Yes, cats can eat cheese. However, cheese is not a natural part of a cat’s diet, and it should only be given sparingly as an occasional treat, if at all. It’s important to note that while some cats might enjoy the taste of cheese, others could have lactose intolerance, which could lead to digestive issues.
The culinary habits of cats can be a topic of intrigue and confusion for many cat owners. As obligate carnivores, cats have a natural inclination towards a meat-centric diet, yet some domestic cats exhibit interest in a range of human foods, cheese being one such example. This might lead cat owners to wonder whether it’s safe or beneficial to share their cheesy treats with their feline friends.
Understanding a Cat’s Diet
Cats are different from many other pets because of their distinct status as obligate carnivores. This means they require a diet primarily composed of meat. Unlike omnivores such as humans and dogs, cats lack the metabolic flexibility to properly digest and utilise nutrients from plant-based foods. They need certain nutrients, such as taurine, arginine, and arachidonic acid, that are only found in animal tissues. Commercial cat food is specially formulated to meet these specific dietary requirements. However, that doesn’t mean that all human foods are off-limits to cats, but it does necessitate caution when considering sharing our foods with them. Which brings us to our main question: can cats eat cheese?
Cheese and Its Nutritional Content
Cheese, a dairy product derived from milk, is rich in proteins and fats. It contains nutrients like calcium and vitamin A, which are beneficial for bone health and vision, respectively. However, cheese also contains a substantial amount of fat and salt. While these components aren’t harmful in moderation for humans, cats have a different metabolic setup, and excessive amounts can lead to obesity and related health issues. Furthermore, lactose, a type of sugar present in all dairy products, can cause digestive discomfort in many adult cats due to lactose intolerance.
Can Cats Eat Cheese?
The straightforward answer is yes, cats can eat cheese. However, the more nuanced response would be: it’s not necessarily beneficial or recommended. As mentioned earlier, cats are lactose intolerant to varying degrees. Consumption of dairy products can lead to digestive troubles such as bloating, diarrhoea, and vomiting. Also, the high fat content in cheese can contribute to obesity and other health complications when given frequently or in large amounts. Hence, if you decide to offer your cat cheese, it should be a small amount and not a regular part of their diet.
Potential Benefits and Risks of Feeding Cheese to Cats
The benefits of feeding cheese to cats are quite limited. Some owners may use cheese as a high-value treat, useful for training or hiding medication due to its strong aroma and rich taste that cats tend to enjoy. However, these scenarios are the exception rather than the norm.
The potential risks, on the other hand, are more significant. The high lactose content can lead to digestive issues in lactose-intolerant cats. Moreover, the high levels of fat and sodium in cheese can cause weight gain and exacerbate conditions such as heart disease and kidney problems, especially when cheese forms a regular part of the cat’s diet. It’s crucial, therefore, to keep these potential risks in mind and to always monitor your cat’s reaction to new foods.
Veterinarians and feline nutritionists generally advise against the inclusion of cheese in a cat’s diet. Given the potential risks associated with lactose intolerance and the high fat and sodium content, it’s safer to adhere to a diet specially designed for cats. Cat food is formulated to provide a balanced diet packed with the nutrients cats require. If you still wish to treat your cat with cheese, it’s highly recommended to consult with your veterinarian to understand the potential impacts on your particular cat.
Alternatives to Cheese for Cats
If you’re seeking a safe and enjoyable treat for your cat, there are numerous alternatives to cheese. Pet stores offer a wide range of specially formulated cat treats, designed to cater to their dietary needs. Plain cooked chicken or fish, devoid of any seasoning, can also serve as a healthy treat option. Remember, treats should constitute only a small portion of your cat’s overall diet.
While cats can technically consume cheese, it isn’t a natural or necessarily healthy addition to their diet. Given the potential risks, like digestive discomfort and long-term health issues, it’s generally best to avoid giving cheese to cats. As responsible cat owners, it’s vital to provide our cats with a balanced diet formulated to meet their specific dietary needs. Human foods, while tempting to share, often do not meet these standards and can cause more harm than good. Always consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions about your cat’s diet.
1. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (2021). “Feeding Your Cat”.
2. VCA Hospitals. (2023). “Feeding Your New Kitten”.
3. PetMD. (2021). “Can Cats Eat Cheese?”