Cheese is undoubtedly among the most loved and commonly used ingredients and snacks. From delicious pastries to mouth-watering pizzas, cheese comes in shapes, flavors, and sizes, making it an irresistible addition to any meal. However, many pet owners wonder if their feline friends can enjoy this too.
The question that often comes among cat lovers is – can cats eat cheese? And just like humans who require calcium from milk and cheese, do they need it? Find out below if you can safely share your love of cheese with your furry friends.
Debunking Milk Myths
It is common knowledge among people that cats love milk. It’s depicted in Aristocats and Tom and Jerry that cats refer to milk as the food of all foods.
Despite the relationship between milk and cats, most cats are lactose intolerant, and dairy is one of the cats’ most common food allergies. Unlike their animal counterparts, their stomachs cannot digest lactose, the enzyme found in milk.
Some cats, like humans, have no adverse reactions to milk, while most cats exhibit vomiting and diarrhea when drinking cow’s milk.
However, mixing milk with kitten foods is essential to a kitten’s diet, especially when it’s time to wean. Kittens and growing cats can drink cow’s milk in small doses since they have lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose. However, their ability to produce lactase stops when they are weaned.
Components of Cow’s Milk vs. Queen’s Milk
Cow’s milk is a common source of dairy and dairy products in human consumption. However, there are other alternatives to cow’s dairy, such as goat and almond milk. Queen’s milk contains taurine, one of a cat’s essential vitamins.
Meanwhile, the components of a queen’s milk are 27.9% total solids, 8.7% crude proteins, 12.7% fats, 4.2% lactose, and 1.3% ash. The amount of lactose the queen produces is digestible for kittens.
Can Cats Eat Cheese?
To answer the question, cats can eat cheese. Generally, it’s considered safe for cats; however, not all cats can consume it. Healthy cats with no kidney disease or nutritional deficiencies can tolerate cheese.
Cheese also contains varying amounts of lactose, which may not trigger cat allergies or gastrointestinal problems. This is due to the manufacturing of cheese, where milk and its components are diluted.
Also, take note that cheese is a calorie-dense food. Feeding them a tiny piece of cheese can equal the number of calories they should consume in a day. The daily calorie intake of cats is around 24-35 calories per pound, while a slice of cheese has 113 calories.
However, giving your cats a small amount of cheese is still safer due to its calorie content and potential effects on a cat’s health.
Why Do Cats Like Cheese?
There are many reasons why cats are drawn to cheese and dairy. The smell of dairy products resembles the milk they used to drink as kittens—their “comfort food.” They’re attracted to the scent of fats, proteins, and amino acids in milk.
All cheese contains the protein casein. This gives milk its white color and is also a protein component found in dairy. It relieves stress and reduces anxiety in cats, making them excellent comfort food, another reason cats are drawn to cheese.
Cheeses that Cats Can Eat
Different cheeses have different lactose content. Some cheeses have low lactose content, which can be safe for cats. These cheeses are hard to semi-hard, fresh, and non-bovine. Here is a list of cheeses cats can safely consume:
Hard to Semi-hard Cheeses
- Cream Cheese
- Cottage Cheese
- Goat cheese
Another thing to note when feeding cheese to cats is that some cheeses, such as hard cheese, have high salt content. So when feeding cats, always check the amount of salt and how much you give your cat.
Cats can eat all of these cheeses in moderate to small quantities. It’s good to remember that cheese is a treat, not a substitute. If you’re looking for the safest cheese for your cat, try goat cheese, which contains 4.2% lactose compared to cow’s milk.
Tips on How to Safely Feed Cheese to Cats
Feeding cheese to your feline friends can be a safe and delightful experience. To ensure their safety and health, consider these important points before, during, and after cheese snacks.
#1: Determine Your Cat’s Daily Calories
Cats have designated daily calorie intake based on weight and size. Weigh your cat and multiply it by 24 (cal) if they are non-active or 35 (cal) for lean and energetic cats. This will give you the daily calories for your cat. You can use this to calculate how much cheese to give them for snacks.
#2: Know if Your Cat Cas Underlying Health Problems
Never give cheese to overweight and obese cats; this can increase their weight dramatically, making feedings harder to manage. Same with cats with renal and gastrointestinal problems, as it can irritate their bowels and cause kidney diseases due to salt and lactose from cheese.
#3: Choose Low-lactose and Natural Cheese
Processed cheese contains salt and high amounts of calcium. Take time to choose natural cheeses. Check the labels before buying to see serving sizes, calories, and cheese ingredients.
#4: Feed them Cheese Sparingly
Limiting their cheese intake to less than 10% of their daily diet is advisable. You should carefully consider when and how you offer them cheese as a treat. It can serve as an excellent motivator for cats during playtime or to hide medication between feeds.
#5: Watch Out for Symptoms
Feeding your cat small amounts of cheese helps detect any signs they may exhibit. Once your cat displays vomiting, diarrhea, or gastrointestinal issues after consuming cheese, promptly seek veterinary assistance immediately to address the problem.
Bottomline: Cheese – Snacks or Treats?
Although cats can eat cheese, it is not recommended for their regular diet. It contains varying amounts of lactose which may cause health and growth issues in felines. They already receive complete and balanced kibble or wet food diets and do not require extra protein and fat from cheese.
However, you can use cheese to motivate your cat during training sessions or introduce them to new flavors. It can even give them calming relief from stressful situations. If you insist on giving your cat some cheese, take note of the information above and seek advice from your veterinarian regarding the effects of cheese on cats’ health.
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