All he has to do is hear the rustle of the wrapper for him to run in search of the smallest piece of cheese that you could give him. But is he supposed to eat it? So, do cats and cheese go together?
Cats and cheese: a winning duo?
Can cats eat cheese? According to experts, they are entitled to it, but in moderation. Thus, give him the equivalent of dice and only from time to time. You can, for example, choose to only give him cheese when you need to camouflage a medication he needs to take.
Many cats tolerate small amounts of cheese. But, if yours is lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, even the smallest amount of cheese could cause significant digestive upset. Learn Is cheese good for Cats?
Intolerance and allergy to dairy products in cats
Despite the persistent myth that cats love to lap up good bowls of milk or cream, it turns out that most of them can’t digest dairy products. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine emphasizes that many cats are lactose intolerant and that ingesting dairy products can cause them gastrointestinal problems such as inflammation, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.
Cats with dairy allergies can even have an adverse reaction to even the smallest bit of cheese. In general, cats are not prone to food intolerances. However, dairy products, along with fish and red meat, are the most common. Just like with lactose intolerant cats, if yours has a dairy allergy, eating cheese can lead to digestive upset and can even affect their immune system.
The most common signs that your cat is allergic to dairy products after consuming them are:
- Itchy and/or red patches on the skin
- Hair loss
If your cat shows these or any other unusual signs, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away for a check-up.
When Cheese is Strictly Prohibited
According to the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, you shouldn’t give your cat cheese if they need to limit their salt intake and/or if they have heart problems. Besides cheese, if your cat is on a salt-free diet, you should definitely avoid giving it cold cuts, fast-food-type foods, fries, and bread.
Focus on calories
No more than 8-10% of a pet’s daily calorie intake should come from treats or food that has not been recommended by their veterinarian. For example, cheese is a common human food that is way too high in calories ! In fact, if you give 28 g of cheese to a 4.5 kg cat, it’s like a person eating two and a half cheeseburgers in one sitting!
The best approach for cat owners? Avoid feeding him outside of meals and compensate with cuddles.
The different types of cheese: the good ones and the bad ones
If you still want to give him some cheese, know that some varieties are more recommended than others.
- Cheddar: very popular, cheddar is an uncooked pressed cheese that contains little lactose. That doesn’t mean you can give it a lot though, as cheddar can still cause digestive upset.
- Gruyère: very popular in sandwiches, Gruyère is perceived as a healthy choice for humans because it is high in protein and low in sodium and fat. Like cheddar, it contains little lactose, but can still cause digestive problems.
- Mozzarella: your cat has probably tasted it if he has already eaten the remains of your pizza. But is this variety of cheese good for him? Not really. Soft cheeses such as mozzarella, whether raw or cooked, are dangerous for cats because they are high in lactose. And the same goes for cream cheese and cheese spread, which are best avoided.
- Brie: A very popular soft cheese, Brie is made with raw milk, which may contain salmonella and listeria, two pathogens that can cause serious illnesses. Other raw soft cheeses to avoid: blue cheeses and Camembert.
- Blue cheeses: do you know what those blue spots are? It’s mold! This type of cheese, including Roquefort, is obtained from mold cultures, which can be toxic to animals. This is why they should not be given cheeses with a bloomy rind.
What cheese to give your cat?
It doesn’t really matter what kind of cheese you give your cat as long as it’s low in lactose and your cat tolerates milk and cheese well.
Most cats tolerate low-fat cottage cheese well. Some researchers have shown that a bacterium present in cottage cheese would help in the digestion of milk.
“Hard” cheese is low in sugar but high in fat. This means it contains even less lactose. Goat’s and sheep’s cheese, unlike cow’s milk cheese, is easily absorbed by cats. Choose this type of cheese to prevent digestive problems that are associated with lactose intolerance in cats.
On the other hand, if your cat can’t tolerate lactose, you shouldn’t give it dairy products or even cheese. Even if your cat no longer wants to eat or asks for cheese from time to time, don’t give up, his health comes first.
Even if your cat does not show lactose intolerance problems after eating cheese or drinking milk, it is important to give him only small amounts. For example, when you decide to give milk to the cat, make sure that it is low in lactose.
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Giving your cat a little bit of cheese once in a while shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s best to talk to your vet to make sure it’s safe for him. And if you give him cheese, it should be occasional and in small quantities.