The ideal feline diet is one based on animal protein. Most people understand this. The next question is, which animals? For my cats, I like to choose meats that are closer to the animals a feral cat might consume — you wouldn’t see a colony of cats running down a cow or sheep. Birds, in the form of poultry, are an obvious choice. I also give my cats rabbit fairly frequently. Fish is another obvious kitty treat, along with other sorts of seafood. While it’s not a bad idea to add some seafood to a cat’s diet, there are certain caveats to keep in mind.
Can cats eat prawns? Yes, although they should not have prawns too often. Prawns are low in fat and are full of healthy animal protein. Cats should have raw or cooked prawns, without any kind of sauce or seasoning. Prawns should only be given as a treat.
You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about your cat’s diet. Perhaps you’re looking for a tasty, healthy treat your cat will enjoy — or perhaps your furry friend has snaffled a prawn or two from your plate and you want to know she’ll be okay.
- Can cats eat prawns?
- Are prawns good for cats? How many prawns are okay?
- What risks to prawns pose to a cat?
Luckily, we have all the answers you’re looking for. Just read on to find out everything you need to know about prawns in your cat’s diet.
Can cats eat prawns?
Cats can indeed eat prawns, although there are a few things that you need to know before you crack open that packet of seafood for Tibbles. A few prawns now and then make a wonderful treat for your cat. If your feline companion is anything like mine, fish and seafood will make them tremendously happy.
Prawns (and the very similar shrimp) are generally a fairly healthy snack for your cat. There’s some dispute as to whether they should be given to your cat raw or cooked. In my opinion, raw is best but you should be very careful about handling them in this state. Raw prawns can spread dangerous pathogens. Wash your hands as well as any surfaces or utensils that come into contact with raw seafood. Your cat should be fine even if there are traces of pathogens — feline stomachs are fairly robust in that regard, with powerful acids that will make short work of any nasty bugs.
Why raw prawns? In their raw state, prawns contain quite a lot of goodness that would be destroyed by cooking. There are lots of useful enzymes in raw prawns, as well as taurine. This amino acid is extremely important to your cat’s diet, being crucial for her neurological health and eyesight. Prawns also contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which seem to be more abundant when given raw. Then there’s the fact that cats just seem to prefer the fresh taste of raw prawns.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if you give your cat cooked prawns they should be free of any condiments or sauces. Prawns in garlic butter are fine for you and me but they’re absolutely dreadful for our cats. The sauces we tend to use on our foods are often heavy on the garlic, onion and other substances that are toxic to the feline system. Even if these are not present, we often use things like dairy or butter, which (while not strictly toxic) can cause stomach upsets. You can give cooked prawns only if they have been prepared on their own, without substances that could make your cat ill.
There are a few things to keep in mind when offering your cat prawns. One is that prawns tend to be high in sodium, which isn’t the healthiest thing for cats. Your cat can develop similar health problems to humans who eat too much sodium.
Another reason for being circumspect with prawns and seafood is heavy metal contamination. Sadly, fish and seafood stocks are often high in pollutants — especially heavy metals. While the occasional helping of prawns won’t cause any harm, a diet that contains too many foods with a high heavy metal content can make your cat sick.
Prawns are also inappropriate for cats on low-protein diets. This is unusual — most cats thrive on high protein diets, after all — but if your cat is suffering from certain health issues the vet may need to put her off a high-protein diet. Prawns are a no-no for cats in this situation.
When should I give prawns to my cat?
Prawns are not a good main meal for your cat (aside from anything else, who could afford it?). They are, however, great as an occasional treat. You can keep a bag of frozen prawns on hand, thaw a few out at a time, and offer them to your cat as a reward or as a little something when she’s been having a bad day.
Cats are highly food motivated, which means that treats are a great way to get them to co-operate with you. Punishments are completely useless in my experience. Your cat won’t know what she has done wrong, or even that she has done anything wrong. All she’ll know is that she was engaging in some perfectly natural behaviour and you, her trusted companion, randomly decided to hurt her. Treats and rewards are much more effective. That’s where titbits like prawns come in.
If you’re trying to get your cat used to an item of equipment, such as nail clippers or a walking harness, I encourage leaving it near her food bowl to create a positive association. How much more effective this process will be if you offer a little dish with a few juicy raw prawns for her to snack on! You’ll build up that happy association in no time. I also like to give treats in the pet carrier I use to ship my cats to and from the vet — they’re much happier on getting into it once they connect the cage with tasty foods.
Just don’t overuse this little trick. Treats should make up no more than 10 per cent of the calories in your cat’s diet and should not be overused. Mix it up by offering a pinch of catnip or a fun activity instead of food treats from time to time.
Are ready-to-eat prawns okay for my cat?
Absolutely not. The kinds of processed, prepackaged prawns and shrimp that you can buy ready-to-eat are packed with things your cat really should not have. The biggest worry with ready-to-eat prawns is that they will have been packed with seasonings that could actually be toxic to your cat. Aside from the herbs and spices that are so bad for kitties, ready-to-eat prawns are usually loaded down with huge amounts of salt. This is bad enough for humans but it’s terrible for cats.
If you want to offer prawns to your cat, the best kind are the ones you can get fresh from the fishmonger. These will be the tastiest and the most nourishing, too. The next best thing is to buy plain frozen prawns. I recommend thawing them carefully before you give them to your cat as she may find the ice unpleasant.
Another thing you could try is giving your cat the heads, shells and tails from prawns. Unlike us, cats can happily consume these and may thoroughly enjoy them. I’m not sure if prawn shells contain a great deal of nutrient value or not but my kitties certainly seem to enjoy crunching them up.
Keep in mind when feeding prawns or shrimp to your cat that cat’s shouldn’t eat the digestive tract. This is the black line that runs down the back of the prawn, delicately referred to as the vein. You should choose de-veined prawns or de-vein them yourself before you give them to your pet.
If prawns are high in protein, why shouldn’t I give them to my cat every day?
It’s certainly true that prawns contain lots of healthy animal protein, of which your cat (assuming she isn’t on a low-protein diet) needs plenty. It’s also true that the aforementioned taurine and other nutrients make prawns a beneficial addition to a balanced diet. The key here is “balanced diet”. Although they contain lots of good things, prawns don’t have everything your cat needs. If you regularly give your cat prawns as a main meal, she would not be getting everything she needed to remain in the pink of feline health. Protein is only part of the story.
Cats require a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other nutrients. Prawns can only provide some of these, not all of them. Cats also require variety in terms of flavour and texture. Even favourite food can get boring if you have too much of it.
A cat’s nutritional needs are usually well-served by modern commercial cat foods, which for the most part are formulated with ingredients that give your cat a well-rounded diet that has all the main nutrients she needs. Some cats may require a little supplementation here and there, and some may need diets that are lower in certain constituents. Your vet will be able to help you there.
In general, your cat should eat a modest diet of high-protein, good-quality cat food. Choose foods that are grain-free and use named ingredients. Avoid things that say “chicken flavoured” or “rabbit flavoured” as these may not actually contain more than a token amount of chicken or rabbit. Instead, choose foods with named meats in the ingredients list. If you like, you could even choose one with prawns.