How to Safely Care for Both Fish and Cats in the Same Home

Nov 25, 2019

By Matt Leighton, vivofish.com 

Keeping cats and fish together sounds like a crazy idea…at least at first. After all, cats eat fish, and many of them will try to get into the fish tank – sometimes with disastrous results.

Yet, some people have made it work.

Consider the cats depicted in “Cats and Their Aquarium,” a collection of pictures that depict the creatures peacefully coexisting – even if it is a bit worrying to see a Maine Coon lying on the lid! The cats enjoy the view and appreciate the warmth of the light.

So, how can you pull this off? How can you keep cats and fish together without losing all your fish or ending up with sopping-wet cats? Here are some ideas to keep things peaceful and everybody safe.

Tips To Keep Fish Safe From Cats

Cats can catch and kill fish, and their presence can stress them out. It is thus necessary to keep the fish safe and calm.

Cats are often fascinated by fish and enjoy watching them, and that’s fine. They should not, however, be any closer than within two feet of the tank. That distance will keep the cat from pawing at the tank or otherwise stressing the fish.

That also means that there should not be any tables, shelves, or the like within two feet of the tank. Otherwise, the cat could use them as a “launchpad” to jump onto the tank’s stand. Alternatively, cover such a surface with items like books to make it harder for the cat to jump.

It’s also a good idea to buy a tank stand designed for the specific tank. Such a tank stand will have little room around the sides for the cat to stand, climb, or jump on. If the tank and its stand appear to be a vertical surface with no ledge, the cat will probably not try to jump on it.

Another way to prevent a cat from stressing out fish is to give the fish hiding places where they can retreat from both cats and more aggressive tank-mates. Different types of plants, whether real or artificial, can keep a fish safely hidden from prying feline eyes.

Making the tank unattractive to the cat can also protect the fish. One way to do this is to place something that smells of wintergreen, citronella, or eucalyptus on or near the tank. Cats hate all three odors.

Cats also hate certain textures, like that of aluminum foil or sticky tape. Some tank owners will “booby trap” their tanks by placing such items on the ledges around them.

Covering the tank up at night with a towel or blanket will reduce the chances of the cat visiting it. If it can’t see the fish or light, it won’t be interested.

Tips To Keep Cats Safe Around the Tank

The other part of the equation is to keep cats from hurting or drowning themselves trying to get at the fish. This generally means making the tank less accessible to the cat. One way to do this is to put the tank on something too high for the cat to reach.

It’s also prudent to make sure the tank itself is stable, so the cat can’t knock or tip it over. It should, therefore, be longer or wider than it is tall, and it should have a broad base. Round fish tanks, like those often used to house betta, are particularly precarious. If the tank is on a stand, that should also be stable.

The tank should have a lid that can be securely fastened so the cat can’t knock it off. The lid should also be sturdy enough to support the cat’s weight without breaking or falling into the tank. Anybody who owns a jumbo-sized cat like a Maine Coon should ask their aquarist for help in picking out the sturdiest lids available.

Putting objects on top of the lid can reduce the amount of room for the cat and even disrupt their depth perception so they will be less likely to jump onto the tank in the first place.

How To Enjoy Them All Together

Keeping multiple pets can be a challenge, especially if the pets would have a predator-prey relationship in the wild. Many of the methods for keeping the peace in a multi-pet household involve making certain that each pet has its own space, like separate beds and feeding areas. A cat’s food dishes should not be near the fish tank, so it won’t associate the tank with eating.

Just as cats often do well in a dog-free room that contains their toys and perches, fish might thrive in a room closed off to the family cat. Some owners set up areas for both cats and fish – and use catnip to entice the felines into staying in their area and away from the fish.

Some cats are more interested in the water than the fish. These cats might enjoy a water fountain or water bowl of their own.

It’s also possible to train a cat to leave the fish alone. Such training doesn’t involve yelling or swatting the cat, as those will simply teach the cat to fear their owner. On the other hand, hissing at the cat will warn it away from the aquarium.

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4 thoughts on “How to Safely Care for Both Fish and Cats in the Same Home

  1. Pamela Cummins says:

    Our cats aren’t interested in White Shark the Betta fish; however, Pedro the parakeet is a different story! We carefully supervise Pedro on his visits out of the cage and keep his cage up high. Pedro lived with my man’s parents first, who put him on the floor and allowed their 4 cats to climb on the cage! You can imagine how much he loves living with us now.

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