My cats love canned tuna. Every time I open a can, I’m swarmed by pleading eyes and meows demanding their share of the tasty fish in a can. However, just because they want it, doesn’t mean it’s good for them. I learned years ago, tuna was not a food cats should be given. No matter how much they yowl and cry for a bite, tuna is not a friend to cats. Besides high concentrations of mercury in the fish, it can also cause your cat to develop Yellow Fat Disease.
Canned tuna or any oily fish should only be fed to cats in small amounts and on rare occasions. A little tuna treat once in awhile will not harm your cat, but too much, too often can cause your cat can develop a disease called Yellow Fat Disease (Steatitis). This is an extremely painful disease that comes from a deficiency of Vitamin E. It is the result of a diet that is high in unsaturated fatty acid and the culprit is usually tuna.
If you have cats, you know just how much they love this special treat. In fact, some cats can become so addicted to tuna that they refuse to eat anything else. These cats are literally called “tuna junkie”, a term that describes cats with this addiction. A steady diet of fish is harmful and can be deadly for your cat.
Cats need Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant. Tuna isn’t a good source of Vitamin E and has too much unsaturated fat. The fat will oxidize and actually destroy Vitamin E which will then begin to damage the cat’s body fat. Yellow Fat Disease is a painful inflammatory disease that is a result of a deficiency of Vitamin E in a cat’s system.
Tuna flavored cat food does not play any role in Yellow Fat Disease. Tuna cat food has other meats and essential vitamins and minerals cats need and isn’t pure tuna.
Symptoms of Yellow Fat Disease are:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
- A dull, greasy coat and flaky skin.
- Fever and an unwillingness to move.
- Severe pain whenever you try to hold or touch them.
It’s essential that you seek medical attention immediately if your cat has the above symptoms, especially if they have been fed a diet that includes tuna on a regular basis. Red tuna and oily fish appear to be the cause of Yellow Fat Disease. Without medical attention, the cat will more than likely die.
Once diagnosed, the treatment is giving the cat supplements of Vitamin E, removing all fish from their diet, force feeding if necessary and, in some cases, the use of corticosteroids which is a steroid.
Cats have a way of manipulating their owners to get what they want, especially when it comes to food. Finicky cats can have their owner in a frenzy at meal time when they refuse what is offered to them. As their owners, it’s up to us to know what is good for them and what they shouldn’t have no matter how much they complain. A nice plate of wet or dry cat food or an all natural diet will do just fine as long as it doesn’t include tuna, canned or fresh. Your cat may know what they want, but they don’t always know what is best for them. As responsible cat owners, that’s our job to know.
Steatitis (Yellow Fat Disease) in Cats, CatWorld
Yellow Fat Disease, The Merck Veterinary Manual
Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Cat, Doctors Foster and Smith