Can Cats Eat Cheese? All You Need To Know

Cats, Cats Diet

Last Updated - December 12, 2023

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It is no secret that cats love dairy and it's for good reasons too. Some cats just love cheese, yogurt, milk, and ice cream- with cheese on top of their "favorite human foods." As pet parents, you may wonder, are they good for your feline friends? Can you give your pet a cube of cheese now and then? Can cats eat cheese? Below, we'll discuss if cats can safely consume cheese, which cheeses to avoid, and why you might want to avoid feeding cheese to your cat.

Can Cats Eat Cheese?

Yes, a cat can eat cheese as a tasty treat in small amounts. However, a healthy cat diet does not require any human foods, including cheese, and they can get all the nutrients they need by only eating meat and foods specially formulated for cats.

Plus, there are some considerations to keep in mind if you will feed your furry friend cheese.

Health Benefits of Eating Cheese

Cheese is high in calories and fat - but humans and cats both need calories and fats in order to live, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. Cheese is also very high in protein and calcium, which are necessary for strong bones and muscles. It's low in carbohydrates and sugar and high in vitamins A, D, and K. 

If eaten in moderation, cheese can be healthy, nutrient-dense food. The problem often comes with the delicious taste that makes it hard to eat in moderation!

The Downside of Eating Cheese

When considering adding foods to your cat's diet, it's important to remember that cats are obligate carnivores. This means that the vast majority of a cat's diet should consist of meat proteins. Cats don't just prefer meat - they require it. Because dairy products have such a high level of fat and protein, many cats will gladly lap up milk or chow down on cheese. However, cats are meant to get all of their nutrients from animal meat.

Lactose Intolerance

What makes cheese bad for cats? Contrary to popular myth, cats are lactose intolerant. They can't process dairy products which means eating milk, cream, cheese, ice cream, or yogurt could lead to digestive issues. Most omnivores naturally produce lactase, which is an enzyme that allows them to break down dairy proteins.

Cats, as obligate carnivores, lack that enzyme. Since they can't break down cheese, none of the nutritional benefits listed above are accessible to them. The cheese will simply pass through them and cause quite a bit of gastrointestinal upset on the way.

Some cats seem to struggle to digest dairy more than others. If a cat eats a sizable amount of dairy, the lactose-intolerant cat can experience vomiting and diarrhea within 8 to 12 hours.

Dairy Allergies

Unable to tolerate dairy is one thing, but dairy allergies are quite another. It's relatively uncommon for a cat to have a true dairy allergy, rather than just lactose intolerance, but it can be severe when it happens. After feeding your cat cheese or any other dairy product for the first time, watch for these signs:

  • Upset stomach

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Skin Irritation

  • Anaphylaxis

High in Fat, Calories, and Sodium

Most cheeses are high in sodium, which can be dangerous to cats with kidney disease or heart disease. Cheese is also high in calories and fat. It's fine for cats to eat cheese as an occasional treat, but too much cheese can lead to problems with obesity and associated issues.

Cheese is also high in salt, and too much salt can lead to increased thirst and abnormal urination. Too much salt over time will trigger health issues like hypertension, kidney problems, and more. Hard cheese typically has more salt than soft cheese. Best to avoid cheese like mozzarella, string cheese, cream cheese, and goat cheese.

Remember - humans are much larger than cats! According to Hill's Pet Nutrition, a single 1 oz cube of cheese fed to your cat is the same as you eating two and a half cheeseburgers at one time!

Additive Ingredients

Cheese isn't toxic to cats, but sometimes ingredients that are added to cheese are. It's not uncommon for cheesy spreads to have garlic, onion, or chives mixed in. Those foods are very toxic to cats, however! They can break down a cat's red blood cells, leading to anemia.

What Is The Best Way To Feed Your Cat Bananas?

Since cheese isn't toxic, and not all cats struggle with an upset stomach when they eat it, you may wonder how to go about feeding cheese to your cat in a safe way.

  1. Check the packaging on your cheese to see the calories per serving. Special treats shouldn't make up more than 10% of your cat's daily caloric intake, so knowing how calorie-dense a cheese is will help you determine how much cheese you should feed your cat.

  2. Cut a small piece of cheese into bite-sized pieces, about the size of a piece of dry cat food.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Kittens Eat Cheese?

No. Kittens do produce their lactase to digest dairy, and they need to so they can digest their mother's milk. However, as soon as weaning starts, lactase production slows down considerably. By the time they are old enough to eat solids, lactase production has stopped.

Can Cats Eat Blue Cheese?

No. Blue cheese, and other moldy cheeses, contains mold cultures that can be toxic to cats.

Can Cats Eat Cottage Cheese?

No. Soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese and cream cheese, have considerably more lactose than cheddar cheese. They also are more likely to have added sugars or flavors, which can be toxic to your cat.

Can Cats Eat Parmesan Cheese?

Yes. Hard cheeses, such as parmesan cheese, contain less lactose than softer cheeses. However, they are still high in fat and sodium, so they should only be given as treats in moderation, if any.

Can Cats Eat Goat Cheese?

Goat's milk contains less lactose than cow's milk, so goat cheese is easier for cats to digest. Goat cheese also has much less salt than other cheese varieties, and this makes it the safest cheese for cats to eat.

Can Cats Eat Non-Dairy Cheese Products?

Yes, but there is really no benefit to it. Non-dairy cheese may have the lactose removed, but it is just as full of salt and fat as the full-dairy alternatives.

Can Cats Eat Other Dairy Products?

All dairy products can cause digestive issues to cats with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies. Butter has many of the same complications as cheese, and ice cream is too high in sugar and fat. Sugar-free dairy products should also be avoided because artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes are poisonous to cats.

Plain yogurt, however, is safe for most cats to eat, and it has many probiotics that are beneficial to your cat's digestive system. It also has less lactose, making it easier for cats with a lactose sensitivity to digest.

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About the Author

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.