Some cats love to try new things, which are known as neophiles. At the same time, other felines prefer to eat their regular diet and never try any new items. Either way, cheese is very popular with particular cats. But can cats eat cheese as part of their normal diet? Or is cheese awful for cats? Continue reading to learn more about what to do if your furry friend keeps asking you for her share of cheesy treats.
Can Cats Eat Cheese?
According to experts, yes, but only in moderation or as a rare treat. If you give your cat cheese, give it a small piece rarely – almost the size of a dice. For example, you may provide your cats cheese when you want to give them any hidden pill.
Most cats can tolerate cheese up to some extent but keep in mind if your feline companion is lactose intolerant or has a milk allergy. Even a tiny amount of cheese could wreak havoc on her digestive system.
Why is Cheese Bad for Cats?
Mature cats cannot properly digest dairy products because they lack the enzyme (lactase) that breaks down lactose. This means that eating milk, cream, or cheese can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting. Felines are known as obligate carnivores, which means they need a primarily meat-based diet to thrive and stay healthy.
Dairy Intolerance and Dairy Allergy in Cats
Despite the old myth that cats love nothing more than a bowl of milk or cream, most cats cannot digest dairy products.
Cats with a dairy allergy can also react badly to even a tiny bite of dairy products such as cheese. Cats generally don’t have many food allergies, but dairy, fish, and red meat are the most common. If your cat is allergic to cheese, it could lead to digestive problems and even affect their immune system.
Common signs that your cat has a dairy allergy include the following after consuming lactose products:
- Itchy and red skin patches
- Hair loss
If your cat shows these or other unusual signs, contact your vet as soon as possible to schedule a checkup.
Can Kittens Eat Cheese?
Young kittens drink their mother cat’s milk until they are entirely weaned, around 7-8 weeks of age, so you may be thinking if cheese is bad for kittens or not.
Kittens have a more remarkable ability to digest dairy products than adult cats because they still have some lactase enzyme present to digest the lactose in breast milk. However, this ability begins to decline early in the weaning process, around four weeks of age. This means that by the time they can eat solids like cheese, they may be lactose intolerant.
Why Do Cats Like Cheese?
If felines aren’t mainly good at digesting cheese, why do some cats still love it? Experts believe that the fat and protein content of cheese makes it a high-value food for some cats. It is not secure to assume that a cat will stop eating cheese if it causes discomfort. A cat can continue to eat something even if it has diarrhea. Also, if your cat is fed a high-quality commercial diet, it will be adequately balanced and will not need the addition of other foods for nutritional benefits.
Can Cats Eat Non-dairy Cheese?
If the dairy content in cheese is the problem, what about non-dairy vegan alternatives? It turns out this may not be a good idea either. Whether dairy or not, cheese is formed with salt, fat, and even spices or additional ingredients like garlic or onion, which are toxic to felines. Make sure to read the ingredients mentioned in the food label before offering that cube of cheese to your cat.
Types of Cheese: Good versus Bad
If you give your cat a cheesy treat, certain varieties may be better than others:
- Cheddar: One of the most popular cheeses is a semi-hard cheese containing a low amount of lactose. It may be given in moderation.
- Swiss: A favorite among sandwich lovers, Swiss cheese is considered a healthy cheese for humans because it is low in fat content and sodium and high in protein, so it may be given in moderation. Like cheddar cheese, it has low amounts of lactose, but it can still lead to digestive problems.
- Mozzarella: Whether raw or cooked, soft cheeses like mozzarella are a health hazard for cats because they are high in lactose. So they should be avoided
- Cottage cheese: High in lactose (not good for health)
- Cream cheese: Pose similar risks to cottage cheese and should be avoided.
- Brie: A famous soft cheese, brie is made from raw milk potentially containing Salmonella and Listeria, which cause serious illness.
- Blue Cheese: Potentially toxic (not Good)