Can Cats Eat Shrimp? The Surprising Truth


Shrimp can make an appealing treat for cats due to their flavor and scent. But owners often wonder if it’s safe and healthy to offer shrimp to cats. This article will explore the key questions around feeding shrimp to cats:

  • Can cats eat shrimp at all, or is it toxic to them?
  • What are the potential health benefits of shrimp for cats?
  • What risks or dangers are associated with cats eating shrimp?
  • How much shrimp is safe to feed cats, and how often?
  • Does the preparation method (raw, cooked, frozen, etc.) matter?
  • What signs could indicate a shrimp allergy or intolerance?
  • What are some healthy alternatives to shrimp for cats?

Examining these important questions will help cat owners understand if and when shrimp can be given safely and nutritiously to feline companions.

Can Cats Eat Shrimp?

The short answer is yes, cats can eat shrimp in moderation. Shrimp can be an occasional treat for cats to add some variety to their diet. However, it should not make up a significant portion of a cat’s regular food intake.

Shrimp is not toxic to cats and does not contain anything that would inherently harm them. As an animal-based protein, it can be digested and utilized by cats. Some of the benefits of shrimp for cats include its high protein content, vitamins and minerals, and omega fatty acids.

While shrimp can provide health advantages, it also carries potential risks if fed irresponsibly. Cats may develop an allergy and experience an upset stomach. Concerns also exist around raw shrimp and bacteria/parasites. Additionally, the high sodium content requires moderation.

Overall, incorporating small amounts of cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp into a cat’s diet occasionally can provide nutrients and variety. But it should not replace their balanced cat food. Monitoring your cat’s reaction and providing proper preparation is important.

Nutritional Value

Shrimp can be a beneficial treat for cats in moderation due to its nutritional profile. According to the USDA, a 3 oz serving of cooked shrimp contains 84 calories, 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and negligible carbs (source). This makes shrimp a lean source of complete protein for cats, higher in protein than many meats.

The high protein and low fat content makes shrimp a nutritious occasional snack. The protein provides amino acids that support muscle growth and maintenance, while the low fat helps keep calories in check. As obligate carnivores, cats require a high protein diet, so shrimp can be an excellent supplemental source.

However, shrimp should only be fed in moderation, up to once or twice a week, according to most experts. The nutritional profile means shrimp can be a healthy component of your cat’s diet, but it should not make up the bulk of their regular food.

Health Benefits

Shrimp contains several nutrients that provide health benefits for cats. Some of the key nutrients in shrimp include:

Taurine: Cats require high levels of the amino acid taurine in their diet, as they cannot synthesize enough on their own [1]. Taurine supports heart and eye health in cats. Shrimp is high in taurine, making it a beneficial ingredient for cats.

Vitamin B12: Shrimp is an excellent source of vitamin B12 [2]. This vitamin helps maintain healthy nerves and red blood cell formation in cats. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia and neurological problems.

Antioxidants: Shrimp contains antioxidants like astaxanthin and selenium [3]. These compounds help protect cells from damage and may reduce inflammation. The antioxidants in shrimp support overall health.

By providing key nutrients like taurine, vitamin B12, and antioxidants, shrimp offers health benefits for cats, especially for skin, coat, heart, eye, brain, and immune health. It’s an excellent occasional addition to a cat’s diet.

Risks and Concerns

While shrimp can be a healthy treat for cats in moderation, there are some potential risks and concerns to be aware of:

Allergies – As with any new food, some cats may be allergic or intolerant to shrimp. Allergy symptoms like itchy skin, diarrhea, and vomiting may occur after eating shrimp. It’s best to introduce new foods slowly. According to Spot Pet Insurance, if any reaction occurs, stop feeding shrimp immediately.

Choking hazard – The tail, shell, and legs of shrimp can pose a choking risk, especially for kittens. It’s safest to remove this hard exoskeleton before feeding shrimp to cats. Shrimp tails may also cause intestinal blockages if swallowed.

High sodium content – Shrimp contains more sodium than most cat foods, which can be problematic for cats with heart or kidney disease. Avoid feeding excessive amounts of shrimp if your cat has a sodium-restricted diet.

Contaminants – Raw or undercooked shrimp may contain bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins. Only feed cats fully cooked, properly cleaned shrimp from a reputable source.

Gastrointestinal upset – Too much shrimp at once can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and tummy troubles. Feed shrimp in moderation as an occasional treat.

Recommended Servings

According to Spot Pet Insurance, shrimp should be fed to cats in moderation as an occasional treat, not as a regular part of their diet. Shrimp falls into the treat category for cats. Treats should make up only about 10% of a cat’s total daily calorie intake.

Veterinarians typically recommend limiting treats for cats to no more than 10-15% of their daily caloric intake. For the average 10 lb housecat, this equates to around 20-30 calories from treats per day. Since shrimp is high in calories and fat compared to cat food, cats should only be given a small portion of shrimp once or twice a week at most.

A good general guideline is to feed cats 3-5 small shrimp (30-50 calories) once weekly as a treat. Any more frequently risks obesity or gastrointestinal issues. Cats should not eat shrimp daily or in large quantities. Moderation is key when feeding shrimp or any human foods to cats.


When preparing shrimp for cats, it’s important to properly store, cook, and serve it to ensure safety and palatability. According to Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, shrimp should be deveined, cooked thoroughly, and shells removed before serving to cats

Raw shrimp contains bacteria that can make cats sick. It’s essential to cook shrimp fully before feeding it. Shrimp should be steamed, boiled, or baked without any seasoning until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F, according to the FDA’s recommendations. This ensures any potentially harmful bacteria is killed.

The shells of shrimp can be a choking hazard for cats or damage their digestive tract. Make sure shells are completely removed before giving shrimp to cats. Tails can be left on if soft enough for your cat to chew.

Properly cooked and prepared shrimp can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container. It can also be frozen for longer storage. Thaw frozen shrimp gradually in the fridge before feeding.

When serving shrimp to cats, cut it into bite-sized pieces. Cats have small mouths so large pieces of shrimp may be difficult to chew and swallow. Monitor your cat as they eat to make sure the shrimp is adequately chewed.

Signs of an Allergic Reaction

Some common signs that a cat may be having an allergic reaction to shrimp include:

  • Itching – excessive licking, scratching, chewing, or rubbing of the skin, especially around the face and neck. Allergies often cause itchy skin conditions like miliary dermatitis. (
  • Swelling – swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or skin redness. (
  • Vomiting – cats may vomit repeatedly after eating shrimp if allergic.
  • Diarrhea – some cats may experience loose stools or diarrhea after eating shrimp.
  • Skin irritation – red, irritated skin or hives may develop on the skin.
  • Respiratory signs – wheezing, coughing, sneezing, runny eyes or nose.

In severe cases, a shrimp allergy can cause anaphylactic shock, which requires immediate veterinary care. Owners should monitor their cat closely after feeding any new food, including shrimp.


While shrimp can be an occasional treat, there are healthier seafood options to feed cats on a regular basis. Some good alternatives include:

– Flaked tuna packed in water – Tuna is a lean source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Look for tuna canned in water rather than oil, and limit intake to reduce exposure to heavy metals like mercury (source).

– Salmon – Salmon is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats for cats. Look for wild caught salmon. Farm-raised salmon may have higher levels of toxins (source).

– Sardines – Sardines are small, oily fish that provide protein, omega-3s, and calcium. Look for sardines canned in water (source).

Other fish options include mackerel, herring, and pollock. When choosing seafood, opt for wild caught varieties and canned options packed in water. Avoid heavily processed seafood products.


In conclusion, shrimp can be a healthy occasional treat for cats in moderation. The key points are:

  • Shrimp contains beneficial nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • But it also has high cholesterol content, so only small amounts should be fed.
  • Cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp is safest. Avoid raw shrimp due to bacteria risks.
  • Never feed a cat the tail or shell, as it could cause choking or intestinal blockages.
  • Monitor your cat after first feeding shrimp to watch for any signs of an allergic reaction.
  • Shrimp should only make up 10% or less of your cat’s overall diet.

While shrimp can provide health benefits, it’s important to offer it only as an occasional treat in moderation along with your cat’s regular, balanced diet.

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