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Ask the Doctor September 2013 Issue

Dear Doctor - A cat with a tuna preference

Letter to Tufts Veterinarians

Q I have a five-year-old cat I adopted from a shelter as a kitten. Spruce has been a wonderful companion, with good behavior and a clean bill of health at all of her wellness exams. However, I have a question regarding her nutrition.

She will only eat tuna flavored varieties of canned cat food. She is not picky about the brands. I worry about the reports about excess Mercury in canned tuna and I want to protect her health. Any help you can give will be much appreciated.
Delores Levanthal

A Dear Delores: I share your concerns. Although to my knowledge mercury toxicity has not been reported in cats, I wouldn’t want to feed a cat a high mercury diet on a daily basis long-term. Maybe you can find a different type of fish-based canned food that she likes, or add just a tiny bit of tuna-based food to other types of foods until she gets used to eating them?

Or maybe you can save some tuna juice from the next can that you open for yourself. Freeze it in an ice cube tray and put a small amount on the non-tuna diet to encourage her to eat it. (However, I don’t recommend that you do this if your cat has heart disease or high blood pressure due to the salt content). We already know that cats can be pretty stubborn, but I bet with persistence you could gradually increase your options to some non-tuna foods.
Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN
Veterinary Clinical Nutritionist
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

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