Short answer: Yes, cats can eat cheese. However, if you do feed your cat cheese, it should be done in moderation and in small portions.
If you want to give your cat a piece of cheese every once in a while, you can. Or if you have to hide your cat’s medicine in cheese that is OK too.
In general, it is important to not overfeed your cat human food as it may cause more harm than good.
Is Cheese Safe for Cats to Eat?
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need animal protein in order to get all their required nutrients. That doesn’t mean they only eat meat, though.
In fact, one study showed that domestic cats have a daily diet consisting of 52 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and only 12 percent coming from carbohydrates. So clearly, they eat things besides meat. But does that mean they can and should eat cheese?
Cheese, like all dairy products, contains milk sugar lactose. When kittens are first born, they have the proper enzymes to digest these sugars as they live off their mother’s milk for the first few months of their life.
As they are weaned off of their mother’s milk, their production of lactulose, the enzyme needed to digest lactose begins to wane. In fact, by the time most kittens reach the age of one year, they stop producing it altogether. This means that most adult cats can’t actually digest lactose.
When an adult cat consumes anything with lactose, instead of being digested, the lactose is fermented in the intestines. This can cause both bloating and flatulence. Additionally, water is drawn into the intestines instead of out, causing diarrhea.
It’s important to note that the response of a cat’s gastrointestinal tract to dairy is not the same thing as to an actual food allergen. When a cat ingests a food they are allergic to, the physiological response is immune-mediated.
When a cat eats dairy, they don’t get GI upset as a result of a food allergy but because they simply can’t digest it.
Can kittens eat cheese?
You should also avoid feeding cheese to your kitten.
Kittens can process lactose better than adult cats because when they’re young and fed from their mother, their body produces an enzyme to help them process the lactose in their milk.
However, once the weaning process begins-usually when the kitten reaches four weeks of age production of the lactose-processing enzyme will decrease.
In theory, your kitten will be lactose intolerant when you bring them home at eight weeks old. The high fat and salt content of cheese is an even higher risk to kittens than adult cats.
How to Feed Cheese to Cats?
Cats usually go head over heels for this human food, as they are attracted by the fat and protein cheese contains. So, getting your cat to eat it should be easy.
“If your cat doesn’t get ill from eating a new food like cheese, a bit of cheese as a treat or sprinkled over their meal is perfectly OK,” says Dr. Bayazit.
Here are some tips for serving cheese to cats:
- Once you’ve tried cheese, monitored your cat, and found that it doesn’t upset their tummy, a small amount of cheese as a treat is reasonable. Again, a serving about the size of a die is perfectly safe for cats to eat now and again, Dr. Bayazit says. Keep it to a small piece of cheese they can easily bite and chew.
- For fussy, finicky felines, sprinkling some on their dinner can encourage them to eat. “Keep in mind that cheese is meant as a treat, and shouldn’t be a significant addition or supplement to their diet,” says Dr. Bayazit.
- While it’s OK for treats to take up 10 percent of a cat’s daily calorie intake, “since it’s high in fat and sodium, you might want to go even lower 5 percent of their daily calories for cheese,” says Dr. Bayazit.
- Try limiting the times your feline has cheese to periods when you need to hide medication.
- Your cat may desire a creamy Camembert, but stand your ground and tell them, “Hard cheese only, dude” because the type of cheese matters. Hard, aged cheeses, like Swiss or Cheddar, have less lactose (so are not likely to cause problems) compared to soft varieties, like mozzarella or Brie. Certain ingredients can make cheese bad for cats. Avoid those with spices (garlic, onion, and the like) and cheeses with mold, like blue cheese, which contain Penicillium, and can be toxic to pets.
- You can also try a cheese-flavored treat like this grain-free, delightful puree from Inaba.
Of course, before handing over that small cube of cheese, consult with your veterinarian before feeding it to your cat. The vet can determine the right portion for your pet and weigh in on health issues that might preclude them from having cheese.
Can cats eat cheese as a treat?
Some owners let their cats have an occasional cheesy treat and when it comes to giving your cat a pill, a lump of cheese comes in handy to help medication go down easier for the pet.
If you haven’t noticed any reactions and your vet has given you the go-ahead, you can use cheese as a treat every once in a while. Make sure you keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort.
Don’t forget that there are plenty of meaty treats cats will enjoy just as much if not even more, so cheese can easily be replaced with feline-friendly alternatives that won’t cause intestinal issues.
The answer to whether cats can have cheese is not a straightforward yes or no. Cheese is not in the risky category of harmful foods for cats, but it’s not the healthiest option either, no matter how happy will make the feline in your life. As always, check with your vet before using cheese as a treat for your cat.