Can Cats Eat Imitation Crab?

can cats eat imitation crab

Seafood provides many benefits for both humans and animals. It is filled with vital nutrients and minerals that help the body and mind of you and your cat. But what about imitation crab? Can cats eat imitation crab? 

This is something that cat parents should ask themselves before giving it to their furry friend. After all, there are many foods that we as humans enjoy that can pose a serious health risk to our pets. Even if the food itself is safe for cats, additional ingredients added to the food can cause problems, as well as how it is cooked or prepared. 

Let’s take a look at what exactly is in imitation crab meat and if it poses a threat to a cat’s well-being. 

Can cats eat imitation crab?

The simple answer to “can cats eat imitation crab” is yes. Imitation crab isn’t toxic to cats, and it can actually be a nice treat for them every once in awhile. However, there are some things to consider before letting your cat eat imitation crab meat.

You should steer clear of imitation crab meat that contains seasoning as many different herbs and spices, such as onion and garlic, are harmful to cats. As with anything other than specially formulated cat food, cats should only eat imitation crab in moderation.

Giving them too much of this fake crab can cause symptoms associated with stomach problems.

Even if the imitation crab meat doesn’t contain additional ingredients, too much of it can be a bad thing. This is especially true since it doesn’t provide all the essential nutrients that a cat needs to survive.

Because of this, you should never replace your cat’s normal diet with imitation crab, and instead only use it as an occasional treat. Even if you only give it to them once in a blue moon, avoid giving them too much at a time, since this can cause stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, and cramping. 

What is imitation crab made out of?

imitation crab

Imitation crab is, of course, not made from crab meat. Instead, it is made from something called surimi, which is pulverized or shredded fish, such as whitefish or pollock, mixed with starch. They create a paste from the fish and starch, and then heat and press it to resemble crab meat.

Some imitation crab meat may also contain additional salt, water, flavoring, or seasoning. Make sure to check the ingredients on the label before giving it to your cat. Never give your cat imitation crab meat that contains seasonings.

Common ingredients in imitation crab meat

While each brand of imitation crab is different, most do include the following common ingredients:

  • Water – You will usually see water listed as one of the first ingredients. This is because water is needed in order to obtain the proper texture for fake crab meat. Water also helps control the cost of the product.
  • Starch – Starch is a main ingredient in imitation crab meat since it is needed in order to create the color, texture, and shine of crab meat. Potato, corn, wheat, or tapioca starch are the main starches used.
  • Salt – Salt not only adds flavor to the meat, but it also helps the pulverized fish become sturdier, which is needed to form the shape of the crab meat. Sometimes, manufacturers will substitute the salt for potassium chloride.
  • Protein – Additional protein, such as egg whites or soy, is often added to imitation crab to improve the appearance and texture of the meat.
  • Vegetable oil – This ingredient is added to increase the shelf life of the product, while also improving its overall appearance.
  • Sugar and sorbitol – While sugar and sorbitol does add a little sweetness to the fake meat, it is mainly used to help the imitation crab hold properly during the freezing and thawing process.

Other additives found in imitation crab

It is not uncommon to find the following additional additives in fake crab meat:

  • Red colorants – To give the fake meat a real crab appearance, they sometimes use red colorants, such as carmine. Carmine is made from cochineals, which are small bugs. They may also use beet juice extract, tomatoes, or paprika to achieve the proper coloring.
  • Gums – Gums help all the ingredients in the fake crab stick together. The two most commonly used gums in imitation crab are xanthan gum and carrageenan. While xanthan gum is considered non toxic to cats, carrageenan can cause inflammation to their digestive system if exposed to it over an extended period of time.
  • Glutamates – You are probably more familiar with this ingredient under its abbreviation MSG. Monosodium glutamate, as well as disodium inosinate, are often added to imitation crab to help enhance its flavor.
  • Preservatives – These ingredients help to increase the shelf life of the product.
  • Flavorings – You may find various other flavorings added to the meat, including artificial crab flavoring or even real crab extract. Fermented rice wine, also called mirin, is also sometimes added.

Can cats eat imitation crab meat in a can?

canned crab meat

Canned crab meat, whether real or imitation, should be avoided and never given to cats. It’s not toxic per say, but it does contain an excessive amount of sodium. Too much sodium isn’t good for anyone, especially for cats.

Canned crab meat also contains preservatives, which is another ingredient that can pose a threat to your cat’s health. With that said, however, if your cat has a small piece of canned crab meat it probably won’t cause long-lasting harm.

Just make sure to watch them for potential gastrointestinal symptoms, and avoid giving them canned crab meat in the future. 

Can cats eat real crab meat?

Real crab meat is safe for cats to eat, and even contains a wide array of benefits and minerals. In fact, crab meat is full of vitamins B, B6, B12, and vitamin C, as well as various minerals, including calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

While real crab meat is not toxic to cats and is often used as an ingredient in commercial cat food, it shouldn’t replace a cat’s regular diet. This is because real crab meat doesn’t contain all the balanced nutrition that a cat needs.

Treats, or foods not included in their main diet, shouldn’t exceed more than 10-percent of their food requirements. Keep this in mind when giving your cat real crab meat.

Furthermore, as with imitation crab, you should never give your cat real crab meat that has seasoning. Onions and garlic are two of the most commonly used seasonings and they pose a serious health risk to your cat. This includes anything in the Amaryllidaceae family, including onions, shallots, leaks, chives, and garlic, and in all forms, such as whole, minced, dehydrated, or powdered. 

What other seafood can cats eat?

cat eating fried fish

Think about how many times you have seen an image, whether from a cartoon, book, movie, or television show, of a cat stealing a fish from a fish shop, or a cat hungrily eyeing a fish bowl. When we are shown those types of images all throughout our lives, it is only natural that we start to assume that cats and seafood go hand and hand.

While it is true that most cats do have a hankering for fish, their diet cannot consist of seafood alone as this can cause serious health problems for them. 

That’s not to say that cats shouldn’t have seafood. Far from it. Seafood can provide a cat with a wide array of vital and beneficial nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. In fact, most seafood is safe for cats to consume in moderation, which is the key word to ensuring your cat is healthy and happy.

When giving in moderation, cats can consume tuna, salmon, flounder, shrimp, crab, lobster, and various other seafood. You should never give cats any fish or seafood that is raw or undercooked, or any that is fried.

Raw or undercooked seafood poses a risk of food borne illnesses which can cause serious health complications for your cat. And feeding them anything fried is not healthy at all. 

Should I feed my cat imitation crab?

Now that you know a little more about imitation crab, you may still be a little on the fence as to whether or not you should let your cat eat imitation crab meat. After all, it is not toxic for you cats to eat a little imitation crab meat, but it also isn’t the healthiest option for them.

In all honesty, your cat probably won’t have any issues if you give them some fake crab meat as an occasional treat. You will, however, need to check the ingredients beforehand and avoid giving your kitty any that contains seasoning.

The best option is to seek out veterinary guidance from your cat’s vet. They will take into consideration your cat’s current health situation and provide you with their professional opinion.

If you want to err on the side of caution, simply avoid giving your cat imitation crab meat to eat and instead stick with treats made specifically for cats. 

Final thoughts

Imitation crab meat is safe for cats to eat in moderation. However, you will need to pay close attention to the ingredients in the imitation crab beforehand, since these additional ingredients can pose a serious threat to your cat.

If you are not sure what the ingredients are and cannot check the label, err on the side of caution and simply don’t give the imitation crab to your cat. The best option would be to stick with cat treats made for felines when you want to give your feline friend something extra.