right amount. So, buckle up (or should we say, curl up?) and get ready to learn how to turn your cat into a sardine connoisseur – the healthy way.

Feline Feast with Health Benefits: How Sardines Support Your Cat

Packed with nutrients like omega-3s, vitamin D, and calcium, sardines are a safe and healthy occasional treat for your cat, offering essential benefits for their joints, coat, and bones.

How Many Sardines Can a Cat Have? Incorporating Sardines into Your Cat’s Diet

When it comes to feeding sardines to your cat, moderation is key. While sardines offer numerous health benefits, it’s important to introduce them gradually and in appropriate quantities to avoid potential issues.

Serving Size and Frequency:

The recommended serving size of sardines for cats depends on various factors, including your cat’s size, age, and overall health. As a general guideline, start with small portions, such as a teaspoon or two, and monitor your cat’s response. You can gradually increase the serving size if your cat tolerates sardines well.

It’s recommended that an average-sized adult cat should have no more than a small sardine once or twice a week. 

As for frequency, sardines should be offered as an occasional treat rather than a staple food in your cat’s diet. 

How To Prepare The Sardines For Your Cat

When serving sardines to your cat, opt for plain, cooked sardines without added oils, seasonings, or sauces. You can offer fresh, canned, or frozen sardines, but be sure to choose products that are free of added salt or preservatives. Thoroughly rinse canned or frozen sardines to remove excess sodium before feeding them to your cat.

For picky eaters or cats who are new to sardines, consider mashing or flaking the fish and mixing it with your cat’s regular food to encourage acceptance. Alternatively, you can offer sardines as a standalone snack or treat.

Beyond Sardines: Creating A Diverse Menu For Your Feline

While sardines offer valuable nutrients, they should be part of a balanced and varied diet for your cat. In addition to sardines, provide your cat with a variety of protein sources, including high-quality commercial cat food, lean meats, and cooked eggs. Incorporate a mix of wet and dry food to ensure adequate hydration and nutrient intake.

Offering a diverse range of foods helps prevent nutritional deficiencies and ensures your cat receives all essential nutrients. Remember to consult with your veterinarian for personalized dietary recommendations tailored to your cat’s individual needs, health status, and dietary preferences.

orange cat eating a sardine on a cutting board
Prepear baltic sprats in the kitchen

Credit: ArtSvitlyna

Making Sure Your Cat Can Eat Sardines Safely

When it comes to feeding sardines to your cat, safety is paramount. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Bones: Sardines are typically consumed whole, including their small, soft bones. While these bones are safe for most cats to eat, they can pose a choking hazard if not properly chewed. To minimize the risk, consider removing the bones or choosing boneless sardines.

2. Mercury Content: Like many fish, sardines may contain trace amounts of mercury. While occasional consumption is unlikely to cause harm, feeding sardines too frequently can lead to mercury buildup over time. To prevent this, opt for smaller sardines, which tend to have lower mercury levels, and vary your cat’s diet with other protein sources.

3. Potential Allergies: While rare, some cats may have allergies or sensitivities to certain fish proteins, including those found in sardines. Watch for signs of allergic reactions, such as itching, vomiting, or diarrhea, and consult your veterinarian if you notice these signs.

Beyond the Label: How to Choose Fresh Sardines for Your Cat

  • Choose high-quality, reputable brands of canned or fresh sardines that are specifically labeled for human consumption.
  • Opt for sardines packed in water or their natural juices, rather than oil or sauces, to avoid unnecessary additives. 
  • Check for freshness by examining the appearance, smell, and expiration date of the sardines. Fresh sardines should have a mild, ocean-like scent and firm flesh.

Other Fish Varieties to Consider

Cats can enjoy other types of fish besides sardines! Here are some other safe options:

Cats can enjoy other types of fish besides sardines! Here are some other safe options:

Fatty Fish: These are particularly beneficial due to their high omega-3 content, great for heart and skin health.

  • Salmon (cooked, skinless)
  • Mackerel (cooked, in moderation due to potential high salt content)
  • Herring (cooked)

White Fish: Lower in fat but still a good source of protein and some omega-3s.

  • Cod (cooked)
  • Haddock (cooked)
  • Pollock (cooked)
  • Catfish (cooked, in moderation as some varieties can be high in fat)

Tuna: Tuna is okay for cats in moderation, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Mercury Levels: Limit tuna intake due to potential mercury content. Opt for canned tuna packed in water, and avoid chunk light tuna as it tends to have higher mercury levels.
  • Nutritional Imbalance: Tuna alone lacks the complete range of nutrients cats need. It’s best as an occasional treat, not a regular dietary staple.

Salmon: Salmon is a great source of protein and omega-3s for cats. However, it shouldn’t be a main course. Moderation is key. Offer it as a treat or occasional addition to their regular cat food.

  • Cook it First: Always serve cooked salmon, never raw.
  • Skip the Extras: Avoid salmon with added seasonings, oils, or brines. Plain, cooked salmon is best.

Final Note

So, can cats eat sardines? The answer is yes, in moderation! Offered as an occasional treat, sardines provide a tasty and healthy supplement to your cat’s diet. Remember, consult your veterinarian before introducing any new food, especially if your cat has health concerns.

With careful portion control and the right type of sardines, you can share this delightful snack with your feline friend.


Can cats eat sardines in tomato sauce? While the sardines themselves are okay for cats, the tomato sauce is best avoided. Tomato sauce can upset their stomachs and some may be allergic. If you must use sardines in tomato sauce, rinse them thoroughly to remove as much sauce as possible.

Can kittens eat sardines? Kittens have sensitive digestive systems. It’s generally best to wait until they are at least 6 months old before introducing sardines or any new food. Consult your veterinarian for specific advice regarding your kitten’s dietary need

My cat seems gassy after eating sardines. Is this normal? Some cats may experience digestive upset, like gas, after eating sardines, especially if they’re not used to them. If the gas is mild and temporary, it’s likely nothing to worry about. However, if your cat experiences persistent gas, vomiting, or diarrhea after eating sardines, discontinue them and consult your veterinarian.

Dr. Georgina Ushi is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Doctorate from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. She currently works in the Tampa Bay area, providing compassionate care to dogs and cats. Alongside her clinical work, Dr. Ushi consults for pet well-being brands and writes health articles for her blog, Pet Health Love. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge to educate and inspire fellow pet owners. Dr. Ushi’s professional interests include emergency and critical care, wildlife medicine, nutrition, and hospice and palliative care.

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