April 27, 2020

Can Cats Eat Shrimp?

Is it safe or not?

Published by Sheila WIlson

Vet Approved

Is shrimp safe for cats? How much is ok, and should it be cooked? 

If you're wondering, can cats eat shrimp, then we have a few things you need to know first.  Let's get started!

Can Cats Eat Shrimp?

Yes, cats can eat shrimp. Plain cooked shrimp with no spices or seasoning is a great low-calorie, but high protein treat for cats. The tail and shell should be removed, as they may cause gastrointestinal blockages. Also, follow our vet-approved feeding guidelines as too much shrimp may increase cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

People often wonder if shrimp is, in some way, toxic or dangerous to cats. The answer is no, provided it is not old, moldy, or otherwise unsuitable for consumption.

Shrimp are great occasional treats for cats. Cats can eat both raw and cooked shrimps, although they prefer eating them raw. 

The size of the shrimp matters when feeding it to your cat. Read on to find out vet-approved feeding guidelines.

Health Benefits: Is Shrimp Good for Cats?

While shrimp does contain nutrients and antioxidants, it is not a recommended meal substitute. However, it is quite good for cats as a treat, when given occasionally and in small amounts.

Shrimp is a good source of protein, phosphorous, selenium, choline, copper, iodine, and vitamin B12.

The health benefits of shrimp include better brain and bone health. It also helps with weight management.

Helps control weight

In terms of weight management, shrimp contains good amounts of protein and vitamin D. It is a high protein and low-calorie food, and it doesn't add carbs to one's daily food intake, making it great for carnivorous cats. Zinc is also abundant in this meat and beneficial because it increases the hormone leptin in the body. Leptin is responsible for regulating the body's appetite and energy use.

cooked peeled shrimps

Helps keep fur and skin healthy

There are also minerals in shrimp that support hair health. Not getting enough zinc could lead to hair loss since zinc is a catalyst to the creation and maintenance of new cells, some of which are skin and hair cells. It can be a great helper for cats that have lost their hair for whatever reason, such as recovering from a skin issue or a worm. Zinc also assists with the immune system and inflammatory processes.

Helps fight the degeneration of bones

When it comes to bone health, shrimp contains calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These minerals help fight the degeneration of bones. Lack of protein and beneficial nutrients in one's diet can lead to reduced bone quality, strength, and mass.

Health Risks: Is Shrimp Bad for Cats?

Good as a treat, but never a substitute for a well-balanced meal

Raw shrimp is not toxic to cats, and they enjoy the taste.

However, eating nothing but shrimp would lead to nutritional deficiencies in cats.

Shrimp is healthy but does not contain all the vital nutrients and minerals that your cat needs. Most high-quality cat food is formulated with not only meat, but fruits and veggies to boost your cat's good health. For example, shrimp contains no fiber, and fiber is needed to keep the bowel movements healthy.

May cause allergic reactions 

Although it is unlikely, it is always possible that your cat is allergic to shrimp. Be careful when feeding shrimp to your cat for the first time. Offer only a small piece and monitor your cat for any signs of an allergic reaction. If your cat is ok with this seafood, you can gradually increase the size of the treat.

When giving shrimp to your cat, look for the following symptoms:

  • Loss of hair
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Swelling of the limbs or face
  • Inflammation of the paws
  • Hives
  • Skin conditions like rashes
  • Issues breathing/coughing

If you notice any of these symptoms, definitely get your pet to a vet as soon as possible. These types of allergies result from the immune system of the cat overreacting to the protein in the shrimp.

Can increase cholesterol

Shrimp should be given in moderation, as they contain a lot of cholesterol. If given in large quantities, it can cause plaque buildup in arteries and block blood flow to the heart.

Can increase blood pressure

Shrimps are high in sodium, which can cause high blood pressure. The high amount of sodium can affect not only your cat's heart health, but over time it grows the potential for diabetes.

Feeding Guidelines

The best thing to do is to take it easy with table food. Shrimp counts as such and should be offered only as an occasional treat.

How much and how often?

Also, the size of the shrimp matters when feeding it to your cat. For instance, a small shrimp is perfectly fine to give to your cat. But if you're eating jumbo shrimp, make sure to cut just a small bit off and give it to your pet.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to feeding shrimp to your cat is moderation.

Raw or cooked shrimp? 

First of all, cats can eat both raw and cooked shrimp. However, raw shrimp is always a better idea, as it tastes better for cats this way. The aroma of the fresh shrimp, plus the cold, raw texture, is something cats prefer.

Cats can certainly eat cooked shrimp, but only if it's plain – no butter, seasonings, or other additives such as onion or garlic. Also, it is a great idea to ensure the cooked shrimp has cooled off a bit before giving it to your pet.

This is how to prepare shrimps for your cat:

1. Start by choosing fresh or frozen shrimps. Let's start with some info on "fresh" vs. "frozen" shrimp. Chances are the fresh ones you see on the counter are from the same bags of frozen shrimp you find in the seafood section of your supermarket.

The difference is that they have been allowed to thaw a bit before being put up for sale. There is no way of knowing how long they've been defrosted, so it's best to opt for frozen shrimp and thaw them at home when it's time to eat.

2. Thaw the shrimps properly. Take the frozen shrimps out of the bag, and put them into a bowl under cold, running water. In only a few minutes, you'll have ready to cook shrimp. Alternatively, you can place them into a bowl of cold water and allow them to sit until they are defrosted, although this method takes longer. If you are making the shrimp for a recipe for yourself, dry them off on paper towels before you continue.

3. Question of removing tails, heads, and shells. Usually, cats have no trouble at all eating and digesting this part of the shrimp. Some cats just love the crunch of the tail, and some owners might save the tails for their cats to enjoy.

However, eating the shrimp tail and shell may cause some digestive problems, as cat veterinarian Dr. Scott Nimmo has noted: "there are no guarantees, and occasionally in the past at my clinic, I have seen problems. You would be therefore wise to monitor your cat for such signs as vomiting, lethargy, not eating, straining or abdominal pain, and of course, consult your vet without delay if you do see such symptoms. However, I think this would be very unlikely..."

So, if you want to be on the safe side, remove the tails, head, and shells before feeding any shrimp for your cat.

4. When giving raw shrimp, make sure to clean it thoroughly. Remove the digestive tract. Knowing it is the waste products of the animal makes it quite unappealing, and if you would not eat it, your cat shouldn't, either. It's just safest to remove the shrimp's digestive tract and protect your animal from whatever the shrimp has eaten. Use a paring knife to make a small incision through the shell on the back of the shrimp, from head to tail. Then, remove the vein.

Bottom line: Can Cats Have Shrimp?

Let's sum up what we learned so far about cats and shrimp. 

  • Buy and thaw your own shrimp at home.
  • Serve only deveined shrimp.
  • Shells and tails are usually ok, but only in strict moderation.
  • Shrimp should only be offered as an occasional treat.

Now you know how to enjoy shrimp with your pet. Have fun snacking together!

Shrimp for Cats - FAQ

Can shrimp kill cats?

Shrimp will not kill your cat if correctly prepared and fed. Shrimp is not toxic to your cat, but neither do they provide balanced nutrition. Therefore, shrimp should only be fed as an occasional treat. If you want to be on the safe side, you should remove the tail head and shell because they can be hard to digest.

Can cats eat cooked shrimp?

Yes, cats can eat cooked shrimp. Plain, boiled, baked, or steamed shrimp is the healthiest choice to feed your cat. Avoid seasoning, salt, and butter as they are unhealthy or even toxic to your cat. Follow our feeding guidelines to prevent health problems, as shrimps are high in sodium and cholesterol.

Can cats eat raw shrimp?

Yes, cats can eat raw shrimp. However, feeding raw shrimp to your cat is not recommended as shrimp may carry traces of fungicides, antibiotics, and toxic chemicals. Also, raw shrimp may contain bacteria like E.coli, salmonella, or listeria. Cooking the shrimp and following our feeding guidelines will help you avoid any health problem overfeeding shrimp may cause your cat.

Vet's Comment

Many cats love the taste of shrimp. Having grown up in Louisiana, my cats loved it when we had a shrimp boil. They would come and sit by the pot, waiting for us to toss them a treat. We would always feed them the raw uncooked shrimp that we did remove the shell and tail.

I have seen these tails and shells causing GI problems and even the tails getting stuck in the intestines. If you do feed your cat shrimp, it is best to remove the tails and shell.

NEVER feed them shrimp that has been cooked in any spices or seasoning. This can cause a lot of GI issues for your cat.

- Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM

Sara Redding Ochoa Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Vet-Approved by
Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa

DVM

Sara Redding Ochoa, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, was raised in Calhoun, LA. She knew since she was a little girl that her dream was to become a veterinarian. Dr. Ochoa attended Louisiana Tech for her undergraduate school, and then attended St. George University to complete veterinary school. After graduating, Dr. Ochoa moved to east Texas and has been working as a small animal and exotic veterinarian.

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your cat's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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