Can Cats Eat Sardines? The Purrfect Protein Snack


Sardines are a type of small, oily fish that come packed in cans or tins. They are a popular human food, but can also make a nutritious treat and supplemental meal for cats. Sardines are high in important nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and calcium. The fish itself comes from the herring family and is usually caught wild in the ocean. Cats tend to love the strong taste and smell of sardines. However, there are some precautions to take before feeding sardines to cats, especially related to sourcing, frequency, and added ingredients.

Nutritional Value

Sardines are packed with important vitamins and nutrients that can benefit cats (Catcentric, 2015). In particular, sardines are:

  • High in omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3s support skin and coat health, reduce inflammation, and promote brain development in kittens (The Pet Beastro, 2019)
  • High in vitamin D – Vitamin D helps cats absorb calcium for strong bones and teeth (Sardine Reviews, n.d.)
  • High in vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 aids in heart health and prevents cardiovascular disease in cats (Sardine Reviews, n.d.)

The high amounts of these key nutrients make sardines a nutritious addition to a cat’s diet when fed in moderation.

Benefits of Feeding Sardines to Cats

Feeding sardines to cats can provide many health benefits. One of the biggest benefits is supporting skin and coat health. Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and promote a shiny, healthy coat (Source). The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s in sardines may also help with joint pain, allergies, and other inflammatory conditions in cats.

Another major benefit of sardines is supporting heart health. The omega-3 fatty acids in sardines can help reduce levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease (Source). The taurine found in sardines is also excellent for cardiac health. Taurine helps strengthen the heart muscle and maintain normal heart rhythms.


While sardines can provide some nutritional benefits, there are also some potential downsides to feeding them to cats that owners should be aware of:

One concern is the high sodium content. Many canned sardines are packed in salt or brine, which significantly increases the sodium levels (source). Too much sodium can lead to health issues like kidney disease or hypertension in cats. It’s best to look for sardines packed in water to reduce the salt content.

Another potential issue is mercury exposure. Since sardines are larger fish that eat other fish, they can accumulate mercury in their bodies over time. Consuming too much mercury can cause neurological problems in cats. It’s generally recommended to limit fish like sardines to an occasional treat, rather than a regular part of a cat’s diet (source).

Overall, sardines should only be fed to cats in moderation. Look for low-sodium options packed in water and monitor for any signs of digestive upset or adverse reactions.

Serving Tips

Sardines can be served to cats in various forms including canned, fresh, or frozen. When choosing canned sardines, look for those packed in water or olive oil rather than tomato sauce or brine, which can contain high amounts of salt ( Fresh or frozen sardines are healthy options as they don’t contain any added preservatives or salt.

Only feed cats a small amount of sardines at one time. The recommended serving size is around 1-2 sardines once or twice a week. Be sure to remove all bones from fresh or frozen sardines before serving. Overfeeding sardines can lead to nutritional imbalances or stomach upset.


While sardines can be a healthy treat for cats, there are some precautions to take when feeding them to your feline friend:

Choking Hazard – Sardines contain small bones that can pose a choking hazard to cats. It’s best to mash up the sardines well before feeding them to cats to minimize this risk. You can also opt for boneless, skinless sardine fillets.

Allergies – Some cats may be allergic to fish or specific ingredients found in canned sardines, like tomato sauce or oil. Start by feeding just a small amount and monitor your cat for any allergic reaction.

Nutritional Imbalances – Feeding too many sardines can lead to an imbalance of nutrients. Sardines are very high in fat, and too much can lead to vitamin E deficiency. It’s best to limit sardines as an occasional treat.

According to, sardines packed in water with no added ingredients are safest. Check ingredients carefully and avoid any sardines packed in soybean or other plant-based oils.

Best Practices for Feeding Cats Sardines

When feeding sardines to cats, it’s important to follow some best practices:

Moderation is key. Sardines should only be an occasional treat for cats, not a regular part of their diet. Feed no more than a few sardines 2-3 times per week at most according to experts (source).

Pair sardines with other foods. Serve a few sardines mixed in with your cat’s regular food to provide extra flavor and nutrients while still maintaining balance.

Buy high-quality sardines packed in water with no salt added. Avoid sardines packed in oil, soy, sauces, or other additives (source). The best options provide nutritional benefits without unhealthy extras.

Signs of Problems

Feeding cats too many sardines can lead to some health issues. Here are some signs to watch out for:

Diarrhea – The high fat content in sardines may cause diarrhea or loose stools in some cats. This is especially true if given in large quantities.

Vomiting – Eating too many sardines at once can lead to an upset stomach and vomiting. Cats have a low thirst drive, so the extra sodium from sardines may also cause nausea.

Allergic reaction – Some cats may be allergic or intolerant to sardines and show signs like itchiness, stomach pain, or skin irritation after eating them. Discontinue sardines if any allergic symptoms appear.

It’s best to start with small amounts of sardines and monitor your cat’s reaction. Stop feeding sardines if any concerning symptoms arise and contact your veterinarian if they persist.


If your cat does not like sardines or you want to provide omega-3 rich fish variety in their diet, there are some healthy alternatives to try.

Other oily, omega-3 rich fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring can provide similar benefits to sardines. However, they may be more expensive per ounce. Be sure to pick canned fish packaged for pets and avoid added salt or oil.

Fish oils made from anchovies, sardines, salmon, or other oily fish are another way to boost omega-3s. Select a supplement made for cats and follow dosage instructions. Some cats may not like the smell or taste of fish oil though.

According to Petcube, omega-3 rich plant sources like chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseed may also be options for cats that do not tolerate fish well. Check with your vet before significantly changing your cat’s diet.

While tuna is another oily fish, it has higher mercury levels so should only be an occasional treat. And avoid tuna packed for humans, as it often contains added salt.


In summary, sardines can be a healthy, protein-rich treat for cats in moderation. The omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals in sardines provide nutritional benefits. However, sardines are very high in sodium so they should only be fed occasionally. Look for sardines packed in water without added salt. Serve small portions of around 1-2 sardines at a time. Monitor your cat for signs of gastrointestinal upset or allergies. For regular meals, stick to balanced commercial cat food. Sardines can be fed as an occasional supplement but not as a dietary staple. Follow basic food safety practices and avoid spoilage. With thoughtful preparation and feeding, sardines can provide a nutritious boost to your cat’s diet.

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