The correct diet is very important for a cat. Not only should the right nutrition be offered to keep it healthy and happy, but it should also be tailored according to its life-stage. There are several foods we eat that cats perhaps should not. What about cheese? Is this a food forbidden to cats?
Cheese and Other Dairy Products
Cats are often offered a saucer of milk or a piece of cheese. However, as soon as they reach adulthood, cats become lactose intolerant. Hence cats can eat cheese but their systems can’t digest it, leading to vomiting and diarrhea – or so the ‘experts’ tell us.
Though cheese does indeed contain lactose, it does not have as much as milk and other dairy produce, as you can see here:
|Dairy produce (2 oz)||Approximate Amount of Lactose|
|Milk||0.2 fl oz|
|Yogurt||0.2 fl oz|
|Mozzarella cheese||0.08 oz|
|Swiss cheese||0.08 oz|
|Cottage cheese||0.07 oz|
|American Cheese||0.06 oz|
|Cream cheese||0.06 oz|
|Cheddar cheese||0.04 oz|
So, if you rely on cheese to get your cat to swallow a pill squashing it inside a morsel of cheese is unlikely to do any harm.
To suffer any ill effects, a cat would have to consume a considerable amount of any type of cheese. The simplest way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to never get your cat started on cheese.
Whilst cats can eat cheese and do appear to like it, it holds no nutritional value for them and has no place in their daily diet.
Cats and lactose – the low down
People often wonder why it is that cats are lactose intolerant. After all, kittens have milk from their mothers and that definitely contains lactose.
The simple fact is that from the moment a kitten is weaned, it gradually stops producing the enzyme lactase that breaks lactose down into easily digestible sugars.
When you give an adult cat any food containing lactose, it cannot digest the lactose element. This sits in their digestive system fermenting and causing them discomfort until it results in one of two reactions:
A cat might look longingly as you eat cheese – it doesn’t know the effect it will have. It won’t learn either. If cheese makes it feel bad one day, it won’t remember and will still beg for cheese again.
Cats and low-lactose cheese
There are various low-lactose and non-dairy cheeses on the market. Some dairy cheeses even have added enzymes to help break down their lactose content once they are ingested. Who knows if these added enzymes are OK for cats?
Other versions have the milk component replaced with yeast, nuts, and seeds. These can often be much higher in salt so not suitable for cats to consume.
The only way to know if any alternative cheeses are safe for cats is to examine the full ingredients list and then search the internet for any advice. As each of these types of cheese varies in content, it is impossible to say they are generally safe.
If you can’t see yourself looking up every ingredient, it’s probably best to just avoid giving your cat a low-lactose or non-dairy cheese.
Can kittens eat cheese or other dairy?
Kittens produce lactase so it’s easy to assume they can eat cheese, right? Wrong! Cheese is solid food and kittens only eat solids once weaning begins.
When kittens are first weaned their food must be carefully selected so as not to present a choking hazard. By the time a kitten is at the stage where it could safely eat a solid like cheese, it will not be producing enough lactase to digest it.
Also, a kitten should be fed a recommended kitten diet and cheese doesn’t feature. Don’t take the risk of creating digestive problems such as vomiting or diarrhea in a young kitten as you could develop problems that last a lifetime.
Is anything in cheese good for cats?
The protein and calcium content of cheese is certainly good for cats.
However, if you are feeding your cat a good quality diet designed for cats, that is all your cat needs to keep it healthy. There is no need to give your cat cheese to supplement its diet.
Other human foods cats should not eat
Tuna and salmon
A little tuna or salmon won’t harm your cat but be careful. If it’s all it will eat, there’s a strong possibility your cat will miss out on many essential vitamins and minerals.
Large quantities of Tuna can lead to mercury poisoning too.
Onions and garlic
Onions and garlic contain a compound known as thiosulfate which can be toxic to cats. Eating too much thiosulphate is damaging to red blood cells.
It is rare for cats to eat enough onion and garlic to cause a serious problem but exposure to concentrated forms of onion, garlic, onion soup mix, garlic powder, and some baby foods may put a cat at risk.
Grapes and raisins
In rare cases, just a few grapes or raisins can lead to kidney failure in a cat. If your cat eats either and displays signs of stomach pain or vomits repeatedly, take it straight to your vet.
It’s best to completely avoid feeding grapes and raisins to a cat and to keep them out of its reach.
Fat and bones
Fat trimmed from meat is high in calories and could easily contribute to a cat gaining weight, especially if given in excess to their normal daily diet.
Bones, especially after hey have been cooked, can splinter and cause serious harm if your cat swallows them.
Raw eggs may contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella which can cause serious illness in a cat (Speaking from experience here as one of my cats contracted this from a dead squirrel and was lucky to survive!)
Raw egg white has a high level of a vitamin called avidin which binds to vitamin B7 (biotin) preventing it from being absorbed. Over time, this could leave your cat deficient in B7 which can lead to weepy eyes and noses, excess salivation, hair loss, dry skin, weight loss, and diarrhea.
Not only can raw fish contain harmful disease-causing pathogens, but it also has high levels of an enzyme known as thiaminase, which can cause a deficiency in vitamin B1 (thiamine). Cats need B1 for to ensure the proper functioning of all of their organs.
While stealing the dog’s food from time to time harm your cat, it’s not a good idea to give it to it on a regular basis. Dogs have different nutritional requirements to cats and so a cat fed regularly on dog food will not be getting a healthy balance of nutrients.
Liver stores vitamin A and feeding too much of it to cats can give them a vitamin A overdose.
Cats do need vitamin A in their diet but only a small amount and usually sourced from fish liver oil.
If a cat manages to eat raw dough it, many problems may follow – the least being your loaf being spoilt! So be careful where you leave it to rise.
If enough is eaten by your cat, it will swell in its intestines and stomach causing pain and possibly a blockage.
The ideal diet for a cat
Cats need the correct balance of animal protein, good fats, vitamins, and minerals to maintain their health. These are included in the correct proportions in good quality cat food.
If you make your own cat food you should include the following in the correct proportions according to your cats weight:
- Cooked chicken or white fish
- Fats that are naturally present in meat and fish
- Essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega
- Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, and D
It’s OK to include a little fruit and vegetable in your cat’s diet from the following list:
- Green beans
If you want to give your cat raw meat, it’s safer to buy it ready mixed and frozen from a trusted source. Making it yourself and knowing it is safe is risky.
Can cats eat cheese? – Conclusion
Though we are often told cats should not eat cheese because of its lactose content, it contains so little of this particular sugar that a cat would have to eat a considerable amount on a daily basis to suffer any real ill effects.
So don’t feel guilty about hiding a daily pill in a cube of cheese (Some people also use peanut butter for this purpose) or allowing your cat to lick a few escaped morsels from your cheese sandwich.
Milk has a much higher lactose content and is the far bigger dairy villain. A teaspoonful now and then is unlikely to cause a reaction, but don’t offer it to your cat by the bowlful.
In general, limit the amount of human food your cat consumes, provide it with a balanced cat-friendly diet and it will be a happy, healthy animal.