Can Cats Eat Goldfish?

Cat getting a scared goldfish in aquarium

House cats are the favored companions for many people. And goldfish are just as well-loved and appreciated. But what happens when you mix the two in one home? Are your fish in danger?

Will and Can Cats Eat Goldfish?

Absolutely! The felines we keep today are fluffy and pampered, as they should be. But they are still the descendants of wild hunting animals that have strong predatory instincts. Anyone with an outdoor cat knows that they have no problem catching and killing other animals. They may not eat the birds, lizards, mice, and other small critters they catch; they may simply place them on the doorstep of their humans.

Unfortunately, you might find other issues arising should your cat decide to catch and eat fish. Goldfish are full of tiny bones that a cat will simply crunch and swallow. But thin rib bones and the harder skull can easily cause bowel obstruction somewhere in the intestines, which can end in an expensive trip to the emergency ward of the local veterinary clinic. If the vet realizes there is possibly a bowel obstruction, the surgery can run anywhere from $800 to $7000.

Those small bones can also cause choking should one get swallowed the wrong way. While cats can eat fish, it doesn’t mean there is no chance of it occurring.

In addition, raw fish carry diseases that cats can catch. Even well-cared-for goldfish can transmit worms, flukes, and other parasites to your cat if eaten. These parasites end up in the intestines, drinking blood and other vital fluid and sapping away the health of your feline friend.

Vector illustraton of a resting cat after eating a raw goldfish

Why Are Cats So Interested in Goldfish?

As I said before, a cat’s diet is exclusively other animals in nature. Even when well fed, those predatory instincts don’t just go away. Pair that with the often boring interior of a home with little stimulation, and you’ll see how much sense it makes for a cat to be interested in goldfish. They often watch windows, televisions, and other sources of movement for the same reason: they get bored.

Small goldfish are in the most danger. They are small and easier to handle and move much quicker and catch the light in a way that cats love.

Adult goldfish are anywhere from 8 to 12 inches long, something even a large cat will have trouble catching. Still, given how stressful any attempt would be, it’s best not to tempt your cat with easily caught goldfish.

Keeping Goldfish From Becoming Cat Food

If you keep cats alongside your fish, then you should take a few precautions to keep them safe. The best thing to do is to ensure your goldfish are out of reach. Goldfish bowls are unfortunately the worst if you have a cat at home because the cat can easily leap up onto the table.

Bowls with an open-top are easy enough to reach into. And since your goldfish are trained to see activity near the surface as “feeding time,” they will make an easy meal for your felines.

It’s better to place a bowl on a stand or other area where a cat can’t get beside it. Kitties will still want to watch, but at least they can’t go fishing. An aquarium with a lid is an even better idea, though. An aquarium is best not only because it’s more secure, but it also provides plenty of space for a goldfish to grow, allows for better water circulation, and your fish won’t foul its water as quickly as in an unfiltered bowl.

Another way to save your fish is to provide toys that give your cats an outlet for their predatory impulses! Cats love small items that wiggle enticingly; feathered toys, fake mice, and other toys that look like animals drive them wild for good reason! If possible, add a little catnip to the toy, and your cats should have little desire to eat fish.

Pond Goldfish and Cats

If you have an outdoor pond, that is going to be the safest place for your fish. Cats absolutely hate getting wet, and your fish will be able to simply stay in the deeper section of the pond if your cat comes poking around.

Ponds without a shallow transition zone, such as many hard-preformed pond liners, are also helpful. Since these ponds start off a few inches deep, they provide an even larger barrier to keep cats from catching fish.

Wrapping Things Up

can cats eat goldfish as photo shows a cat looking at the fish

While a cat can eat a goldfish, you can take precautions to make this very unlikely. And it’s best not to wait until it happens. Provide your cat with plenty of entertainment to divert its predatory instincts elsewhere.

That said, if your cat eats one of your fish, don’t panic! They likely chewed up enough of the bones while eating for bowl blockage not to be an issue. Simply keep an eye on them and report any symptoms to your vet.

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Kelly Stanley
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