The protective effect of the (n-3) fatty acids in menhaden fish oil on acute cerebral ischemia was investigated in cats. Cerebral ischemia was produced by ligation of the left middle cerebral artery of cats fed either a basal diet of feline cat chow or the basal diet supplemented with 8% of the calories as menhaden oil for 18-24 days. Fatty acids esters of 20:5 (n-3) were increased and the 18:2 (n-6) decreased in the heart and liver of cats fed supplemental fish oil, but the brain lipid showed no effect of the diet. We found that the neurological deficit and the volume of brain infarction in the group treated with fish oil was less than that of the control group. The present findings suggest that moderate dietary supplements of fish oil may be beneficial in the prophylactic treatment of ischemic cerebral vascular disease.