Cats love tuna fish!
Photo: Erin Berkeley Marr
There are very few who don’t. Why is fish, as a staple diet for cats, dangerous? Fish contains an enzyme called Thiaminase. This enzyme breaks down Thiamine, an essential vitamin also known as B-1. If cats are fed mainly fish, either as tuna or in pet food that is not supplemented with Thiamine, they can become very sick. Vitamin B-1/Thiamine is essential for neural health…. it feeds and protects neurons. If a cat is thiamine deficient, it will develop neurological symptoms and eventually die if its diet is not corrected. Fortunately, cats can recover from this if they get proper care and a well-balanced diet. Recently, several pet food companies have recalled their cat food because it was deficient in Thiamin (most recently, today in fact, Diamond Pet Food issued a recall). Pet food companies must add Thiamine to their fish formulas to compensate for the enzyme and ensure cats get enough Thiamine. It is likely their food was tested and found to have inadequate levels. I like to give the pet food companies credit for doing the right thing by recalling their foods; it shows they are testing and following through.
Along those lines, a pet peeve of mine are pet food companies who market “cat food”, mostly canned food, that is “all tuna” and “100% Natural Chicken”. If shoppers are not careful and aware, they often assume this is a complete diet for their cat. IT IS NOT! Many companies do not make it clear that this is designed to be a TREAT and not be the cat’s main diet. The words to look for on the label are the following:
” FORMULATED IN ACCORDANCE TO AAFCO GUIDELINES TO BE A COMPLETE AND BALANCED DIET”
or variations on that statement. Even better, a pet food company will test its food via feeding trials to ensure they are healthy, as shown on this label. For growing kittens, it is best to find a diet formulated for their age and that should be stated in the AAFCO statement.
AAFCO guidelines aren’t perfect and are in need of updating, but they are the best we have at the moment. So please read labels and be aware that there are a lot of companies jumping on the pet food band wagon who neither have the expertise nor the resources to ensure that the products they are producing/marketing are healthy and complete for your pet. Good nutrition is important for your cat’s long term health.