Have you seen fish oil for cats either on the shelves at the pet store or advertized online?
Did it leave you wondering if you should be supplementing your cat’s diet with fish oil treats?
What’s the big deal with cats and fish oil anyway?
Are there any proven benefits?
Let’s find out!
What is fish oil for cats?
You don’t need to be a cat owner to know that there’s a lot of healthy eating buzz around oily fish.
Oily fish such as trout, salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, herring, anchovies and whitebait, are packed with vitamins and minerals, and a rich source of fatty acids, including the famous omega-3 fatty acids.
In fish oil supplements for cats, the oils have been extracted from oily fish.
And since the oil comprises as much as one-third fatty acids, adding it to your cat’s diet is an efficient way to boost their dietary intake of these popular molecules.
But why should you?
Is fish oil good for cats?
It sounds basic, but with any supplement, the first thing to consider whether it will actually be absorbed by your cats gut and go on to reach the organs it was supposed to.
Or if it will just pass straight through and land in the litter tray a day later.
Intent on answering the same question, researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands checked blood samples from cats eating a fish oil based diet compared to cats eating a sunflower oil based diet.
They found that when cats ate a diet supplemented with fish oil there were more of the the fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid, arachidonic acid, α-linolenic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid and myristic acid in their blood plasma.
So we can see that the good stuff is getting into their circulation.
They also compared the total cholesterol in the the blood stream for both groups, and found no difference between the fish oil and the sunflower oil group.
Health benefits of fish oil for cats
Now let’s ask, in what ways is fish oil good for cats?
On the whole, healthy cats eating a high-quality, well-balanced diet are unlikely to become deficient in fatty acids.
So if your cat is already young and healthy, fish oil can’t somehow make them younger and healthier.
But for older cats and some unwell cats, supplemental fish oil could really help them out.
Fish oil for older cats
We know a few ways fish oil can benefit older cats.
In 2012 researchers in Missouri and Canada found that a diet supplemented with fish oil, antioxidants and B vitamins could protect older cats from brain ageing and dementia.
This followed a 1979 study at the University of Michigan which indicated that omega-3 fish oil for cats could protect them from strokes.
We also know that supplementing dogs’ diets with omega-3 fatty acids could protect them from heart attacks, although we’re waiting on an analogous study in cats.
Can I use fish oil for cats’ dry skin?
Using fish oil to improve cat’s skin or coat condition is one of the most popular applications.
And supplementing cats’ diets with fish oil to combat dry and itchy skin conditions like flea allergy dermatits and atopic dermatitis has been a subject of veterinary research since the 1990s.
In 2010 a small study on 14 cats found that a diet supplemented with fish oil can reduce skin inflammatory responses in cats with allergies, especially when combined with flaxseed oil.
However an study submitted to the Veterinary Record in 1993 suggested that fish oil by itself was not enough to resolve miliary dermatitis (the itchy, scabby rash often suffered by cats with a flea bite allergy).
Although when combined with evening primrose oil, it was.
Since healthy skin supports a healthy coat, many cat-owners who give their kitty fish oil also report an improvement in the overall condition of their coat too – although this is currently only supported anecdotally.
Fish oil for cats with kidney disease
Kidney disease and loss of kidney function is a common problem in older cats – up to 30% of cats over 15 years old will eventually succumb to it.
Kidney disease is all the more distressing since it is a progressive condition which will ultimately result in total kidney failure.
Following a strict veterinary-prescribed diet has long been a key part of extending a cat with kidney disease’s lifespan.
Indeed, if your cat has kidney disease, you won’t be making any changes to their diet without consulting their vet first!
They probably already know that fish oil for cats with kidney disease can help secure a longer period of healthy kidney function.
In particular, the fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (no, I can’t say it either, but try and remember the name for later!) found in fish oils has been shown to significantly improve the prognosis of cats with kidney disease.
Fish oil for cats’ bladder health
Another area researchers have recently found promising results from fish oils is in the toilet department.
In 2017, scientists at Oregon State University discovered that cats taking supplemental fish oil had lower concentrations of calcium in their urine, and lower oxalate crystal formation, which in turn meant fewer urine stones.
This is great news for any cat prone to urine stone formation, which of course includes cats with kidney disease!
Cat constipation fish oil – when fish oil is NOT the answer
What about fish oil for cats with constipation?
Because oil lubricates stuff… right?!
In fact, plenty of humans also swear by castor oil to get things moving again when they feel blocked up.
And it’s true that when we’re constipated, fatty acids and the bile acids we synthesize to digest them can produce diarrhea.
If you’re lucky that will clear the clear the blockage, but if you’ve ever tried it you’ll know the results can be a little, well… sudden, unpredictable and explosive.
So it’s not a great solution for your cat.
Besides the uncontrollable diarrhea, the loose faeces can leak past the compacted stool which is causing constipation anyway.
So that your cat has diarrhea, they’re becoming dehydrated, and they are still constipated too.
Which is why you should always visit your vet for a gentler solution to constipation, rather than self administering fish oil!
Fish oil for cats: dosage
If you think your cat would benefit from fish oil, what’s the best way to go about giving it to them?
A 1998 review article of studies into the effect of diet on skin diseases in dogs and cats found the that fish oil supplements usually take three to eight weeks to take effect.
They also found that several studies returned disappointing results because the amount of fish oil being administered was too low.
This teaches us two things:
Firstly, if you decide to purchase a fish oil supplement for your cat, look for a liquid fish oil for cats that contains pure, high quality fish oils.
Secondly, ask your vet to help you work out the right dosage for your cat!
They will take into account the background fatty acids already present in your cat’s main food, their size, age, and other relevant health factors.
Furthermore, ingesting high quantities of fish oil has been linked to vitamin E deficiency in cats, so your vet will help you monitor and correct against this happening.
Best fish oil for cats
So, fish oil really does have the potential to help cats with a lot of health problems, as well as improve their overall condition.
Whenever you’re using elevated doses of fish oil to treat particular problem, you should always do so with your vet’s guidance.
These are the kind of products they might recommend:
Cat food with fish oil
A good place to start is with complete foods that already include an oily fish component.
Purina Fancy Feasts Broths – Seafood Flavors
These pre-prepared wet meals for cats include several seafood options which contain oily fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon as their main ingredient.
They also also vitamin E to protect against deficiency.
Happy purchasers say they are well-received by their cat, and the single portion size is ultra-convenient.
Canidae Grain Free Pure Cat Dry Food
If your cat prefers a dry food diet, this special recipe for easy digestion centers around salmon or trout.
Luckily it comes in several bag sizes so you can find out which side of the fence your cat is on without stockpiling huge quantities!
I and Love and You Naked Essentials Grain Free Dry Cat Food
Another grain free choice for cats with sensitive tummies, this recipe contains salmon and trout as main ingredients, as well as added fish oil and flax oil for omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.
Alternatively, you can buy liquid fish oil to add to the meals your cat is already eating.
Most fish oil supplements for cats come in bottles with a pump action dispenser to squirt on to meals.
These are the best we’ve found:
Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Fish Oil Liquid
This fish oil comes from wild anchovy and sardines.
It contains 31% omega fatty acids, including 17% eicosapentaenoic acid (remember the one which which helped cats with kidney disease?)
Happy customers say that it’s helped their cats with all manner of ailments and coat problems.
The bottle comes with a pipette for accurately measuring your cat’s dosage.
Terramax Pro Omega 3 Premium Liquid Fish Oil
This highly-rated supplement includes fish oils from sardines, herring, anchovy and mackerel, caught using dolphin-friendly fishing methods.
This fish oil supplement for cats contains 35% omega-3 fatty acids, 18% eicosapentaenoic acid, 7% omega-6 fatty acids, and no preservatives.
The pump action bottle makes accurate dosing a little trickier, but can be less messy, if you know you only need whole “squirts”.
Grizzly Salmon Oil Cat Food Supplement
This pure salmon oil has amassed legions of loyal fans.
The fatty acid content is fractionally lower than other oils – 29% omega-3, 10% eicosapentaenoic acid and 3% omega-6.
But this simply represents the different amount of fatty acids in salmon compared to other fish.
This oil might be an acceptable choice if your cat doesn’t like the flavor of other fish oils.
Bonnie and Clyde Wild Omega 3 Fish Oil
This well-loved oil is derived from sardines, anchovies and mackerel.
Unlike the other products, this fish oil has been deodorized, for if you find the whiff of fish oil a bit off-putting.
It also contains added vitamin E, to protect your cat against deficiency.
Makondo Pets Skin and Coat Supplement for Dogs and Cats
If your cat rejects fishy flavors, these chewable bacon-flavored supplements might be just the trick.
Each tablet contains 250mg of fish oil, as well as rich combo of other vitamins and minerals (including vitamin E)
You vet can help you decide how many your cat should have per day.
Fish oil treats for cats
A fun way to get a bit of extra fish oil into your cat is to find treats containing fish oil, and use them as part of games, or as rewards when you’re teaching good behavior.
They might not be a practical way to administer meaningful quantities of fish oil, but they are a bit of fun nonetheless.
We think these fish oil treats for cats fit the bill perfectly:
Zesty Paws Pure Freeze Dried Salmon Filet Treats
These treats are simply chunks salmon, preserved by freeze-drying, and with nothing else added.
They’ve got a small but loyal following, and they’ll appeal to you if you like your pet food to be low on ingredients, and recognizable for what it is.
Feline Greenies Smart Bites
These treats position themselves as a treat and multi-vitamin all in one, but really the total fatty acid content is negligible – less than 1%.
However, they’re a tasty reward if you’re teaching your cat tricks, and offer a little health boost as well.
These also come in chicken flavor, for the cat who doesn’t like fish:
Human fish oil for cats
Please don’t be tempted to give your cat fish oil supplements intended for humans.
Many human fish oil supplements, such as cod liver oil, contain large quantities of vitamin A which your cat may not be able to digest safely.
A product designed for pets, and recommended by your vet, is far safer.
Fish oil for cats
Hopefully you’re feeling more clued up about the benefits of fish oil for cats now!
If your feline is young and healthy, it’s unlikely that there is anything to be gained by giving them fish oil supplements for cats on top of their usual balanced diet.
For older cats and cats with skin, coat, kidney or bladder conditions, fish oil might help support them towards a healthier, happier outlook.
Always consult your vet before using fish oil to treat any kind of medical condition.
Do you give your cat fish oil?
If so, have you seen any benefits?
Please tell us about your experiences – good and bad – in the comments section.
Free Updates For Cat Lovers!
Our cat care articles, tips and fun facts, delivered to your inbox