The Sardine Story: A Comprehensive Guide to Cats and Sardines

Today, we’re diving into the topic of sardines and their place in your cat’s diet. Are they a tasty treat or a potential health hazard? Let’s find out!

The Nutritional Value of Sardines

Sardines, small oily fish from the herring family, are known for their high nutritional value. They are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health and can help reduce inflammation. They also contain a good amount of protein, vitamin D, and B vitamins, all of which are essential for your cat’s health.

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Science in 2019 showed that omega-3 fatty acids can improve coat health and reduce skin inflammation in cats. Moreover, protein is a crucial component of a cat’s diet, and sardines provide a high-quality source.

Types of Sardines: What’s Safe and What’s Not

When it comes to feeding sardines to your cat, it’s important to choose the right type. Fresh, cooked sardines with no added salt or spices are the safest option. Canned sardines can also be a good choice, but make sure they’re in water, not sunflower oil, olive oil or sauce, and have no added salt.

Avoid feeding your cat smoked sardines or those preserved in high-sodium sauces. These can lead to excessive salt intake, which can cause dehydration, high blood pressure, and kidney issues in cats.

Side Effects and Precautions

While sardines can be a healthy addition to your cat’s diet, they should be given in moderation. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health problems. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), fish should make up no more than 10% of a cat’s daily caloric intake.

One potential concern with sardines, and fish in general, is the risk of heavy metal contamination, particularly mercury. While sardines typically have lower mercury levels than larger fish, it’s still important to limit their intake.

Sardines and Kittens

For kittens, sardines can be introduced as a part of their diet once they start eating solid food, around eight weeks of age. However, it’s crucial to start with small amounts and monitor for any adverse reactions.

The Sardine Eating Duration

As a general rule, if you decide to include sardines in your cat’s diet, it should be as an occasional treat rather than a staple food. A small amount once a week can be a healthy addition without risking overfeeding or heavy metal exposure.

What do Scientists say About Sardine and Cats?

Based on the scientific literature, I found several papers that discuss the impact of diet changes and the potential side effects. However, none of these papers specifically discuss the effects of sardines on cats. Here are brief summaries of the most relevant papers:

  1. Relation between osmolality of diet and gastrointestinal side effects in enteral nutrition: This study discusses the relationship between the tonicity of the diet and gastrointestinal side effects. It suggests that the composition of the diet can significantly impact digestive health, which is an important consideration when feeding sardines to cats.
  2. A hidden side of the COVID-19 pandemic in children: the double burden of undernutrition and overnutrition: This paper discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s nutrition. While it doesn’t directly relate to cats and sardines, it emphasizes the importance of balanced nutrition, which is a key point when considering adding sardines to a cat’s diet.
  3. Eating Habits during the COVID-19 Lockdown in Italy: The Nutritional and Lifestyle Side Effects of the Pandemic: This study examines how dietary changes during the COVID-19 lockdown affected people’s health. It underscores the importance of maintaining healthy eating habits, which is relevant when considering the frequency and quantity of sardines to feed cats.
  4. Navigating the Gluten-Free Boom: The Dark Side of Gluten Free Diet: This paper discusses the potential side effects of a gluten-free diet. While not directly related to sardines and cats, it highlights the potential side effects of dietary changes, which is a crucial consideration when introducing new foods, like sardines, to a cat’s diet.

While these papers provide valuable insights into the importance of balanced nutrition and the potential side effects of dietary changes, they don’t provide specific information about the effects of sardines on cats. For the most accurate and detailed information, I recommend consulting with a veterinarian or a pet nutrition expert.


In conclusion, sardines can be a healthy treat for your cat when given in moderation. They provide valuable nutrients but should not replace a balanced, commercial cat food diet. As always, when introducing any new food into your cat’s diet, it’s best to consult with your vet first.

Remember, every cat is unique, and what works for one might not work for another.

Amelia Kteylor

Amelia Kteylor, DVM, attended the University of Georgia. She is a cat expert with 20 years of experiences in field. She has a passion as a writer and editor for pet publishing industry too. Amelia contributes to numerous pet magazines in the areas of pet health and groom. Further, she volunteered in cat rescue centers in her leisure time.

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