Why Are Cats Attracted To Goldfish? Learn Why!

When we think of cats and goldfish, we instinctively conjure up an image of a cat pawing inside a goldfish bowl determined to catch the fish. It’s the iconic image depicted in many cartoons and comics but are cats really attracted to goldfish? Or is it merely a myth portrayed by various animations over the years? Of course, there is always a kitty somewhere that will defy the norm, but most cats are attracted to goldfish. 

Why is my cat attracted to goldfish?

Cats are natural hunters and it’s their instinct to hunt for prey in order to survive. And whilst domesticated cats know that their next meal will be served up in the same place, at the same time, the primal urge for tracking their next meal still needs to be satisfied.

This is now play time for the cat rather than survival needs! Cats are immediately attracted to things that move and a small, bright goldfish darting here and there will be just too tempting for some cats.

Goldfish are small enough for a cat to be able to view it as potential prey and the shiny bright scales will certainly catch their attention as it moves in unpredictable directions. 

Although most cats are not a fan of water, this is unlikely to deter them in their mission to catch this sparkly prey but merely another dimension to their challenge. If your cat is successful in getting the fish out of the water, then they will very likely ‘play’ with their snared prey as it frantically jumps and squirms for its life. As horrid and upsetting as this is, this is just nature, the cat is just acting on primal instincts. 

Is it ok for cats to eat goldfish?

The simple answer is no, it is not ok for a cat to eat a goldfish. Goldfish can carry diseases which are potentially harmful to a cat. Goldfish can also be carriers of tapeworms.

It is not ok to feed any other types of raw fish to a cat either. The bacteria and parasites that are potentially carried in raw fish can be harmful to your cat. Also, raw fish contains an enzyme which destroys thiamine. This vitamin B is essential to a cat, and a lack of thiamine can cause life-threatening neurological problems.

Also, if a cat were to eat a goldfish, it could potentially cause choking due to the bones in the fish. If you have any concerns if your cat has eaten a goldfish contact your veterinary for advice. 

This is not to be confused with feeding fish to cats in general. Correctly cooked fish, which, when given as part of a nutritionally balanced diet, is good for cats. It is a rich source of protein which is essential to their growth and development. Commercially prepared cat food will have the balance required for optimum health. 

How to protect fish from cats

Despite the concerns above there is no reason for cats and fish not to live in harmony if some precautions are put in place. The following tips and advice can provide a safe haven for your fish even with a prowling kitty around: 

– Do not keep fish in a small open bowl (a small open bowl is not advised whether you have a cat or not!) 

– Keep goldfish, or any other fish, in an aquarium with a secure lid. A tight lid with a small opening for feeding would make it virtually impossible for your cat to get her paws in. Goldfish Bowl v Aquariums are covered in another article.

  • The aquarium should be heavy and stable enough so that your cat would have no chance of knocking it over. 
  • Position the aquarium in somewhere that is inaccessible to your cat, for example, inset into a wall. Try not to keep the fish on a surface that is easily accessible for a cat to jump onto such as bookshelves or a table. 
  • Cats do not like certain textures such as scrunched up tinfoil or sticky surfaces therefore try putting such textures around, or on top, of your aquarium. 
  • Certain smells can discourage a cat from approaching an area therefore try placing these odours near the aquarium. Most cats particularly hate eucalyptus, citronella and wintergreen.
  • Many fish owners with stubborn cats’ resort to using needle hook or cross stitch backing and taping it to the hood opening. 
  • Place the aquarium in a room where cats do not have access.
  • Ensure that there are plenty of other stimuli for your cat to be kept amused. Here are some great cat toys to do just that.
  • If it’s the trickling water that seems more tempting than the fish, try a pet water fountain. Cats are often drawn towards moving water and it may just be what’s needed to draw them away from the aquarium. 
  • Ensure there are activity feeders placed in the house to satisfy the hunting instinct in your cat. 
  • Cats like to climb and feel safe in high positions. Cat trees, shelving for your cat and scratching posts are all places your cat will love to find. 
  • Play with your cat every day, this will keep her amused and mentally stimulated and may result in less curiosity regarding the fish.

Check out the following articles to ensure your cat is amused and satisfied 18 Games to play with your cat and How to keep your cat happy 10 key factors.

These articles have been written by our friends over at Littlemisscat.com a must visit for any cat lover!

Protecting fish in outside ponds from cats 

Many cat owners have outdoor cats and if goldfish are kept outside in a pond there will be the risk of that natural hunting instinct coming into play. Even if you don’t own a cat, keeping your pond fish safe from neighbouring cats is also advisable. Here are some top tips to protecting your pond fish from cats: 

  • Placing a net over the pond. Ensure it is secured with stones or rocks as cats are very agile and can navigate through the smallest of spaces. Chicken wire can be as equally effective as netting.  We have used the AlpineReach pond net before and it seems to be a very popular choice looking at the Amazon reviews.
  • Water sprinklers can be positioned around the pond to be activated by motion. If a cat decides to investigate the pond, the sprinklers will come on a sure deterrent from trying again! 
  • Cats dislike certain smells and by planting a selection of these scented shrubs around the pond there is less chance of some prying paws in the pond. These plants include lavender, rue, pennyroyal and any citrus aromas such as lemon thyme.
  • A pet proof tough mesh to cover the area of the pond will also protect our fish. 
  • Planting your pond with plants that ensure good coverage, such as water lilies, will provide a good hiding place for the fish. If your cat can’t see the fish, she is unlikely to stick around. 
  • If the pond is large enough and deep enough it is highly unlikely that your car will venture too close to the water’s edge. Most cats are not fans of water but as with all species there are always some that defy the rules. It is always to bet better to be safe than sorry. 

Can cats and fish live in harmony?

Cats and fish can indeed live in harmony as long as the needs of both species are met. It can be a bit of a balancing act initially, but with steps to protect your fish and also ensuring your cats natural hunting needs are met and stimulated, there is no reason why these two popular pets can’t live in harmony. 

Guest Post By Angharad Jones – Littlemisscat.com