Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Smoked Salmon?

Most cats go crazy for fish, so it’s no surprise your cat likes smoked salmon. But should you let your cat eat smoked salmon? The answer is a bit murky. Learn the dos and don’ts of feeding your cat smoked salmon.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: April 10, 2023 | 5 min read

Black cat pawing at smoked salmon on toast on a table

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Smoked Salmon is fresh salmon that is then cured with salt and smoked for preservation, transforming the fish into a long-lasting, flavor-packed food. If you’ve seen salmon in your cat’s food, you may wonder if smoked salmon is a good treat for your cat. Is smoked salmon just as healthy as a baked salmon filet?

While we’re sure your cat would love nothing more than a piece of smoked salmon, the decision to feed your cat smoked salmon isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem.

While salmon and other fish have many health benefits for cats, there are also many reasons to be wary of feeding your cat this seafood treat.

Can Cats Eat Smoked Salmon?

Yes, cats can eat smoked salmon, but with many caveats. Let’s first look at the benefits of salmon in your cat’s diet. Smoked salmon is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Cats are carnivores and must have a primarily meat-based diet to be healthy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 3.5-ounce (or 100 grams) serving of salmon provides almond 20 grams of protein. Protein is essential for energy, cell production and repair, muscle health, coat health, and immune support. 

Salmon is rich in omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA have antiinflammatory effects and reduce oxidative stress. These fatty acids support heart, eye, and brain health. DHA strongly impacts brain health and development, so it is often found in kitten-specific cat food at higher doses. 

Salmon provides vitamin A to your cat’s diet, which is excellent for the immune system, skin, and vision. It’s a source of vitamin D, providing immune and bone support. Salmon is a good source of B vitamins, especially B12 and B3. B vitamins work synergistically to provide energy and support the nervous system. It also has zinc, which supports protein and DNA synthesis, immune function, and wound leaking. 

The antioxidant astaxanthin is also found in salmon. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that gives salmon its pink color. According to a 2010 study published in Nutrition and Metabolism, cats and dogs can absorb astaxanthin from their diet. Research shows that carotenoids like astaxanthin support immunity and cellular protection. Astaxanthin can reduce inflammation and supports the skin, muscles, joints, brain, and heart.

Is Smoked Salmon Safe For Cats?

Some pet parents might think twice before giving their cat smoked salmon because of its high sodium, high fat, and potential to hold heavy metals or cause allergic reactions. Smoked salmon could harm your cat if fed in large quantities, but the nutritional benefits might be worth reading labels and discussing with your veterinarian.

Sodium In Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon is high in sodium, so speak with your vet to determine how much sodium is safe for your cat to ingest. Each cat has different health needs. Some can benefit from extra sodium to encourage more water consumption and prevent urinary tract infections; however, too much salt is toxic to cats. Signs of sodium poisoning include panting, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, muscle twitching, seizures, disorientation, coma, and even death.

If you’re concerned about your cat’s sodium intake but still want to feed them salmon, look for a brand that uses less sodium or make your salmon at home.

Fat In Smoked Salmon

Salmon contains healthy fats, but if your cat is overweight, you may be worried that smoked salmon will lead to additional weight gain. Cats only require 20 to 33 calories per pound of body weight daily, depending on their activity level. Look at your cat’s overall caloric intake and activity level to decide if salmon fits your kitty’s diet. Giving your cat the occasional small piece of salmon should be fine, but if you’re concerned, check with your veterinarian.

Heavy Metals In Salmon

Fish, including salmon, is notorious for containing heavy metals like mercury. The bigger the fish, the more heavy metals it will likely hold. The best way to prevent heavy metal toxicity is to read labels and ensure you buy salmon screened for heavy metals.

Carcinogens In Smoked Salmon

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meats—including smoked meat—as a Group 1 carcinogen. If your feline is at a higher risk for cancer, avoid feeding them smoked salmon. Instead, try feeding your cat the salmon you’ve made at home. Baked salmon without salt and extra spices would give your cat all the benefits of salmon without the adverse effects of the smoking process.

Allergies To Fish

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, fish is one of the most common food allergies in cats. Whenever introducing new food to your cat’s diet, start with a small amount. Cats with food allergies may display any of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Discharge from eyes or nose
  • Fur loss or dull coat
  • Scratching or biting of the skin
  • Skin inflammation (rash, sores)
  • Sneezing, coughing, or wheezing

If your cat shows any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Salmon For Cats

If you like feeding your cat salmon but prefer a cat-specific formula, consider the following options for food, treats, and supplements.

Taste Of The Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Recipe

Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry
  • Roasted venison and smoke-flavored salmon
  • High protein content at 42% crude protein from a balanced combination of chicken meal, roasted venison, and smoke-flavored salmon
  • Fortified with 80 million live probiotics for immune and digestive support
  • A blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from chicken fat, salmon, and ocean fish meal
  • 425 calories per cup

This kibble is packed with protein from both animal and plant sources: chicken meal, peas, pea protein, potato protein, roasted venison, smoke-flavored salmon, and ocean fish meal. It has probiotics and prebiotic fiber from dried chicory root to support your cat’s digestive system and immune health. At 18 percent crude fat, this meal offers plenty of omega fatty acids for skin, coat, eye, and brain health. After feeding them this kibble, many reviewers commented on their cat’s shiny, silky coat.

Wellness Complete Health Turkey And Salmon Pate

Wellness Complete Health Turkey And Salmon Pate
  • 10% crude protein from turkey, chicken liver, whitefish, chicken broth, and salmon
  • Free from grains, carrageenan, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Includes cranberries for antioxidant and urinary tract support
  • Omega-3s sourced from ground flaxseed
  • 91 calories per 3-ounce can

This 100 percent grain-free wet food has everything your cat needs to remain happy and healthy: protein for energy, omegas for healthy skin and coat, antioxidants for healthy aging, and vitamins and minerals to support overall health. This recipe is made without corn, wheat, soy, or pea. It has five percent crude fat, one percent crude fiber, and 78 percent moisture.

Tiki Pets Tiki Cat Salmon Filets

Tiki Pets Tiki Cat Salmon Filets
  • Made from 100% steamed salmon filets
  • 88% protein from wild-caught salmon
  • For use as cat treat
  • 32 calories per pouch

This fillet would be a tremendous high-value treat for your kitty. In the world of pet training, high-value treats are ones that your cat views as extra special. They know it’s good, and they’re willing to work for it. Fish treats like this salmon fillet are packed with quality protein and omega-3s. They make a great reward after a training session or to encourage good behavior.

Salmon Alternatives

Pet parents are justifiably concerned about mercury levels and other toxins in fish, but it’s important to note that not all fish will have the same amount of mercury. Mercury-containing plants and animals are eaten by smaller fish, which are then eaten by larger fish, whose tissue accumulates mercury. For this reason, longer-living predators and larger fish will tend to have more toxins than smaller fish, like sardines.

For people worried about toxins, fish oil might be a better option than feeding your feline fish. Fish oil gives your cat all the benefits of omega-3 EPA and DHA without the risk of toxins found in fish. We like Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Cat, which uses sustainably sourced wild anchovies and sardines. All Nordic Naturals products are batch-tested by independent laboratories to ensure purity, freshness, and potency. Certificates of analysis are available for any product and can be requested on Nordic Natural’s website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is All Smoked Salmon The Same?

All smoked salmon is not the same. There are two varieties of smoked salmon: hot-smoked and cold-smoked. Hot-smoked salmon smokes above 120 degrees, while cold-smoked salmon is smoked for longer at below 90 degrees. Avoid feeding your cat cold-smoked salmon since it has a higher chance of housing bacteria. Before letting your cat try smoked salmon, ensure it doesn’t contain onions, garlic, or spices that may be dangerous to your cat.

Can Cats Eat Lox?

While lox and smoked salmon often get intermingled, they are different. Lox is cured but not smoked. Cured meats are susceptible to harmful bacteria, so we wouldn’t recommend feeding lox to your cat.

Final Thoughts

While smoked salmon is okay for cats in moderation, there are many cons to feeding your cat this smoked meat. If you like providing your cat with salmon, we recommend a non-smoked option, such as steamed or baked salmon. If you are worried about the toxicity of salmon, we recommend exploring other human food options for your cat.

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1 Comment

  1. It is imperative you ask your vet about the same. However, when I feed my cat, I tend to buy products that have smoked salmon in them. I prefer to buy my cat’s food from trusted places like PetCareRx and PetSmart.

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