Many cats can smell macaroni and cheese from a mile away. Your cat could be hiding all day, but the moment you sit down to eat your bowl of mac, your cat prances across the house and acts like they’ve dearly missed you.
It can be tempting to immediately give into your cat’s enthusiasm. Their excitement is adorable, you love them, and you want to make them happy. Before you give your cat a bite, there are a few things you should understand about dairy and the way it affects cats.
Do Cats Like Cheese?
It would seem to many cat owners that their cats are especially interested in cheese. Cats are carnivores by nature. They’re less interested in plant-based foods and more interested in ingredients like meat or eggs. Dairy is an animal-derived food, and your cat can likely smell that cheese has a protein and fat content similar to meat. This might be the basis for its appeal.
Cats don’t necessarily need to have a special reason to like cheese. You probably like cheese simply because it’s delicious. Your cat might feel the same way. They’re drawn to the distinctive smell and they know that if it tastes anything like the way it smells that they’re probably going to love it. That’s why they’re excited the moment you open up that pizza box.
Most Cats Are Lactose Intolerant
Every cat in every movie is depicted drinking milk. In reality, cats don’t need milk and they probably shouldn’t have it. Cats are only intended to drink their mother’s milk while they’re still kittens. After they’re weaned and at a stable, appropriate weight, there’s no reason to supplement a cat’s diet with any type of milk product.
The majority of cats are even lactose-intolerant, but this lactose intolerance isn’t a problem like it can be for humans. Cats don’t need milk or dairy as a part of their balanced diet in the same way humans do. The solution isn’t to treat lactose intolerance in cats the same way we’d treat it in people. The solution is just to avoid giving cats foods they’re intolerant to.
Consumption of milk can cause nausea, diarrhea, or other significant digestive upset. Even for cats that are not lactose intolerant, milk is likely a bad choice. Milk is a very calorically dense food, and the majority of your cat’s calories should come from a well balanced cat food prepared from fresh ingredients.
Excessive calories from milk consumption can negatively impact the health of your cat. Your cat may become overweight and deal with issues like joint discomfort as a direct result of that weight gain.
A Lot of Cheese Doesn’t Actually Contain Lactose
Many people who are lactose intolerant avoid cheese because cheese is a dairy food. What most people don’t realize is that there are many varieties of cheese that do not contain lactose. Much of the lactose is lost in the process milk undergoes on its way to becoming cheese. If that cheese is aged, the small amount of lactose that remains diminishes almost completely.
Soft cheese like cottage cheese, mozzarella, cream cheese, and Havarti cheese will contain substantial amounts of lactose. These shouldn’t be consumed by lactose-intolerant people or animals.
Harder aged cheeses like cheddar, swiss, and parmesan contain almost no lactose. Most lactose-intolerant people can enjoy the occasional slice of cheddar on a burger or sprinkle of parmesan on their pasta without fear of digestive discomfort.
Can Cats Eat Cheese?
Cats can have certain types of cheese. Processed cheeses, like American slices or the kind of cheese you mix into boxed macaroni, are very high in lactose. If you’re enjoying some sliced aged cheddar with your charcuterie and your cat seems interested, you’re at very low risk of causing any kind of digestive upset to your cat if you let them have a small piece.
Let your cat sample a piece of aged, dry cheese about the size of a postage stamp. If they’re fine the next day, chances are good that your cat can tolerate the occasional little bite of cheese.
As long as you keep your cat’s cheese consumption limited to a tiny bite on very special occasions (and your cat’s body doesn’t seem to react poorly), you’re probably safe to let them have the occasional cheesy treat.
What About Plant-Based Cheese?
If you’re concerned about the possibility of introducing lactose into your cat’s diet, non-dairy cheese alternatives might seem like a good idea. With many households opting for plant-based alternatives to animal-derived foods, you might already have some on hand.
Unfortunately, it might be a worse idea to allow your cat to sample plant-based cheese. These products are often highly processed and made from oils and fats, usually derived from nuts (stay away from anything made from macadamia nuts, which are toxic to cats). Their very high fat content is almost guaranteed to upset your cat’s tummy. Save the plant based cheese for your human family. Your cat would be better off enjoying ordinary holistic cat treats.
On the whole, it’s a bad idea to attempt to give your cat any plant-based food. Cats are carnivores, and they’re designed to thrive on a diet very high in animal protein. You should never attempt to feed your cat vegan cat foods or vegan human food as a primary part of their diet.
How To Feed Cats Cheese
Cats that can tolerate cheese without digestive upset can have a small amount as a treat. You can feed this small amount of cheese to your cat by placing it on top of their food dish or hand feeding it to them as a reward.
It’s not a wise idea to make cat treats with cheese as an ingredient. Since it’s only a good idea to give your cat the occasional small piece, whipping up a batch of perishable cheese-laden treats would be contrary to the purpose of keeping your cat healthy.
That said, cats who take medication would greatly benefit from a little trick. If you fold a tablet into a small piece of cheese, your cat will likely snack away and happily take their medicine. Before you use this trick, ask your vet. If your cat is on medicine for a health condition and is supposed to adhere to a strict diet, you should always seek your vet’s advice before introducing new foods into a cat’s diet.
Keeping Your Cat Healthy
If you ever suspect that cheese may be contributing to digestive upset in your cat, you can simply stop giving cheese to your cat. Most cats tolerate small amounts of dry-aged cheese very well, but there are better treats for your cat.
Make sure your cat’s food and treats are designed to holistically support their nutritional and digestive needs. The litter box will give you a lot of data about the way your cat’s body is working.
VETCBD Hemp’s American-grown, hemp-derived, pet-safe CBD can become an important part of your cat’s holistic wellness plan. CBD works to support regular digestive health.
If you have concerns about your cat’s digestive health, seeing a veterinarian should be at the top of the list. While you’re there, ask your vet if your cat might benefit from CBD.