Pet Wellness Guides > Can Cats Eat Cheese? - Pet Insurance Review

Can Cats Eat Cheese?

Posted: 04/19/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Cat , Pet care , Top Tips

If you ask most people, cheese is one of the greatest foods on the planet. Heck, many dogs would agree with this sentiment. But what about cats? Many cats seem to love the taste of cheese. In fact, many cat parents use a piece of cheese to hide their cat’s medication. But is it okay for them to eat?  Can cats eat cheese without any GI upset?

Can cats eat cheese?

Is Cheese Safe for Cats to Eat?

Cats are carnivores, meaning they require most of their caloric intake to come from animal proteins. A healthy diet for cats is one that offers them plenty of protein and healthy fats that come from animals. 

Dairy offers protein and fat and comes from animals, so it should be okay to give our cats, right?

Not so fast. Dairy products, including cheese, contain milk sugars called lactose. When kittens are very young, their bodies produce plenty of the enzyme lactulose that is necessary to break down lactose. This is because they live entirely off their mother’s milk, so they need to be able to break down lactose.

As the kitten ages and they are weaned off of their mother’s milk, their body begins to produce less and less of the enzyme lactulose. In fact, by the age of one, most cats have completely stopped producing lactulose. This means that adult cats cannot digest the lactase found in dairy products.

So what happens when a cat ingests a food product with lactose in it? Instead of being digested, the lactose is fermented in the intestines. This causes bloat and diarrhea. 

It should be noted that cats do not have an allergy to dairy, it’s simply that their bodies cannot digest the lactose found in dairy.

Can cats eat cheese?

Now here’s where it gets slightly confusing. Milk and cream have high concentrations of lactose. But cheese goes through a process of separating the curds from the whey. Cheese is made from cheese curds and most of the lactose a cat cannot digest is actually found in the whey.

So while cow’s milk may contain 14 grams of lactose, pasteurized American cheese only contains between 0.5 and 4 grams of lactose. This means a cat can tolerate small amounts of cheese. Which means if your cat will only take their pill if it’s hidden in a tiny ball of cheese, that should be okay.

Mind Those Calories!

Cheese is a calorically dense food. It only takes a little bit and your cat can begin to really pack on the pounds. Be mindful of this. While a little bit of cheese is okay and can be tolerated by her GI tract, you don’t want to go overboard and cause weight gain. Pet obesity is a real problem in this country and even a little bit of weight on your fur baby can lead to various health issues.

Can Cats Eat Non-Dairy Cheese?

As more and more people turn to a plant based diet, more dairy alternatives hit the market. You may think a non-dairy cheese is the perfect solution to getting around the whole lactose thing, but actually, these products may do more harm than good.

Many of these non-dairy cheeses contain other ingredients that can be harmful to cats. For instance, some contain garlic and onion, which is toxic to cats. In addition, many of these cheeses, to help them taste as good and have the same texture as the real thing, add in extra oils and fats that can cause GI upset in cats. 

So while you may be tempted to feed your cat cheese that is made from soy or almond “milks” you really are far better off giving your cat real cheese but simply in very small portions.

Final Thoughts

Cats stop producing the enzyme lactulose by the age of one. Since cheese goes through a very specific process that separates the curds from the whey, cheese actually has far less lactose than regular milk or cream. This means your cat should be able to tolerate very small amounts of cheese just fine without experiencing any GI upset such as bloat and diarrhea. But be sure to only give very little bits as cheese is loaded with calories and your cat will quickly pack on the pounds.

What’s Lactose-Free and Great for Your Cat’s Health?

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References: “Can Cats Eat Cheese?” “Can Cats Eat Cheese?”



The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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