Keeping Pet Fish Safe From Cats

Posted by Tim Kerrigan on Jun 24th 2020

Cats are the second most popular pet in the world. But are you aware that pet fish are the third most popular? It stands to reason then that many people including myself have both cats and fish.

You are likely aware of the potential conflict that this matchup creates. Cats are natural predators and will likely view your fish as prey. So what precautions do we need to take if any?

Protecting Your Aquarium

The lengths you will have to go to in order to protect your finned friends depends upon your cat's personality.

I have two cats both with very different personalities. One is very easy going and only shows moderate interest in my fish. She is generally content to simply sit by the tank and watch them. My other cat is much more of a predator and will stick his paws in the tank if given the chance.

Aquarium Location

The first thing that should be taken into consideration is the location of your fish tank. Do you have somewhere you can place the tank out of reach? Can the cat easily jump on top of it? Find a spot away from window sills, bookshelves, and anywhere else your cat likes to hang out.

Unfortunately, it's not always possible or practical to prevent a cat from jumping on top of a fish tank. If this is the case consider putting the tank in a room not accessible to the cat. Or, maybe your cat only causes the fish trouble at night. In this instance, you can place a towel or blanket over the aquarium every night.

Put A Lid On It!

If you already have a lid there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. Are there gaps that your cat could reach through? Is the lid secure enough? Many lids that are provided with fish tank kits are flimsy and not designed with cats in mind. Cover any gaps and make sure the lid is secured shut in some fashion.

Another question to ask yourself is if your lid can bear the weight of your cat(s). If this is in doubt you should reinforce the lid, replace it with something sturdier, or use some type of deterrent which I will explain later.

If your tank or bowl doesn’t already have a lid there are two different options. The Do It Yourself approach or a store-bought lid.

Going the DIY route you can make your own with plexiglass or go to your local glass cutter. There are a variety of other DIY options but the important thing is to make sure it is secure. Simply placing a heavy object on top of the tank isn’t enough. A determined cat will get around this.

Using Cat Deterrents

If your cat is still getting on top of the tank there are a few other tricks you can try.


There are certain surfaces and materials that for some reason cats don’t like. These may include aluminum foil, double-sided tape, bubble wrap, and saran wrap.

These materials can be placed on top of the tank and/or on locations they use to jump from. When using aluminum foil it is most effective to crinkle it up first and then flatten it back out. Double-sided tape is simply stuck onto the surface you don’t want the cat to use. Other materials like bubble wrap and saran wrap can be stuck on with the tape.

Unfortunately, all of these methods look tacky. If effective, however, you may be able to remove them after a few months once your cat has been trained to stay off.


Another option to try that won’t make your aquarium look like it’s covered in trash is to use scents.

Citronella, lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass have all been proven to be effective cat deterrents. As with the above, place them in locations you do not want your cat.

A word of warning when using these oils. Be very careful to not get any of it into your aquarium water. Doing so will very likely kill your fish!

Final Thoughts On Keeping The Peace

You should also consider the fact that your cat might simply be bored. So make sure you are providing them with plenty of positive stimulation. Scratching posts, cat toys, and the occasional catnip treat are all good ideas.

I hope I have given you some ideas to prevent conflict between your finned friends and your furry friends. Cats and fish can and do live harmoniously in the same household.

Best of luck!


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