Can cats eat Cheese?

Posted by Nov 4, 2016 |

Cheese is one of those dairy products that most people have in their fridge. And if you also have a cat, you most probably thought already about giving her some cheesy snacks. But as a wise cat owner, you also know that there are a great number of human foods that are not only dangerous but can be deadly to cats. Is cheese one of them? Or can cats eat cheese safely? These are the questions you should have in mind before feeding your cat cheese, and these are the ones which will be answered in this article.

can cats eat cheese
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Can cats eat Cheese? – Only in moderation

The answer to the question “Can cats eat cheese?” is yes. Cats can eat cheese, but only in moderation occasionally as a treat. However, avoiding cheese altogether is a safer, healthier option for your cat.

This might sound a bit confusing, so to make it clear, let’s take a look at some facts about cats and cheese:

  1. Cheese is a fatty, dairy product, derived from milk.
  2. Most cats are lactose intolerant which means that they are not able to digest cow’s milk properly.
  3. So if a cat is having milk or a product made of milk, she can easily end up with an upset stomach.
  4. Therefore, it follows that cats should not eat anything that is related to milk.
  5. However, cheese is generally lower in lactose than other dairy products due to the cheese-making process, where active cultures are introduced to milk, converting the lactose into lactic acid, a substance that can be easily digested.
  6. In addition, carrying more health risks and fewer benefits, cheese can cause more harm to cats than good.

To sum it up: yes, cats can eat cheese, and it is more or less safe, however, it is not a very good idea. In fact, it is not poisonous to them, but it is not a healthy treat.

If you wish to give some cheese to your cat, there are a couple of essential precautions to follow to keep your cat away from any risks:

  • The cheese should be pure, and it should not be flavored (especially not with onion or garlic).
  • The cat better not be lactose intolerant.
  • Cheese should be given only in moderation.
  • It is best to offer cheese only as a treat and only in very tiny amount.

In conclusion, if your cat desires to eat some cheese, and she doesn’t seem to have lactose intolerance issue, it can occasionally (very rarely) be given in small portions as a treat. Be very careful about the amount. While a little cheese now and then can be one of your cat’s favorite special bites, too much cheese can upset her stomach and can cause several health problems.

Important note: lactose intolerant cats should never be fed any dairy products, including cheese.

About cats and cheese

Cheese is a very popular dairy product, usually made from the milk of cows, goats, or sheep. It contains a high amount of fat, protein, calcium and phosphorus, along with several other vitamins and minerals.

It is produced in a wide range of types, textures, and flavors all over the world, and can be found in most of the households to make a perfect addition to any pizza, sandwich or pasta dish or just simply to be a delicious snack.

While cheese is a good source of nutrients for humans, it might not be as good for cats, or at least not all types of cheese. There are some cheese products that are safer while others are more dangerous. So what type of cheese is good for cats?

Cheese plate

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Can cats eat cottage cheese, cream cheese, parmesan cheese or Swiss cheese?

Since most cats are lactose intolerant, the best choice of cheese for a cat is the one which has lower lactose level. How can you determine that?

  1. Read the label of the cheese. Since lactose is the sugar found in milk, the less the sugar, the less the lactose. Pick cheese with less sugar.
  2. Notice the hardness of the cheese – hard cheeses are aged cheeses. Since most of the lactose is drained off and the remaining ones are changed into lactic acid during ripening (aging) in the cheese making process, the harder (the aged) the cheese, the less the lactose. Look for harder cheese and more amount of aging on the label.
  3. Check the added flavors on the label. Note that there are cheese types that are flavored with herbs, spices, garlic or other ingredients. Please avoid these completely as most of these additions are dangerous for cats, and always go for the pure cheese.

In summary, if your cat shows interest in cheese, try to choose types that are pure and harder, meaning lower in lactose (like Cheddar, Gouda, or Swiss), and forget about the fresh unripened (like mozzarella, camembert, brie, cream cheese, or cottage cheese), and the flavored ones. There are lactose-free cheeses also available that can be a good option for your cat. However, keep in mind that anything you choose should be given only occasionally in very small amounts.

Benefits – Is cheese good for cats?

Cheese have quite a good deal of health benefits for people. It is not only packed with deliciousness but also offers quite a good amount of protein, calcium and vitamins to humans. But what about cats?

When it comes to cats and cheese; apart from protein, cheese does not provide many nutritional benefits to cats.

However, it is claimed to be a good method that can work when a finicky cat needs medication. If the pill is wrapped in a piece of cheese, the cheese’s taste masks the taste of the medicine helping the cat to swallow her pill. However, if the cat needs long-term medication or she is lactose intolerant, this method should absolutely be avoided.

Cat getting her medication in cheese

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Risks – Is cheese bad for cats?

Although cats can eat cheese as it is not poisonous to them, if we are not cautious enough, it can cause several health issues. There are many risks to pay attention about while feeding cheese to our cats.

First of all, cheese is a dairy product. Since many cats are lactose intolerant, consuming dairy foods might end up in unpleasant consequences and lead to digestive problems, like upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea.

But not only the lactose intolerant cats are in danger when it comes to cats and cheese. Cheese is very high in fat which means too much of it can lead to weight gain, and this could easily result in several health problems like diabetes, liver disease or even decreased length of life.

Another possible risk is food allergy. Although such incidents are quite rare, better be careful. If your cat eats cheese for the first time, watch out for the common allergic reactions like sneezing, itching, swelling, runny eyes, vomiting or diarrhea.

Cheese also contains a high amount of salt that can be extremely dangerous to cats. While cats do need some salt (very little amount) in their diet, too much of it can cause salt poisoning in cats that can result in lethargy, vomiting, excessive thirst and urination, tremors, seizures, coma or even death when untreated.

In conclusion, as you see, there are more risks than benefits in feeding a cat cheese if we are not careful enough about the safe amount. So be exceptionally cautious what type of cheese you give and how much you allow your little cat to eat.

How much cheese is safe for cats?

As previously mentioned, cheese is not really a healthy option for a cat. However, if she happens to eat it or you still insist on feeding your cat cheese (please do only if she can tolerate it), it is important to know how much is safe and which type to choose.

The best cheese for cats is the one which is pure without any flavoring, low in lactose (the harder, the better), and has minimal sugar level.

Also, as cheese is not part of felines’ natural diet, it should only be given occasionally as a treat and only in moderation, in small quantities.

An average house cat, weighing around 10-12 pounds, needs approximately 200 calories per day. Since a slice of Swiss cheese (28g) contains 106 calories which is half of the daily calorie intake for a cat, it is already more than the acceptable amount.

The general rule is that human food treats should not be more than 10% of a cat’s diet. So speaking for myself, I would not recommend more than a quarter slice of cheese maximum once a month to make it an exceptional special treat and to avoid all the risks cheese can cause to cats.

Cat waiting for some cheese

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Do cats like cheese?

In general, most cats like cheese and will gladly enjoy it whenever they get. However, this is not true for all cats. Every cat is unique, and so their personality differs from one to another. While some cats love the taste and texture of cheese, others will turn their nose up no matter how hard you try.

Now you may wonder if your cat belongs to the majority and would love cheese as well. Offer her a tiny piece of pure, hard cheese (like Swiss or Cheddar) and monitor her and how her digestive system handles it. Watch her carefully as lactose intolerance and food allergy is always present, and look for signs of upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea.

If your cat happens to tolerate cheese and likes its taste, you can offer her some but always remember, only pure, unflavored, hard cheese in moderation (quarter slice) occasionally (once a month) as a treat.

Please note that lactose intolerant cats should never be fed any dairy products, including cheese. So if your cat is lactose intolerant, please do not attempt to feed her any cheese.

What cats really need

Although most cats love cheese and it offers quite a great amount of protein to them, it is still not the food what they truly require.

Rather, being carnivorous, their nutritional intake should be close to what they would consume in their natural environment (and that is obviously not cheese). In the wild, they catch and eat prey which means they need animal-based protein to survive.

Therefore, their diet should include mostly high-quality cat food that contains all the essential nutrients. The other important thing that cats require is fresh, clean water which assists in the digestion of this high-calorie food.

In addition to this balanced diet, on rare occasions, you can offer some cheese (if your cat is able to tolerate it) but better to go for a premium cat treat that meets the cats’ nutritional needs.

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Conclusion – Can cats have cheese?

Cheese is one of those dairy products that cats can eat, however, it is not the healthiest option for them. Feeding your cat a tiny piece of cheese occasionally might not cause many problems to her overall health, but it definitely carries more risks than benefits.

If your cat happens to like it and tolerate it well, you can offer her a quarter slice of cheese on rare occasions, however, always do remember that a cat’s diet should contain mostly high-quality cat food and lots of water.

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