Can Tuna Fish Cause CRF in Cats?

"It's not tuna -- may I eat it?"
i Michael Blann/Lifesize/Getty Images

It's no secret cats love tuna, however they can love it a little too much. There's no evidence a diet of tuna fish will cause chronic renal failure in Kitty. But that doesn't mean you should let her eat all the tuna -- or other fish -- she wants.

Chronic Renal Failure -- CRF

If Kitty's older, she may be suffering from chronic renal failure, commonly known as CRF. It's not at all uncommon for an older cat to be diagnosed with the disease, as her body ages and doesn't function optimally as it used to. The cat with chronic renal failure tends to urinate and drink a lot, but eat less and lose weight.

Causes of CRF

If Kitty's kidneys have suffered irreversible damage, she has chronic renal failure. Her kidneys can't function properly, meaning they don't filter and remove waste products from her blood as they should. There are a variety of potential causes for CRF, including diseases such as feline leukemia, tumors, infections, and various toxins. Usually the condition is idiopathic, meaning there is no known cause. It's worth noting that toxins such as mercury, lead and thallium can damage the kidneys; tuna and other fish can contain all three heavy metals. However, despite their presence in fish, there's no indication that tuna specifically will cause CRF in Kitty.

Tuna and Fish for Kitty

Though tuna fish isn't considered a direct cause of CRF, it shouldn't be part of Kitty's regular diet. Part of the problem with tuna is cats like it a little too much. In fact, if some cats get used to eating tuna they often refuse to eat anything else. Tuna doesn't provide cats with the nutrition they require; cats who rely on tuna as their main source of food suffer from vitamin B deficiency, which can lead to neurological problems such as seizures. Fish in general is also not a good call; it lacks taurine, an amino acid all cats need, and sufficient levels of Vitamin E. Vitamin E deficiency can cause steatitis, otherwise known as yellow fat disease, which inflames the fat under the skin.

When to Feed Kitty Tuna

Despite the problems with a tuna diet, it's okay to give Kitty little bits of tuna and other fish once in a while, even if she has CRF. If Kitty has CRF, you may find that you have a hard time getting her to eat. Sometimes adding tuna water to her water or food will goose her appetite a bit. Making sure she eats is critically important. If Kitty loves fish and insists on eating it, try to make sure it comes from a canned cat food that's manufactured to meet a cat's nutritional requirements.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest