Ask the Aquarist: Cats and Tanks

Dear Consulting Aquarist:

My girlfriend is moving in with me and is bringing her two cats with her.  I love the cats but I’m worried about what they’ll do to my fish tanks!  I have a 40 gallon saltwater tank and a 60 gallon freshwater tank – will the cats try to climb on top of the tanks?  Will they get to the fish?  What can I do to keep the cats safely away from my fish?



Hey Dan, great question.  

I feel like cats get a bad reputation when it comes to their compatibility with fish tanks.  Old cartoons of cats getting caught with a mouth full of fish immediately come to mind.  Unfortunately, this reputation isn’t totally unwarranted.  Cats are inquisitive and curious by nature.  They are also natural predators, so this mix can make for a bad combination when it comes to having a fish tank in their home.

Cats, like people, have unique personalities.  So not all will have a predilection for fish tanks.  I’ve owned several cats over the years and some could care less about the aquarium while others will sit in front of the tank from time to time and watch the fish.  

The best way to prevent catastrophe with your tank and your cats is to make a few precautionary measures.  It is always a good idea to cover your aquarium with a lid or canopy.  This will help prevent ways for your cats to get into your aquarium.  The next step I would recommend would be to place your aquarium somewhere in your home that prevents cats from getting the higher ground.  I like to limit the amount of shelf space on or around my aquariums in order to give the cats less purchase for climbing.  

Acclimating your cats to good behavior around your fish tanks will take time and patience but once everyone gets comfortable, your aquarium will be a calming experience for you and your cat.

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