Nutrition

Can Cats Eat Sushi? Is It Toxic?

Is your cat showing an interest in your Japanese takeout? Before you give your kitty a bite of your California roll, read this article to discover which sushi is safe for cats.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: November 1, 2023 | 4 min read

cat looking at sushi on chopsticks

This article should not substitute contact with a veterinarian. Contact your local vet immediately if your cat is reacting poorly after consumption.

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Countless cat foods on the market offer fish feasts for your kitty, so it’s understandable that you’d wonder if sushi is also a safe option for your furry friend.

Can cats eat sushi? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a clear-cut yes or no.

Find out what types of fish are okay and the risks associated with this type of Japanese food.

What Is Sushi?

Sushi is a Japanese dish that consists of small balls or rolls of vinegar-flavored cold-cooked rice, commonly stuffed with raw or cooked seafood and vegetables. The word “sushi” is formed from the word “su”—meaning vinegar—and “shi,” signifying rice.

There are various types of sushi, with maki (sushi rolled up in seaweed) and nigiri (an oval-shaped mound of rice with fish placed on top) being popular choices.

Can Cats Eat Raw Fish?

While your kitty may go absolutely nuts over fish-flavored treats, they shouldn’t eat raw fish. Raw seafood is susceptible to harmful bacteria and parasites, which can wreak havoc on your feline’s digestive system and overall health.

Regularly consuming raw seafood puts your cat at risk of developing thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. Raw fish contains thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine. Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include appetite loss, neurological problems, seizures, and even death.

Fish may also contain heavy metals and dangerous chemicals. The heavy metal mercury—found in higher concentrations in large fish—can adversely affect the brain, kidneys, and lungs. Although banned in 1979, the artificial group of chemicals polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) still exist in the environment. Fish absorb PCBs from the water and sediment in their habitat; over time, PCBs can build up in a fish’s fatty tissues. PCBs can increase the risk of certain cancers, damage the liver, suppress the immune system, impair reproduction, and disrupt hormone signaling. As with all fish and heavy metals/chemicals, the bigger the fish, the more dangerous compounds are likely stored in its body.

This doesn’t mean that your feline couldn’t hypothetically eat sushi with cooked fish; however, it is noteworthy to mention that fish make up a large percentage of food allergies in cats. (A review and analysis conducted by BMC Veterinary Research of all available data for food allergen sources in cats showed the most common allergens for cats are beef, fish, and chicken.)

Can Cats Eat Sushi?

Felines may be able to eat cooked sushi, but it depends on the other ingredients added to the roll. Some rolls contain ingredients that aren’t appropriate for cats and could cause gastrointestinal issues. The safest route is to avoid feeding your cat your Japanese takeout altogether.

If you want your cat to experience the deliciousness that is sushi, one possible option is to make your own rolls at home. That way, you’ll know every ingredient used to ensure they are safe for your kitty to ingest.

That said, although sushi is absolutely delicious, it’s not an excellent option for your cat. This Japanese dish contains rice, seaweed, vegetables, sauces, and more that may be problematic. If you’re concerned about certain sushi ingredients, consult your veterinarian.

Is Sushi Bad For Cats?

As mentioned, raw seafood is a big no-no for your furry friend. But what about the other ingredients that make up this world-famous meal?

Sushi Rice

Our kitty cats are carnivores, so they do not require carbohydrates like rice to survive. Too much rice is sure to upset your cat’s digestive system. The sugars in rice can lead to weight gain and feline obesity, which occurs in up to 63 percent of cats in developed countries. Felines with obesity are more likely to develop other diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, as well as specific metabolic diseases and respiratory problems.

Seaweed

Maki is made by rolling up the layers of rice and other fillings in a sheet of dry seaweed called “nori.” Edible seaweed like nori is a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals and, overall, is a safe food for felines to eat.

Take precautions when feeding your furry friend seaweed if they suffer from hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure. The high quantity of iodine in seaweed can adversely affect these conditions. If your cat takes medicine for their thyroid or has insulin issues, confirm with your vet that seaweed is a safe addition to your cat’s diet.

Ingredients In Sushi To Avoid

Popular sushi ingredients that should not be fed to your cat include:

  • Cream cheese: Most cats are lactose intolerant and can experience digestive problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting if they eat dairy. If you’re obsessed with the Philadelphia roll—made with salmon, avocado, and cream cheese—it’s best to keep your meal to yourself.
  • Imitation crab: Imitation crab—found in fan-favorite California and rainbow rolls—contains sugar, egg, whites, and starch. While not toxic, imitation crab offers little nutritional value for your kitty.
  • Mayonnaise: The mayonnaise found in specific rolls (think spicy tuna, king crab, and spider rolls) may cause gastrointestinal distress for your cat.
  • Scallion: Found in the negihama roll, scallions are a member of the allium family, which are poisonous to cats.
  • Smoked salmon: While cats can eat smoked salmon like that in the Alaska roll, you should think twice before feeding your cat this tasty treat. Smoked salmon is very high in sodium and fat and may contain heavy metals.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce contains an excessive amount of sodium. Even if you’re not dipping the sushi into soy sauce before giving it to your pet, soy sauce may be in other ingredients in sushi and is hard to avoid. High sodium intake can cause hypernatremia, an imbalance of electrolytes that leads to confusion, increased thirst, muscle weakness, coma, and seizures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Cats Eat Sashimi?

Sashimi consists of thinly sliced raw fish or meat without rice. Felines should never eat raw fish, so you shouldn’t let your feline eat sashimi.

What Are Safe Sushi Options For Cats?

While all sushi contains white rice that offers little in the way of nutrition for cats, it’s also not dangerous. If you want to feed your kitty sushi in moderation, look for these ingredients in your sushi roll:

Final Thoughts

Can cats eat sushi? Really, they shouldn’t. With so many ingredients, sushi will likely upset your cat’s stomach. Plus, sushi may contain unhealthy ingredients like imitation crab or toxic plants like garlic and scallions.

Don’t want your kitty to feel left out on nigiri night? This five-piece sushi tray cat toy from Fabcat is super adorable, and each toy is filled with catnip to ensure hours of play. (My cats especially liked the crinkly material of the toys.) Or, explore our guide to human foods that are safe for cats.

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