Squid, or calamari, is a popular seafood dish enjoyed by humans across many cuisines like Italian, Japanese, and Mediterranean.
As cat owners, we often wonder if we can share a bite of our meal with our feline companions. But is squid safe for cats to eat?
Can Cats Eat Squid?
Cats can eat small amounts of cooked squid occasionally as a treat, but it should not become a regular part of their diet. Plain boiled or steamed squid is safest, as frying or breading adds unnecessary fat, salt, and garlic. Raw squid is not recommended as it may harbor bacteria and parasites.
While not toxic to cats, squid itself offers minimal nutritional value beyond protein and trace minerals. It does not provide complete amino acids, fatty acids, or vitamins essential to feline health. Squid’s appeal stems mainly from its intriguing taste and texture. Most cats enjoy sampling new flavors and will happily accept a few bites of cooked squid from their owner’s plate. However, it should not replace their species-appropriate commercial or raw cat food.
Squid contains a modest amount of zinc and copper which contribute to skin, coat, and immune health when consumed occasionally. But it does not contain enough of these trace minerals to provide health benefits through regular feeding. Excessive zinc can also potentially cause toxicity.
Overall, cooked squid is a safe human food cats can eat in moderation. It offers some nutritional value and a novel seafood experience cats will likely relish. As long as preparation guidelines are followed, a few pieces of squid should not harm healthy cats when limited to an infrequent treat.
Can Cats Eat Raw Squid?
Raw squid is not recommended for cats primarily due to high risks of foodborne illness. Like any raw seafood, squid may harbor pathogenic bacteria including Salmonella, Listeria, Vibrio, and Clostridium botulinum. These bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature and can lead to food poisoning when ingested.
According to veterinarians, symptoms of foodborne illness in cats can include:
- Loss of appetite
In severe cases, septicemia and endotoxemia can develop, causing organ failure, seizures, and potentially death. Kittens, elderly cats, and those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable.
Raw seafood also carries a risk of parasitic infection. Squid may harbor nematodes, flukes, tapeworms, and toxoplasma protozoa capable of infecting cats who eat raw flesh.
Does Squid Paralyze Cats?
A longstanding myth warns that eating raw squid can paralyze cats. This belief likely started due to confusion between squid and other fish containing an enzyme called thiaminase.
Thiaminase destroys vitamin B1 (thiamine) in the body, which is essential for nerve and brain function. Extended deficiency causes neurological impairment. Carnivores like cats require adequate thiamine in their diet to avoid deficiency.
However, squid itself does not contain thiaminase. Certain fish like herring, carp, and goldfish do contain this enzyme, earning a reputation for potentially causing paralysis in predators who eat them raw. Squid does not have this same risk, though it may still carry foodborne pathogens if served raw.
Cooked squid is thiaminase-free and safe for cats to eat, as heat denatures the enzyme. Still, cooked preparations are recommended over raw to kill bacterial contaminants.
Is Fried Calamari Safe For Cats?
Fried calamari is not recommended for cats primarily due to high fat content and the potential for stomach upset. The breading, salt, and frying oil vastly increase the fat calories, while seasonings like garlic and onion powder can cause gastrointestinal irritation.
Deep frying may also alter, deplete, or damage the natural nutrition within the squid. The high temperatures break down proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. This leaves empty calories from fat and carbohydrates that cats cannot properly digest.
Obesity is a growing health concern for modern indoor cats. Fried foods encourage weight gain and may exacerbate conditions like diabetes and arthritis. Cat owners should avoid feeding high-fat human foods like fried calamari that evolved as obligate carnivores requiring protein-based diets.
If your cat manages to steal some fried calamari, it will likely suffer no permanent harm beyond possible vomiting or diarrhea. But as a regular treat, deep fried seafood offers no benefits and poses unnecessary health risks for cats better served by their natural raw or cooked meat-based diets.
How Much Cooked Squid Can Cats Eat?
When preparing squid for your cat, moderation is key to safety. As squid is not a natural or complete food source for felines, veterinarians recommend limiting portion sizes to a few small bites.
For an average 10 lb cat, one to two 1-inch pieces of cooked squid weekly is an appropriate serving size. Adjust portions based on your cat’s weight, accounting for smaller or larger breeds. Kittens should not be fed squid until at least 1 year old as their digestive systems continue developing.
To reduce choking risk, dice squid into pea-sized pieces rather than offering large chunks. Properly cooking until just opaque and firm will tenderize the naturally rubbery flesh. Take care not to overcook into tough, chewy bits cats may struggle to chew and swallow.
For homemade preparations, plain boiled or steamed squid is safest. Avoid frying or seasoning with onions, garlic, oils, salt, or other flavorings. Rinsing well after cooking will remove excess sodium from the water.
When trying any new food, observe your cat for signs of upset stomach, allergic reaction, or refusal to eat. Discontinue feeding if she seems distressed or avoids the squid after the first taste. Not all cats take to new flavors, textures, or marine foods.
Safe Squid Preparation Guidelines
To safely prepare squid as an occasional cat treat, follow these veterinarian-recommended guidelines:
- Purchase fresh, sushi-grade squid from a trusted seafood source
- Clean thoroughly, checking for parasites or signs of spoilage
- Remove the hard beak and quill to prevent choking hazards
- Cook squid thoroughly by boiling, steaming, or baking plain
- Avoid frying or adding any spices, oils, salt, onion, or garlic
- Allow cooked squid to cool before dicing into pea-sized bites
- Refrigerate unused portions for up to 2 days
- Limit intake to a few small pieces 1-2 times weekly
- Discontinue feeding if your cat disliked or refuses the squid
Talk to your veterinarian before introducing new foods like squid into your cat’s diet, especially for cats with allergies or gastrointestinal disorders. Monitor your cat closely following the first tastes of squid to watch for potential adverse reactions.
Healthier Fish Alternatives For Cats
While the occasional piece of cooked squid is generally safe for cats, it may be wiser to offer alternative seafood higher in essential fatty acids and complete nutrition. Some smarter choices include:
Canned sardines – High in omega-3s EPA and DHA. Select varieties packed in water.
Canned salmon – Provides omega-3s and vitamin D. Opt for bones removed.
Cooked shrimp – Contains antioxidant astaxanthin. Devein and tail remove first.
Dried bonito flakes – Made from tuna fish. Check for added seasonings.
These seafoods offer more nutritional value and appeal better to most cats’ preferences. As always, moderate portions of any fish treats to under 10% of daily calories.
For picky cats, high-quality commercial cat foods containing fish or seafood provide the benefits without the risks of raw preparation and bacterial contamination. Look for products featuring whole food ingredients mirroring your cat’s natural diet.
Can kittens eat squid?
No, kittens under 1 year old should not eat squid. Their digestive systems are still developing and unable to properly digest the rubbery squid flesh. There is also higher choking risk with improper chewing and swallowing. Wait until cats mature before trying small amounts of cooked squid.
Is squid high in mercury?
Luckily squid is low in mercury compared to many fish. Large marine predators like tuna accumulate more heavy metal toxins through bioaccumulation up the food chain. Squid is generally considered low mercury seafood.
Will squid hurt my cat’s thyroid?
No evidence suggests squid negatively impacts feline thyroid function. Some raw fish may contain thiaminase which depletes vitamin B1 and can theoretically affect metabolism. But squid does not harbor this enzyme when fully cooked, so thyroid issues are not a known risk.
Is dried squid safe?
Dried, unseasoned squid is safe for cats in very limited amounts if sliced into small pieces. But the tough, chewy texture poses a significant choking hazard. Dried squid also has a more concentrated protein content than fresh squid. For these reasons, cooked fresh squid is the safer choice.
Can too much zinc make cats sick?
Yes, extremely high zinc levels can cause toxicity in cats. Acute symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, fever, and lethargy. Long-term excess zinc affects metabolism of copper, iron, and calcium. However, the small amount of zinc in occasional cooked squid should not cause toxicity.
In moderation, most healthy cats can safely eat small amounts of plain cooked squid as an occasional treat. It introduces a novel taste and texture cats tend to relish. However, raw, fried, or heavily seasoned squid poses avoidable health risks and minimal nutritional value. Caution must be taken with preparation, portion size, and frequency of feeding squid to cats.
While not highly beneficial or necessary, the unique appeal of squid satisfies many cats’ curiosity and craving for seafood flavors. As long as proper safety guidelines are followed, cat owners can feel comfortable sharing a few bites of their cooked squid as a special snack. However, squid should never become a regular part of a cat’s diet or replace their nutritionally balanced commercial or raw cat food.