Can Cats Eat Sushi? Here’s Why It’s Not Safe

Sushi isn’t something we typically associate with cats. In fact, just saying the word out loud is enough to make most of us giggle. Nevertheless, some cat owners love to indulge their feline friends with a bite or two of a nice piece of raw fish when dining out, especially if their cats are picky eaters.

A beige cat is eating sushi from a wooden tray in the bed at home

I mean, the same cat who is found hanging around a fish vendor’s cart is now told to stay away from sushi, which is nothing but a dish prepared with rice and raw fish!

Fish meals are good for the little feline family as they are rich in protein, taurine, omega-3, along with many other essential nutrients and we wonder why cats like fish so much, but can cats eat sushi?

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Is Sushi Safe for Cats?

Cats can’t eat sushi because the raw fish in this meal contains an enzyme called thiaminase that destroys an essential B vitamin in Cats called thiamine which is known to support your pet’s health while maintaining proper bodily functions.

Cats that have a thiamine deficiency display a number of health problems including weight loss and a lack of appetite. The National Animal Supplement Council talks more about thiamine deficiency in cats and you can read more about it here.

Sushi is a people food that is growing popular these days with innumerable posts shared about it on social media, however, the fact that it is a potential risk to your cat’s health should not be overlooked and to understand this, let’s take a look at the ingredients of sushi.

The Sushi Ingredients That Cats Should Not Have

Raw Fish

Vet Street advises pet owners against feeding sushi to their cats. The main problem with sushi is the raw fish that it contains. P&G Pet Care’s veterinary nutritionist, Dr. Sally Perea suggests that you should not feed human-grade sushi to your cats, even though it’s safe for us, it may cause stomach upsets in cats. In other words, sushi may cause gastrointestinal issues in cats.

Raw fish has a component called thiaminase, which is an enzyme responsible for breaking down or metabolizing thiamine into its molecular parts. Basically, this thiaminase enzyme breaks down thiamine, an essential Vitamin B, thus causing thiamine deficiency.

Hence, we can call thiaminase an antinutrient that results in appetite loss, convulsions, and other health hazards. Some popular symptoms of thiamine deficiency in cats include –

  • Anorexia (an eating disorder accompanied by a fear of gaining weight, having abnormally low body weight, or having a distorted perception of one’s weight)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Tingling sensation in limbs
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Reduced reflexes
  • Blurry or otherwise impaired vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors and Seizures
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vestibular signs
  • Ataxia – a degenerative disease associated with the nervous system. Symptoms of Ataxia include falling, stumbling, and incoordination, occurring due to damages caused to the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain responsible for coordinating body movements.

Apart from getting Vitamin and/or Thiamine deficiency, some cats may even suffer from fish allergies. Cats having fish allergies may show signs like skin rashes, vomiting, wheezing, and diarrhea.

Some types of fish are also dangerous for cats in other ways due to the presence of harmful substances like mercury or toxic pesticides.

For example, raw tuna is said to have potentially dangerous levels of mercury. So, it’s always good to check out the ingredients of all the food substances you are going to feed your cat.

Sushi Rice

sushi rice with wasabi on wooden platter

Raw fish is not the only issue with sushi when you let your cat feed on it. A major component of this fish dish is sushi rice, which is a low-benefit component in a cat’s diet. Because the primary source of nutrition for feline carnivores comes from meat.

This is why rice doesn’t do much good to your furry pet, as it’s not a rich protein source. Rice doesn’t only have low nutritional value for cats, but too much rice can also lead to your pet’s malnourishment.

Some of the downsides cats can have due to frequent rice meals include:

  • Weight gain
  • Stomach upset
  • Bloating
  • Gas formation

Weight gain can further lead to other health conditions in cats, such as:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Diabetes

Uncooked rice is actually dangerous for cats as it contains natural pesticides like lectin, which may cause vomiting or diarrhea.

On the other hand, Pet Consider believes that carbohydrates, an important rice component, are difficult for cats to digest. In fact, too much carbohydrate can again lead to symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.

Another ingredient in sushi is vinegar that is mixed with the rice. No, vinegar won’t normally harm your little kitty, but she won’t actually like it at all, mainly due to its pungent smell.

Also, if your cat somehow ingests undiluted vinegar, she may again experience vomiting and diarrhea. Non-diluted ACV (apple cider vinegar) can even be harsh on your pet’s tender skin, making it abrasive.

Wasabi

Some varieties of this famous Japanese dish consist of wasabi, a Japanese plant used in cooking, usually as an accompaniment to raw fish. Although wasabi is not that harmful to cats, they usually find it unpleasant.

Also, wasabi is closely associated with the horseradish plant, which some scientists believe is mildly toxic to cats.

Therefore, in every way, sushi is a No-No for your furry family member.

What are the Safe Options Then?

The good news is not all varieties of sushi are harmful to your cat. This is because the dish comes in a range of different ingredients. But most of them do contain raw fish and white rice.

Still, it’s safe to feed some of the sushi varieties to your kitten as they contain ingredients that are easy-going on a cat’s health. Some of those ingredients include:

Shrimp

a brown and white cat is eating shrimp

After discussing the harmful effects of raw fish on feline animals, we now can say that shrimps are an exception.

Is Shrimp Safe for Cats?

Shrimp is one of the seafood alternatives that cats can safely eat either in raw or cooked form. The best part is that cats love the texture of shrimps, and these have good nutritional value for cats.

Shrimps or prawns are rich in protein and are also a low-calorie food. Besides, shrimps contain antioxidants and nutrients like vitamins B12 and E, omega-3, iron, copper, zinc, and iodine.

However, never accompany shrimp with spices, salt, or oil, as it can become toxic and unhealthy for your cat. Also, remember to wash the shrimp thoroughly before cooking and feeding it to your kitten.

Seaweed

This is an important ingredient in sushi and is generally considered safe for cats to intake. Having your cat eat seaweeds in small amounts won’t cause harm.

Cucumber

This is another common ingredient added in sushi preparations that won’t harm your feline companion.

In fact, there are good health benefits of having cucumbers in your cat’s diet. Cucumbers, especially fresh ones, are rich in water and dietary fiber that helps with digestion.

Besides, cucumbers are loaded with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and molybdenum.

Avocado

It’s true that avocado is not safe for some animals. But you can safely feed avocado to your cat. Just make sure to remove the fruit’s bark and the pit.

Other than that, your cat should be good with this sushi ingredient, however, this is one of those types of food that should be fed to your pet in moderation.

How is Sushi Made?

Sushi is a Japanese food made of vinegared rice, usually seasoned with some salt or sugar, and accompanied by small pieces of raw fish, vegetables, fruits, and other uncooked seafood. Not all sushi preparations are made with raw fish; some contain cooked ones as well.

However, in most cases, chefs often add chopped pieces of raw fish meat to sushi dishes to give it a unique taste. Some sushi styles even have a combination of spices, like ginger root, and for flavors, ingredients like soy sauce and wasabi are added too.

The History of Sushi

Sushi originated in the rice fields of southeast Asia, specifically China. In fact, there was a character in the Chinese dictionary that denoted pickled fish eaten with rice and salt.

The dish is meant to increase the shelf life of seafood, mostly fish, by setting it with fermenting rice.

It all began with paddy fields, in which fish was preserved by fermenting it with vinegared rice and salt.

Later, the rice was discarded and the dish was introduced to Japan, most probably around the Yayoi period.

It was in the Muromachi period that people started eating both rice and fermented fish.

People eventually discovered that they could preserve fish by placing it on fermenting rice that was seasoned with salt – the method commonly known as the pickling process.

This kind of sushi is the earliest known form, which underwent modifications over the years.

Today, chefs are exploring different ways of serving the dish – the common one being small pieces of raw fish wrapped in seaweed and rice.

Sushi has grown so popular across the world that it has started appearing on a number of restaurant menus, with or without specialization in Japanese cuisine and even the home kitchen.

Therefore, it is no wonder that cat owners are considering the health benefits or hazards of sharing their sushi meals with their pet cats.

So, if you want to avoid serious health hazards like allergies, thiamine deficiency, pesticide, or mercury poisoning, simply drop the idea of feeding raw fish or rice to your cat.

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