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Can Cats Eat Cheese?

Est. read time: 4 min.

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, dairy products such as cheeses that have higher lactose content are more likely to upset your cat’s stomach. This does not apply to every cat though. 

Can cats eat cheese? 

This is really a trick question. Can cats eat cheese; yes, they can, but should they? 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 due to the possibility of inducing gastrointestinal issues. 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.

hard, aged cheese blocks - can cats eat cheese?

Can my cat sample some cheese? 

If you’re looking for a black-and-white answer, then the answer is no. There’s no real reason to introduce your cat to cheese as it doesn’t have any nutritional value for them. But if you’re interested in seeing if your cat is a cheese connoisseur, then you can absolutely introduce some low-lactose, aged, hard cheeses—in moderation. 

Your cat may be able to 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:

  • Cheddar
  • Parmesan
  • Swiss
  • Provolone
  • Muenster 
  • Gouda

Avoid soft, salty, and/or processed cheeses

blue cheese block - can cats eat cheese?

Softer, fresher cheeses tend to be higher in lactose, which can lead to upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea in cats if they do happen to be intolerant. Processed cheese—such as string cheese—is also high in lactose and other nutrients your cat doesn’t need. Additionally, 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:

  • Feta
  • Ricotta
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Colby
  • American
  • Velveeta
  • Nacho cheese
  • Blue cheese
  • Halloumi

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.)

What is the general recommendation? 

So can cats eat cheese? Yes, they can. But aside from enticing cats with poor appetites or ensuring cats on important medications get their medicine, most veterinarians are not going to recommend giving your cat cheese as a treat. There are so many better treat options that are less likely to cause your cat issues. 

 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.


blue cheese block - can cats eat cheese?