Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Shrimp?

Are your curious if your cat can safely eat shrimp? You're in luck. This seafood dinner staple is on the list of "safe" foods for cats.

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Last Updated: November 1, 2023 | 4 min read

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This article should not substitute contact with a veterinarian. Contact your local vet immediately if your cat is reacting poorly after consumption. When you buy something through one of the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Our carnivorous companions rely on protein and other nutrients from meats to meet their dietary needs. Beef, pork, salmon, and turkey are all A-OK for our furry friends. But what if your cat has their eyes on a different kind of protein—one of the crustacean variety? Can cats eat shrimp, or should you keep your seafood dinner to yourself?

Shrimp, prawns, scampi—or whatever else you call them—are indeed safe for felines. But just because cats can eat shrimp doesn’t mean that they should.

Find out how much shrimp cats can safely eat, the risks of feeding this salty-sweet shellfish to your feline companion, and whether its nutritional benefits can help your cat live a healthier life.

Can My Cat Eat Shrimp?

Shrimp is part of many quintessential seafood dishes. It can be served whole as an appetizer, cooked into a pasta dish, or tossed into a salad. Prawns are a source of lean protein and many other nutrients, including iron, potassium, and selenium. They are also high in moisture content—with water making up about 77 percent of this seafood’s composition. But can cats eat shrimp, and is shrimp safe for cats to consume?

The short answer: Yes! Prawns are not toxic to cats, so don’t panic if your cat snatches a few pieces from the shrimp platter. This seafood is perfectly safe as a small treat for your pet, as long as it’s plain, cooked shrimp fed in bite-sized pieces. Cats should not eat raw shrimp or shrimp covered in oil, butter, or seasonings.

What Happens If I Feed My Cat Raw Shrimp?

Though our furry friends technically can eat raw shrimp, it’s best to cook it. Heat kills any harmful bacteria the prawns may have picked up during handling. Cooking also makes shrimp more tender and digestible, making nutrients more readily available.

If your cat were to eat raw shrimp, they may experience food poisoning, an illness caused by eating contaminated food. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Can Cats Eat Shrimp Tails?

Again, technically, cats can eat shrimp tails, but ideally, they should be removed. Shrimp shells and tails may be hard for your kitty to digest and pose a choking hazard, especially for those felines who swallow food whole without chewing.

If your kitty eats a shrimp tail, keep an eye on them. Monitor for signs of vomiting, lethargy, or abdominal pain.

How Much Shrimp Can I Give My Cat?

Prawns are relatively low in calories and are a quality source of protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Still, moderation is essential when feeding this tasty treat to your kitty. According to Healthy Paws Pet Insurancea cat should eat no more than half of a jumbo-sized shrimp at one time. 

You can also contact your vet to determine how much shrimp you can offer your cat based on their diet and health. For example, cats with hyperthyroidism should steer clear of shrimp. Shrimp is high in iodine, which can cause the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. If your cat is on a drug to control their hormone production, excess iodine can make it challenging to regulate their medication.

Is Shrimp Good For Cats?

Shrimp has many nutritional benefits; however, your cat is unlikely to reap any benefits if fed in moderation as recommended. Shrimp contains protein, which felines use for energy, muscle growth, and other body processes. Protein is a feline’s most important nutrient. Shrimp also contains omega-3 fatty acids that support joint health and inflammation reduction, promote a shiny coat and reduced shedding, and are crucial for cognitive development and brain health.

Shrimp also contains various antioxidants. In particular, a carotenoid called astaxanthin protects against inflammation and cellular damage. Prawns are also a source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, choline, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, iodine, and selenium.

What Are The Potential Risks Of Feeding Shrimp To Cats?

While shrimp is packed with nutrients, this treat is also high in sodium and cholesterol. As with all seafood, shrimp contains traces of mercury. Though prawns have relatively low mercury levels, they accumulate mercury rapidly in a high-mercury environment. For best quality, look for chemical-free, wild-caught shrimp. Learn more about wild-caught vs. farmed shrimp via the American Shrimp Processors Association.

Seafood also runs the risk of contamination from bacteria and parasites. Never feed your kitty raw prawns. When cooking shrimp, keep the added ingredients to a minimum. Butter, oil, and extra seasonings are a no-no for your feline. Avoid shrimp entirely if your kitty has kidney or liver problems. Prawns naturally contain high levels of sodium, which can increase fluid retention and lead to other health problems for your furry friend. This seafood should also be avoided if your feline has hyperthyroidism. The high iodine levels in shrimp can negatively impact your cat’s health.

While the likelihood of your cat being allergic to shrimp is small, it is still possible.

Signs of food allergies in cats include:

  • Diarrhea
  •  Discharge from the eyes and/or nose
  •  Scratching and/or biting of the skin
  •  Skin inflammation (rashes, sores)
  •  Sneezing, coughing, or wheezing
  •  Vomiting

If your cat has an adverse reaction after eating shrimp, contact their veterinarian immediately. You should also consider purchasing pet insurance before health issues arise to help cover trips to the vet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Give Shrimp To My Cat As A Meal?

Unfortunately for your furry friend, no, they shouldn’t be eating prawns as a meal. Shrimp alone does not have all of the necessary nutrients your cat needs to thrive. Consider shrimp as an occasional treat. Treats should only be about 10 percent of your kitty’s daily calorie intake.

What Are Other Safe Seafood Options For Cats?

Safe seafood options for felines include clams, crab, oysters, scallops, and squid. Smaller fish like anchovies and sardines are also suitable for felines and less likely to contain high toxins and pollutants. If you want your feline to have the omega-3 benefits of seafood, consider a fish oil supplement. Supplementation is a convenient way to add nutrition to your cat’s diet. Remember that you must purchase a fish oil supplement from a reputable company. (Our pick: Nordic Naturals. This brand has strong third-party testing and a certificate of analysis for every product, guaranteeing potency, freshness, and purity.)

Final Thoughts

Feeding your cat shrimp can be a healthy snack option in moderation. Prawns are high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids that benefit your feline’s health. Still, shrimp is not a complete meal and should be seen as an occasional treat rather than a main dish. Always cook shrimp before feeding this crustacean to your cat, as cooking kills pathogens and makes this food more digestible.

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