There’s no doubt that our cats are more than capable of eating raw food, especially raw meat.
But is it safe when it comes to feeding your cat seafood such as raw squid?
You might have even heard that eating raw squid can paralyze cats.
How true is this claim or is it just a myth?
What Is A Squid?
A squid is considered a cephalopod, which is a member of the molluscan family. It has an elongated body, large eyes and tentacles.
There are very intelligent creatures that can change color to camouflage themselves from danger.
Another defense mechanism that they have is to squirt out black ink to disorient their predator and make a quick getaway.
Ever heard of squid ink pasta?
Squid is high in protein, cholesterol and healthy fatty acids like Omega-3.
Can Cats Eat Raw Squid?
On paper, squid looks like a good protein source for cats but in reality, it is not.
Cats should not eat or be fed raw squid as part of their diet.
For one, seafood isn’t part of a cat’s diet as its main food source has always been small prey that lives on land.
Secondly, eating raw squid poses a high risk of thiaminase poisoning and contamination for cats.
Does Eating Raw Squid Paralyze Cats?
When cats eat raw squid frequently, there is a strong possibility of paralysis due to thiaminase poisoning.
Thiamine is also known as vitamin B1 and it is an essential dietary nutrient for maintaining and supporting optimal health in cats.
The most important role of thiamine is for proper nervous system function.
It is called an essential vitamin as cats can’t produce it naturally, unlike vitamin C, and need to obtain it from their diet.
There is an enzyme called thiaminase in seafood or particularly in most fishes, shellfish and crustaceans.
What thiaminase does in these marine life is to help support their immune system.
But here’s the twist.
Thiaminase enzyme rapidly destroys thiamine or vitamin B1 thus leading to a dietary deficiency.
A study found that captive foxes were suffering from thiamine deficiency due to their raw fish diet1.
The same thing will happen to cats if they were to eat raw marine life that contains thiaminase.
How Can Thiaminase Cause Paralysis In Cats?
Thiaminase inhibits a cat’s ability to absorb vitamin B1, essential for their nervous system, leading to neurological side effects.
The nervous system plays a tremendous part in a cat’s health and wellness.
If cats eat raw squid, they might exhibit the following symptoms due to thiamine deficiency:
- Drunken like stupor
- Uncoordinated movements
- Dilated pupils
The cat will not be able to have normal and conscious control over its movements any longer which can result in paralysis.
How Much Thiamine Does My Cat Need?
The National Research Council recommends at least 1.4 mg of thiamine/1,000 kcal for adult cats2.
It is important for your cat to get this recommended dosage daily as it is unable to synthesize vitamin B1.
The best source of thiamine for cats is from raw poultry meat and organs like chicken heart or liver.
By feeding your cat a raw meat diet, you can ensure that the thiamine in the food is not degraded by heat, additives and preservatives.
Dry and canned cat food regardless of how good quality will not contain the same amount of thiamine as raw food due to the manufacturing process.
If you suspect that your cat has a thiamine deficiency, please bring it to the vet immediately.
Your vet might have to prescribe additional vitamin B1 supplements for your cat.
Can Cats Eat Cooked Squid?
All is not lost if you have a cat that likes to eat squid.
The good thing is that thiaminase is an enzyme that can be destroyed or eliminated by heat.
Make sure that you only give your cat boiled squid and make sure it is thoroughly cooked and not blanched.
Thiaminase can’t be gotten rid of by freezing the squid. it can still continue to break down the vitamin B1 levels in the food that is frozen.
Do not feed your cat fried squid as it contains a lot of fat and cats do not take too well to food that is too oily or high in fat.
How Much Cooked Squid Can I Give My Cat?
First and foremost, if you really need to give your cat squid, make sure it is only plain and boiled squid.
Most cats can eat a couple of small pieces without any problem.
Boiled Squid can be rather chewy and tough in texture so make sure to cut it into very small pieces so that it doesn’t become a choking hazard for your cat.
Don’t let your cat eat the entire squid as that is too much for it. A couple of small pieces as an occasional treat is good enough.
Make Some Squid Broth For Your Cat
If your cat likes the smell and taste of squid, another way you can go about it is by making some squid broth for your cat.
Just boil some well cleaned squid in a pot for 30 minutes to an hour.
Once the squid broth has cooled, you can add it to your cat’s food or let it drink it as a broth.
Here’s a useful tip.
Freeze the remaining broth in an ice cube tray. You can pop and melt a few cubes and give them to your cat when necessary.
You can also use homemade tuna broth as an alternative if your cat prefers fish to squid.
Can Kittens Eat Squid?
Preferably not. Feeding plain boiled squid a kitten albeit safe is not the best option, even as a treat.
Kittens have very small mouths and the tough meat texture of plain boiled squid can cause choking in kittens.
Furthermore, kittens don’t have the strongest immune system compared to adult cats and any contamination from the squid can be fatal for them.
If for some reason your kitten loves the taste of squid, make sure you only feed them squid broth.
Make sure to feed your kitten a proper diet that helps to support their rapid growth and development instead.
What Are Healthier Alternatives To Squid?
It may seem that your cat likes to eat squid but it is actually the stronger smell of seafood that they desire.
A way to a cat’s stomach is through its nose.
Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell and it helps them decide what to eat.
You can use fish like tuna, sardine and salmon instead of letting your cat eat squid.
Make sure to boil the fish meat first before feeding your cat.
Do not use salt water fish as a staple in your cat’s diet as they contain mercury which can lead to mercury poisoning in your cat if consumed in large quantities over time.
Feeding squid is generally safe for cats as long as it is boiled and properly cooked.
Raw squid carries a huge health risk for cats and should be avoided at all costs.
Even though some cat owners might feel there is some nutritional value in squid meat, nothing beats feeding high-quality cat food to your cat.
Can Cats Eat Raw Fish?
Cats cannot eat raw fish due to the presence of thiaminase enzyme. Make sure that the fish is properly cooked in water before feeding it to your cat.
Can Cats Eat Raw Octopus?
No, cats cannot eat raw octopus. An octopus is a close cousin of a squid and they also have a high probability of containing the thiaminase enzyme.
1. Katie A. Edwards, Eileen A. Randall, Patricia C. Wolfe, Esther R. Angert, Clifford E. Kraft Dietary factors potentially impacting thiaminase I-mediated thiamine deficiency
2. Jessica E. Markovich, Cailin R. Heinze, Lisa M. Freeman Thiamine deficiency in dogs and cats