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Dear Doctor - The nutritional value of tuna in cats

Is tuna safe to feed my cat?

[From Tufts July 2011 Issue]

Can you tell me if there is anything detrimental to feeding canned tuna to a cat? I have heard that there might be health issues.
Kent Creed

Dear Kent: Your question is a good one. There is no harm in feeding canned tuna to a cat as a treat. However, because it is not complete and balanced with all of a cat’s daily nutrient needs, it should not be fed as a primary diet.

A general rule of thumb is that unbalanced human foods and/or cat treats should provide no more than 10 percent of your pet’s daily calorie intake. Ninety percent of what you feed should consist of a well-balanced commercial diet that addresses your cat’s age, activity level and health.

Because canned tuna is a popular treat or food to feed cats, we have unfortunately seen some serious health problems when it is the primary diet. One example is thiamine deficiency, which can result in neurological signs and ultimately death if the problem isn’t recognized and treated.

So, when feeding any home-prepared food, it is always best to work with your veterinarian and/or veterinary nutritionist to ensure that the diet is properly balanced with all of the pet’s daily nutrient needs.
Sally Perea, DVM, MS, DACVN
Veterinary nutritionist