Can Cats Eat Cheese?
Some cats love trying new things – referred to as being neophilic. Whereas others prefer to stick with what they know. Either way, cheese can be popular with certain felines. But can cats have cheese as part of their usual diet? Or is cheese actually bad for cats? Keep reading to find out what to do if your furry friend keeps asking you for their share of cheesy treats.
Can cats eat cheese?
A cat’s love of dairy is one of the most enduring feline myths – driven in part by the popularity of images in books and television of cats lapping a bowl of milk. However, adult cats are actually lactose intolerant, with some individuals being worse affected than others if they consume dairy.
So, can cats have cheese? Not really – you should avoid feeding your cat any dairy product. Although some owners find cheese useful for hiding medication, you should try an alternative such as chicken breast where possible.
Why is cheese bad for cats?
Adult cats are unable to properly digest dairy products because they lack the enzyme which breaks down lactose. This means eating milk, cream or cheese could lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation or vomiting. Cats are actually obligate carnivores, meaning they need a diet based mostly on meat to thrive and remain healthy.
Can kittens eat cheese?
Kittens drink their mother’s milk until they are weaned at around 8-10 weeks old, so you may be wondering whether cheese is bad for kittens too. Kittens have a better ability to digest dairy than adult cats, because they still have some enzymes present that helps them digest the lactose in their mother’s milk. However, this ability starts to decrease at the start of the weaning process around 4 weeks in age. This means that by the time they’re able to eat solids such as cheese, they will be lactose intolerant. If you’re not sure what to feed a kitten, find out with our handy guide.
Why do cats like cheese?
If cats are not particularly good at digesting cheese, why do some individuals still love it? Experts believe that it’s the fat and protein content in cheese that makes it a high value food to some cats. It’s not safe to assume that a cat will stop eating cheese if it makes them unwell. In fact, a cat may well continue to eat something even if they have diarrhoea. Furthermore, if your cat is fed a high-quality commercial diet – this will be suitably balanced and they do not require the addition of other food for nutritional benefits.
Can cats have non-dairy cheese?
If the dairy content in cheese is the problem, what about the non-dairy vegan alternatives? It turns out this might not be such a good idea either. Whether it’s dairy or non-dairy, cheese comes packed with salt, fat and even spices or additional ingredients such as onion or garlic which are toxic to felines. Make sure you read the food label before offering that cube of cheese to your cat.
Can cats eat cheese as a treat?
There are owners who let their cats have an occasional cheesy treat and when it comes to giving the cat a pill, a lump of cheese sometimes comes in handy to help medication go down easier for the pet. Always check with your vet whether your pet’s medication is suitable to be given in food. Some treatments should be given before meal-times.
If you haven’t noticed any previous reactions, and you decide to give your cat cheese as an occasional treat, only give a very small quantity. Make sure you keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort, vomiting or diarrhoea. Don’t forget that there are plenty of meaty treats cats will enjoy just as much if not even more, so cheese can usually be replaced with suitable feline-friendly alternatives.
The answer to whether cats can have cheese is not a straightforward yes or no. Cheese is not in the risky category of toxic or severely harmful foods for cats, but it’s not the healthiest option either, and can cause digestive problems.