Can Cats Eat Sardines (and is the olive oil good for them)?

Cat eating

Cats and fish are an iconic pairing.

So many viral videos star cats stalking aquariums. If our favorite cartoon cats aren’t chasing mice and birds, their eyes are fixed on their fishy companions.

Some of our cat toys are even shaped like fish. (Which I always thought was kind of funny … are cats supposed to look at them and say, “Hey, wow, that looks just like a fish”?)

But that doesn’t mean that eating fish – any kind of fish – is necessarily safe. After all, giving a kitten a cup of milk is just as iconic, and THAT isn’t anything I’d really recommend.

So let’s talk fish – specifically sardines. Are they nutritious? Are they safe? What about the sauces they’re canned in, like olive oil or tomato sauce?

After reading this post, you’ll know everything you need to know about cats and sardines – plus other canned fish.

Looking for the best food for your cat? Check out these posts!

Are Sardines Good for Cats?

Generally speaking, yes. (Although there are several caveats that we’ll get to in a moment.)

Catcentric lists these 10 health benefits of sardines for your furry feline friend:

  1. They’re packed with protein, which cat need or proper muscle and connective tissue development.
  2. They contain concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are good for joints, as well as vitamin D, which strengthens bones.
  3. They can improve heart health, thanks to the vitamin B12 plus the EPA and DHA mentioned above.
  4. The omega-3s in sardines can inhibit the formation of tumors and even prevent cancer from metastisizing.
  5. DHA can be beneficial to cognitive health, cognitive learning, and motor skills.
  6. The fatty acids found in sardines can help prevent allergies from developing in young animals.
  7. The omega-3s in sardines can activate a type of protein that turns on fat-burning genes, so they can possibly help your cat lose weight.
  8. Omega can potentially help suppress seizure attacks.
  9. There is a possibility that the fish oil found in sardines can slow down the loss of kidney function.
  10. The EPA and DHA in sardines can even improve mood.

Which is Better for Cats, Chicken or Fish?

Adding meat to your cats diet can be a great way to liven up meal time. Turkey, beef, chicken or fish: your cat’s palette is just as refined as your own and they’ll have their favorite flavors. Chicken and fish are probably the most popular to feed your cat, since they’re accessible and generally inexpensive.

All meat can be good for your cat if prepared properly, but fish offers certain vitamins and nutrients, such as fatty Omega 3’s, that aren’t found in the other dishes. These can help with their immune system, joint health, and even the sheen of their coat. Fish oils can even help protect against inflammation, which is very helpful for cats with kidney diseases.

However, there are some drawbacks to fish.

The wild cats our feline friends descended from usually ate rodents and reptiles, they weren’t the type to hunt mackerel or salmon. In fact, there are plenty of health hazards to eating fish, including mercury poisoning and thiaminase, which can cause vitamin-B deficiency.

On the whole, while providing some great and unique benefits to your cat, fish are generally nutritionally incomplete. Never swap out your cat’s carefully considered kibble for an all-fish diet.

If you’re going to add fish to your cat’s diet, do so sparingly, about once a week. Poultry may be better for your cat, but fish can still be an important part of your cat’s diet.

Do Cats Like Sardines?

Cats can be instantly enamored with the rich, fatty smell of sardines. It’s a unique smell full of good proteins, so of course cats would enjoy trying sardines for the first time. But if your cat doesn’t seem to enjoy them, never force it, and switch back to their old chow.

Sardines are a great source of dense proteins and fatty Omega-3’s, as we’ve already mentioned. But they also have other great vitamins, including calcium for bones, and vitamin B-12, which is good for cardiovascular health.

If you’re using canned sardines, most sites I visited highly recommend using canned sardines packed in spring water, as opposed to canned in brine, olive oil, or tomato sauce.

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

Can cats eat sardines in olive oil

Can Cats Eat Canned Sardines in Water?


In fact, it’s probably the safest and simplest way to feed sardines to your cat because water is … well, water. You don’t have to worry about any possible toxic additives or if your cat is getting “too much” of something that the sardines are packed in.

Wild Planet Sardines in Water, No Salt AddedWild Planet Sardines in Water, No Salt AddedWild Planet Sardines in Water, No Salt Added

Can Cats Eat Sardines in Tomato Sauce?

It’s not a good idea, no.

Green, unripe tomatoes contain solanine, which can be toxic for cats if ingested. (Sure, tomato sauce isn’t made from green tomatoes, but it’s still good to know.)

However, it’s not the tomatoes themselves that are the problem.

It’s the added salt, garlic powder, and/or onion powder that can be toxic to cats, even in small amounts.

So if you’re feeding your cats canned sardines that were packed in tomato sauces, make sure that you rinse them really well first.

Better yet, avoid canned sardines in tomato sauce altogether.

Can Cats Eat Sardines in Olive Oil? Is Olive Oil Good for Cats?

Yes and yes.

According to Willow Creek Olive Oil, extra virgin olive oil — which is not chemically treated and is also less acidic and of higher quality than regular olive oil — is not only non-toxic to cats, but can also be a great supplement to their diets.

Olive oil can:

  • Reduce cats’ risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes
  • Boost cats’ immune system
  • Help cats lose weight
  • Serve as a natural remedy for constipation
  • Help cure hairballs (they suggest mixing a teaspoon of olive oil into your cats’ food for three days as a hairball remedy)
  • Keep fur shiny and soft

King Oscar Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive OilKing Oscar Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive OilKing Oscar Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Can Cats Eat Sardines in Sunflower Oil?

Yes, cats can eat sardines in sunflower oil. Similar to olive oil, there is no danger is eating sunflower oil in small amounts. (In fact, it might make your cats fur a little more shiny!) You should drain the oil first so your kitty only gets a little bit.

Can Cats Eat Sardines in Soybean Oil or Soy Brine?

Absolutely not.

Soybean is one of the food substances that have been flagged as unsafe for cats. It can cause thyroid damage and/or interfere with your cat’s hormonal secretion.

Can Cats Eat Raw Sardines?

Definitely not a good idea.

According to All Cat Secrets, raw sardines can pose a risk of poisoning from the heavy metal.

(No, not that kind of heavy metal — mercury and fat-soluble pollutants from water pollution.)

How Do I Prepare Sardines For My Cat?

Fortunately, this is pretty easy:

  1. Open can.
  2. Drain can.
  3. Scoop partial contents of can into cat’s bowl.
  4. Refrigerate what’s left in the can for up to two days.

You can also serve your cat frozen sardines; although you need to chop them really well and then pulse it them through a food processor to create a pasty consistency.

(Which, in my opinion, is way too much work — and also, it reminds me of the SNL video below:)

Are Sardine Bones Safe for Cats?

Bones — at least sardine bones — are not as big an issue as you might think.

According to All Cat Secrets, sardine bones are fairly small and soft, so most adult cats can chew and swallow them with no problem.

As far as fish bones in general, Tails Life says:

Certain bones in cooked meat, such as those in fish and chicken, can splinter and cause injury to the oesophagus. It is better to remove cooked fish bones before serving, as they may damage or obstruct your cat’s throat or gastrointestinal tract. At the same time, most cats have no issues with eating bones, and even if they get stuck, they regurgitate.

When you feed fish that is size appropriate, fish bones are less likely to cause a problem because the fish bones are too small to get stuck in the first place. So, you may start feeding with smaller fish. Their bones will be tiny and supple enough for good digestion.

Can Diabetic Cats Eat Sardines?

Since sardines are generally a healthy food for cats, there are no problems I could find with a diabetic cat eating them. (Again, I want to remind you that I am not a vet, but simply a cat owner with a laptop, so if you do have a diabetic cat, you probably want to run this question by your vet.)

You could argue that an occasional meal of sardines is beneficial to diabetic cats, as it has less carbohydrates than most processed cat food.

Can I Feed My Cat Sardines Every Day? How Many Sardines Can a Cat Eat?

According to Catcentric, cats should eat no more than a 1/4 to 1/2 a can of sardines per week (assuming a 3.75 ounce can).

A can of sardines has about 200 calories, so when it’s “sardine days” you should reduce the amount of food accordingly.

Feeding your kitty sardines too often can lead to obesity, dehydration, or bacterial infections.

Another potential problem with feeding your cat fish too frequently is that your cat might become “addicted” to fish. This isn’t a medical problem and won’t hurt your cat, but it might drive you crazy the next time you make a tuna sandwich or broil some salmon for yourself and your cat won’t quit screaming at you.

Is Canned Tuna Okay for Cats?

As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Which ones are safe for cats to eat?

It turns out that tuna is generally a poor choice for cats.

(Yeah, I was surprised too.)

Like other fish, tuna is nutritionally incomplete, as it completely lacks vitamin E. Canned tuna usually comes with a high dose of salt, and tuna in general has a high chance to contain elevated levels of mercury.

Can Cats Eat Salmon?

Salmon is a smaller fish than tuna so generally has lower levels of mercury in them, which is a good thing. However, raw salmon runs the risk for parasites which will take root in your cat’s digestive system and wreck havoc. Always cook your cat’s fish thoroughly.

Can Cats Eat Mackerel?

King Mackerel can contain loads of mercury, while it’s smaller Atlantic variants has less of a risk, so be sure you double check before you share with your cat.

Smoked mackerel, and smoked fish in general, has too much salt so keep it away. Mackerel generally has more thiaminase as well, so always make sure your fish was canned in water, or if in a filet, cook it through.

Some low mercury options for fish include:

  • Freshwater Trout
  • Cod
  • Perch
  • Tilapia
  • Flounder

Just be sure to remove any bones and cook thoroughly.

Can Cats Eat Raw Fish?

I know you see it it cartoons all the time, but no, you shouldn’t feed a cat raw fish. According to Pet WebMD, raw meat, fish, or eggs can contain bacteria that cause food poisoning.
Not only that, but raw fish can destroy essential nutrients that your cat needs.

On a final note, it’s a good idea to watch your cat for any.digestive issues whenever you introduce any new foods into their diet


What Else Can Cats Eat?

Jennifer Blaske

Jennifer Blaske

My family has been a mult-cat household for over 20 years. We've learned a few things along the way.

Click here to meet our cats!