Q&A: Can I feed my cat tuna?

Q: Many years ago our family adopted a beautiful cat we named Tom. My mother fed Tom only tuna and he began to develop a reddish coat. Unfortunately, the cat soon died. Now, 67 years later, I still feel bad about this and wonder if a diet of only tuna was harmful. What do you think? – E.M., Clearwater, FL

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Josie is a healthy, young cat at
Tenth Life for New York City Cats.

A: “Cats do not do well on a diet of solely tuna, or any one human food source,” says Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, chief medical officer for Banfield Pet Hospital in Portland, OR.

Giving your cat a bit of tuna as an occasional treat is one thing.
However, as an exclusive diet, tuna lacks significant amounts of vitamin
E, potentially leading to a dangerous vitamin E deficiency.

Felines fed too much tuna can develop other nutrient deficiencies, too,
because most de-boned fish lacks calcium, sodium, iron, copper and
several other vitamins. Mercury, frequently present in tuna, also
presents a potential danger.


“Even feeding exclusively tuna cat food is not a good idea; mix up
the flavors,” says Klausner. “Of course, now it’s nearly 70 years [after the events the writer describes];
we didn’t know as a much back then as we do today, so don’t be too hard
on yourself. I often think if I only knew then what I know now.”

Steve Dale is the host of the nationally syndicated radio shows
Steve Dale’s Pet World and The Pet Minute with Steve Dale. His column,
My Pet World (in which this post was originally published), is carried
in more than 100 newspapers nationwide. He also serves on the board of directors for the
American Humane Association.

© Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

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