Can cats eat Yogurt?

Posted by Apr 23, 2016 | Nutrition

cats and yogurt
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Author Amira

Hi there!

I’m Amira, founder and editor at Cattention.

This website is dedicated to share useful but entertaining information and help You understand Your cat’s actions, behavior and needs.

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Like many cat owners, including me, I am quite sure you also often wondered and thought about the following question: Can cats eat yogurt?

By now, you most probably know that despite the cute illustrations of cartoons showing cats enjoying their bowl of milk, the truth of the matter is that nutritionally cats do not require milk added to which it can cause digestive problems and make them sick.

You also might be aware of the reason that most of the cats are lactose intolerant, therefore, certain dairy products are not recommended to be given to our lovely pussycats.

But does this mean there is no dairy product which would be fine for them? Does this include yogurt as well? Or can I feed my cat yogurt safely? If yes, what is the safe amount? Or even do cats like yogurt?

These are the main things that many owners asks about yogurt, and these are the questions that will be discussed in this article.

Can cats eat Yogurt? – Only in moderation

Do not be surprised at it, but as it turns out yogurt is one of the few dairy products that cats can consume safely. So answering to the question: yes, cats can eat yogurt although only with some restrictions:

  • The yogurt should be plain, and it is even better if it contains probiotics.
  • It should not be sweetened and/or it should not contain artificial sweeteners.
  • Yogurt should be given only in moderation.
  • It is best to offer yogurt only as a treat and only in very small quantity.

The fact is, yogurt is actually good for cats as it has a lot of beneficial bacteria which provides many nutritional and health benefits to your cat and the probiotics in live yogurt are good for their digestion as well.

So if your little kitty desires to eat some, it can be safely given as a treat without causing any upset stomach. Although you should avoid giving it in large amounts as it can turn to health problems, a few tablespoons once in a while is not harmful, and your pussycat will most probably love it.

About yogurt

Yogurt is food, produced by using a combination of yogurt cultures and milk. The process is called bacterial fermentation. Since cow’s milk is available almost all around the world, it is the most commonly used raw material to make yogurt.

Probiotics, protein, calcium and vitamins like B6 and B12 are common nutritional ingredients found in yogurt which carry a lot of benefits to the digestive tract.

Yogurt is available in many types. According to the percentage of fat in them, you can find no-fat, low-fat, whole milk and Greek-style yogurt. Some yogurts are thick while the others are creamy.

You can also choose yogurt according to their flavor. Plain yogurt is not the most popular type though it can be found in most of the grocery stores. Most people prefer the type which is sweetened, flavored, although it contains a large amount of sugar or sweeteners. Common flavors include vanilla and other fruits like strawberry, cherry or peach.

If yogurt is made of milk, how come cats can consume it?

As you most probably know already, most of the cats (if not all) are lactose intolerant as they lack sufficient amount of the enzyme lactase, which would help them break down milk and digest it. Although kittens’ body produce plenty of the enzyme lactose in their very first weeks, as they grow up less amount of this enzyme is produced.

Since this enzyme is necessary to digest lactose (which is the sugar found in milk), producing less amount of enzyme lactase means less ability to digest lactose, therefore, kittens’ intolerance to lactose increases over time as producing this enzyme decreases. By the time they are twelve weeks old, the nutrients in their mothers’ milk are no longer sufficient for the growing bodies and with this time they are no longer able to produce the sufficient amount of the enzyme lactose, and so they eventually become lactose intolerant.

Since yogurt is a dairy product as well, most people think that the same thing can be applied to it as for milk, and it should not be given to cats. However, to everyone’s surprise, yogurt is one of the few dairy products that cats can safely consume. Yogurt even has almost the same nutritional content as milk so how come it is safe for cats?

Actually, even though yogurt is made of milk, it is kind of unique in dairy food. Lactose-intolerant cats may tolerate it better than any other dairy products due to the natural bacteria it contains and the used active yogurt cultures. These cultures break down the lactose to lactic acid in milk during the fermentation process.

Since the lactose, which is the product that lactose intolerant cats unable to digest properly, has converted into lactic acid during the production, cats’ digestive system does not have to struggle through this process on its own and can easily process the final product, the yogurt.

But! The yogurt has to be plain and unsweetened, otherwise we are in the same situation as with milk. Fruity, sweetened yogurts usually contain a large amount of sugar which cats’ digestive system unable to break down. Although plain yogurt does not taste so good, this is the only healthy option for your cat.

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Advantages – Is yogurt good for cats?

Well, yogurt is considered healthy for cats, added to which according to experts, cats can gain numerous of advantages and health benefits from consuming it from time to time as well. This can be traced back to the live and active bacteria cultures that exist inside the plain yogurt and the nutrients and ingredients found in it. Here are some of the most common advantages:

  • Calcium strengthens bones and builds muscle.
  • The living cultures in plain yogurt keep the cat’s teeth healthy and prevent gum infections.
  • The active bacteria cultures found in yogurt provide an easy cure to an upset stomach which is suffering from too much swallowed hairballs.
  • A little yogurt can help to avoid vomiting by calming a cat’s upset stomach.
  • The probiotics found in unflavored yogurt can help your cat when she is suffering from diarrhea. A small dose of yogurt (5 ml) should do the needful before their main meal.
  • Yogurt once a day in a small amount can also increase the cat’s appetite.
  • Due to its probiotic natures, yogurt can be particularly useful for allergies as well.
  • The active cultures and the bacteria that yogurt contains help relieve the digestive problems and ensure healthier bowel movements.
  • Yogurt with active bacteria is useful in restoring and maintaining good health when a cat is on a course of antibiotics. These drugs kill not only the bad but the useful, good bacteria present in the cat’s body also. However, the bacteria that yogurt contains can help to restore these beneficial bacteria to the intestinal tract.
  • Probiotics and live active bacteria also help to boost the cat’s immune system.
  • All the mentioned beneficial ingredients of the yogurt overall improve the cat’s health and her general well-being.

As it is clearly visible, a small amount of plain, unsweetened yogurt here and there can lead to a healthier cat, therefore, a happier cat owner.

Disadvantages – Is yogurt bad for cats?

Even though yogurt is fine for cats and has many health benefits, it also can be dangerous for them.

  • While most cats can consume plain yogurt safely without any stomach upset, there are some cats that are more prone to be allergic to certain products. If you are planning to feed your cat with yogurt for the first time, make sure to offer the least amount possible. It is even better if you contact your veterinarian first and seek for advice regarding your cat’s diet.
  • While plain, unflavored yogurt has numerous advantages to your cat’s body, the opposite can be applied to the flavored, sweetened yogurts. These types are very sugary and contain too many additives which can cause health problems to cats.
  • While a small amount of yogurt can be beneficial to your cat, too much of it can upset her stomach and lead to vomiting or diarrhea. Diarrhea then may have other serious side effects such as dehydration which could be fatal to the little sweetheart.

Note: If you have any doubts, it is always wise to contact a veterinarian and ask for advice regarding your cat’s diet and health. After all, our beloved friend’s health is the most important.

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So how much yogurt is safe for your cat?

First of all, the yogurt has to be plain, unflavored and unsweetened. Even though plain yogurt is generally safe for cats to eat, we should be careful with the amount because too much of it can easily result in several digestive problems.

As long as it is only a small quantity, it should be fine and should not cause any harm to the cat. Speaking for myself, I would offer only weekly once as a treat and maximum two to three teaspoons.

If this would be the first time for you to offer plain yogurt to your kitty, you can start with the tiniest amount possible to test your cat’s tolerance and see how she goes. If it seems she can tolerate it, and you do not experience anything out of the ordinary within a day, you can give her in moderation but only as a treat.

It would be wiser though to consult your cat’s vet first before using yogurt whether your little friend can eat it safely and what should be the amount.

Do cats really need yogurt or do they even like it?

Having said all this about yogurt, you might be thinking if cats really do need that yogurt or they even like it. Good question, right?

And the answer is no, cats do not need yogurt. As yogurt does not occur naturally in nature and they already survived thousands of years without having consumed any kind of yogurt, there is absolutely no need of giving it to your pussycat.

Anyway, cats are obligate carnivores, therefore, they must eat mostly high protein meat. Just by providing a premium cat food, they can get all the vitamins and nutrients that they require, and they should be all set.

If you still decide to present your lovely furry friend a little portion of yogurt, she may happily consume it as most of the cats do like the taste of yogurt.

Recommended to read: Can cats have chocolate?

Can cats eat Greek yogurt?

Yes, cats can eat Greek yogurt, but only the plain type and please do not allow your cat to have a lot, as it can lead to diarrhea.

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Conclusion

Even though most cats are lactose intolerant, plain yogurt happens to be one of the few dairy products that cats can consume safely. It is full of good bacteria, nutrients, probiotics and ingredients that provide numerous of advantages and health benefits to the cat’s body.

However, if you do not watch out for the type and the amount, all these advantages can turn upside down and cause several health problems to your four-legged friend.

Make sure to offer only plain, unflavored and unsweetened yogurt and do not cross the maximum amount. As much as we would like to keep our kitty healthy and happy, we should follow these restrictions.

However, cats do not really need yogurt, so it is totally up to you whether to feed your cat yogurt or not. Just consider the advantages and disadvantages before taking any action. It is also recommended to consult your veterinarian before you make any changes to the cat’s diet.

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