It’s National Cheese Day! (We don’t know about you, but we celebrate National Cheese Day every day.) We humans undoubtedly love our cheese—but what about other species? Can cats eat cheese? Find out which kinds of cheese your cat can sample, and which kinds your cat should avoid.
Reminder: Cats are typically lactose intolerant
As we discussed in our post about why most kinds of milk will upset your cat’s stomach, as kittens are weaned from their mother’s milk, the enzyme that enables them to digest lactose begins to disappear from the gut. So, like milk, cheeses that have higher lactose content are more likely to upset your cat’s stomach.
Can cats eat cheese?
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they’re in need of a high-protein diet. While cheese is a source of protein, it is not an ideal source for cats. Instead, cats require specific nutrients that can only be supplied through the ingestion of animal meat. Furthermore, consuming too much dairy can contribute to obesity, which is on the rise among household cats.
Yes to low-lactose, aged, hard cheeses – in moderation
That said, your cat can probably tolerate a small amount of cheese every now and then. If you’re going to allow your cat a cheese-based snack here and there, try the lower-lactose, harder cheeses listed below:
No to soft, salty, and/or processed cheeses
Softer, fresher cheeses tend to be higher in lactose, which can lead to upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea in cats. Processed cheese—such as string cheese—is also high in lactose and other nutrients your cat doesn’t need. Finally, cats should not eat cheese that is high in salt. (A little salt goes a long way in cats: Some clinical veterinary reports caution that as little as a quarter teaspoon of salt consumption can be toxic to cats that weigh 10 pounds or less.)
Generally, avoid giving your cat these cheeses:
- Fresh mozzarella
- Nacho cheese
- Blue cheese
Can cats eat cottage cheese?
Cottage cheese tends to be high in lactose. Because it is low in calories, you could try giving a small amount of low-lactose cottage cheese to your cat. We don’t recommend making this a regular habit, though.
Can cats eat cream cheese?
As a soft cheese, cream cheese also tends to be high in lactose. It’s best to avoid giving your cat cream cheese. However, there are some exceptions to this rule: If you find you’re having a difficult time giving your cat a pill, you can try coating the pill with a small amount of cream cheese to make it more desirable to your cat. (Other suggestions for coating a pill include soft butter, peanut butter, yogurt, tuna, or salmon.)
So can cats eat cheese? If you choose to give your cat cheese, keep an eye out for bad reactions, including upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. Your kitty may be able to handle cheese from time to time, but don’t make it a habit—everything in moderation! Learn more about human food that is safe for cats and what to avoid.
Cover photo by Jennie Brown on Unsplash