Across Europe the figure is close to 870,000 tonnes, while almost 34,000 tonnes of the increasingly limited biological resource was imported into Australia each year to satisfy feline appetites.
Fish nutrition researcher Giovanni Turchini described the findings as “a real eye-opener”. They reveal the extent to which fish suitable for human consumption goes into cat food.
Each cat in Australia eats 13.7 kilograms of fish a year, while humans on average consume about 11 kilograms of fish and seafood each.
“Australian pet cats are eating better than their owners,” Dr Turchini said.
With ongoing debate about how to manage marine resources, the Deakin scientist said more research was needed to determine how much of the fish in cat food could be replaced by fish offal and other meat byproducts.
“I think giving a nice chunk of fish to a pet is important to satisfy the personal hedonistic needs of the owner, not the nutritional need of the cat,” he said. “Cats will be very happy to eat the offal from a trout.”
Dr Turchini’s paper, co-written with colleague Professor Sena De Silva, is published online by the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics.