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How to Cat-Proof Your Fish Tank

Learn the best tips and tricks to keep a fish tank safe from curious (and potentially deadly) feline paws and claws.

Cat looking into fish tank

Are you worried about your cat getting into your fish tank and injuring your fish?

In this article, you’ll learn the best tips and tricks to keep a fish tank safe from curious (and potentially deadly) feline paws and claws.

Keeping domestic fish tanks has become increasingly popular in recent decades, as beautiful, easy-to-keep fish have become more accessible and elaborate setups have become easier to acquire and maintain.

However, this boom in popularity has also led to increased conflict between felines and fish, as cats’ predatory instincts have not been bred out of them, despite domesticity. Fortunately, even these hard-wired instincts can be calmed by some ingenuity and careful planning, all of which will help keep your fish happy and healthy for years to come.

Cat-proofing your fish tank

Create a barrier

Secure wire mesh or a lid over the top of the tank. This is probably the most important thing you can do to protect your fish from a curious cat. Depending on what kinds of fish you plan to keep and what kind of tank you have, you may be able to get one with a built-in lid. If not, strong, fine wire mesh will work just as well if it’s properly secured.

No matter the design of your tank, wire, screws, or clamps will likely all work well. These preventatives will also keep particularly active fish from jumping out of their tank. Be mindful, however, that they may also give your cat another place to sit, stare, and stress out your fish. You may have to go the extra mile and place a deterrent on top of the tank.   

Cover the tank

You may need to take precautions to protect your fish when you’re away from home. Watching brightly-colored fish dart around will be a major attractant for your cat.

To prevent this, cover the tank with a blanket, cardboard, or something similar when you aren’t home to enjoy their calming colors yourself. Just be sure the blanket doesn’t dangle too close to the floor, where it might be tempting for your cat to grab it and pull it down.

Sensory deterrents

Surround the tank with a scat mat or unpleasant smell. If your cat keeps trying to get up next to or into your fish tank, it’s time to bring out the heavy-duty repellents. A scat mat is a static-releasing or spiky mat that you can put around the fish tank, which will deter your cat from jumping up and getting up close and personal with your fish.

If it’s a serious problem, you may also be able to set one up on top of the fish tank. Scent deterrents, which are commercially available or can be made at home, may also be effective if your setup doesn’t allow for a scat mat. This may also keep your tank smelling fresh for other humans, as clean-smelling citrus scents, like lemon and lime, are some of your feline’s least favorite.

Pacify your feline

Make sure your cat is mentally stimulated. Your cat may be particularly interested in your fish tank if they have nothing else to occupy their attention when you aren’t around. Cats need stimulation just as much as anybody or anything else and providing alternative ways for them to get it may turn their attention away from the fish tank.

A scratching post, small toys, or a cat tree are all good options. You can also make sure they’re able to look out a window or see if they enjoy watching TV instead of your fish tank.

Closed-door policy

If all else fails, consider just keeping your cat out of the room with the fish tank. Depending on where you’ve set up your fish tank, this could be your best option. Especially for tanks set up in bedrooms, offices, or other out-of-the-way places, being diligent about keeping the door closed and your cat out is easy, free, and effective.

Obviously, if your tank is set up in the living room or another public space, this option will be close to impossible. However, if your cat is determined to get at your fish and nothing else seems to have worked, it may be time to consider moving your tank to a safer place.

It may seem inevitable that your cat and your fish will live in constant conflict, but it’s actually far from guaranteed. It’s entirely possible your cat will ignore or only show a passing interest in your fish tank. If they don’t, though, and are instead committed to getting up close and personal with your fish, you now know what to do to keep these natural enemies far apart and thriving.


Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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