There’s a lot of human food that cats won’t particularly go for, generally speaking. Fruits and vegetables for example will rarely catch the attention of a cat. But the cheese that is often found with fruit? Well, that might have your cat sneaking a nibble, a lick, or the chunk altogether! If this happens to you, do you have to worry about your cat’s health? Can cats eat cheese?
Short answer: assuming the cheese is a basic kind of cheese with as few ingredients as possible, yes, cats can eat cheese. They can only eat it in moderation, but they can usually eat it.
Do Cats Like Cheese?
Cats certainly seem to enjoy cheese, which is why it’s often found in cat treats. They may like the texture, the taste, and the fact that it’s often easy to steal! All of the cats I’ve ever owned have liked cheese to a greater or lesser extent. Certainly, my current cat will grab slivers of cheese whenever she can.
Do Cats Hate Cheese?
I’ve never met a cat that hated cheese (in fact, I’ve never met one that didn’t like cheese), but there are some cheeses that cats will be less attracted to. Blue cheese in particular is not usually attractive to cats which is good as it’s too rich for cats to eat anyway. There probably are cats that don’t like cheese just like there are humans that don’t like it.
I’m not sure I want to live a world with someone who doesn’t like cheese though….
Can Cheese Kill a Cat?
Cheese is entirely non-toxic for cats. For most healthy cats (and even seniors and kittens), cheese is not going to poison them or come anywhere close to making them sick.
That being said, cheese is really best treated as an occasional treat, not as a regular part of their diet. Cheese contains lactose and cats aren’t built to handle lactose. Their livers cannot break down cow’s milk, meaning that it can be hard on their digestive system. This can lead to diarrhea and stomach issues which will be uncomfortable for your cat and uncomfortable for you come clean up! And the more sensitive your cat is, the worse the lactose reaction will be, so keep that in mind.
Also, cats should stay away from the richer cheeses as they can greatly exacerbate lactose reactions.
So, no, cheese probably won’t kill or particularly harm a cat aside from some possible discomfort. But depending on how sensitive your cat is, you may want to keep cheese to a bare minimum or not at all.
How much Cheese is Safe for Cats to Eat?
This is a difficult thing to answer because it really depends on the cat. Some cats can eat more than others based on their level of lactose intolerance. But there are some guidelines to keep in mind:
First, cheese is considered a treat for cats. It actually contains very little that is nutritionally beneficial aside from protein and cats get their needs for protein met by their regular cat food. The other things like calcium aren’t useful for cats so they certainly don’t need to eat it. As a result, only 10% of their diet should come from ‘treats’.
Cheese is also relatively high in calories (even the basic milk base cheese like mozzarella), so a very small amount goes a very long way. 28g of mozzarella contains 78 calories and since the typical cat should have 25 calories or less in treats, it doesn’t take much cheese to hit that mark.
The second thing to keep in mind is how sensitive your cat is to lactose. You can test this by giving your cat a small amount of cheese and then monitoring them for lactose intolerant symptoms over the next few days. These include things like smelly gas, diarrhea, sore tummies, and vomiting. If you notice any of these symptoms, pull back on the cheese or discontinue giving it to them altogether.
Third, cats on medicines should avoid cheese. Doxycycline, which is a common antibiotic, won’t get absorbed if it’s taken with calcium. You should check with your vet if your cat is on medications to see what foods are safe to eat and what to avoid during their course of medicine.
The final thing to note? What kind of cheese are you letting your cat eat? The richer the cheese, the more problems your cat will probably have with it whereas mild cheese usually causes fewer problems. You should also watch out for extra ingredients that can cause even more problems such as peppers, herbs, and spices. You’d have to check those ingredients for their safety individually.
And goat cheese is actually even milder on cats than cow’s milk cheese. But vegan cheese is even more useless to cats than regular cheese as it doesn’t contain protein.
The cheeses that are generally safe for cats to eat:
- Mozzarella (small amounts due to the higher milk content, but that’s often balanced out by the lower salt and fat)
Keep in mind that cheese is also higher in salt and fats which can be bad for your cat if they eat too much of it. Hard cheese like cheddar is higher in salt and fats than soft cheeses like mozzarella.
The Health Benefits of Cheese for Cats
Although cats shouldn’t eat too much cheese, there are some health benefits to it for cats to enjoy. The main benefit is the protein content. Cats require protein for most of their nutritional needs and cheese can provide that. However, most of their protein needs are met by their kibble and canned food, so don’t worry if your cat doesn’t want any cheese.
The calcium and fats found in cheese aren’t really necessary for cats and the salt can cause problems in too high a quantity. Again, it’s important to only give small amounts of cheese once in a while to cats.
I’ve never met a cat that didn’t like cheese. It’s a nice texture and flavor and some of them even enjoy playing with it. If this sounds like your pet, then rest assured: your cat is perfectly safe to eat the occasional bit of cheese. Just keep track of their litter box for a few days after to make sure they don’t suffer any tummy upsets for their treat.
Does your cat love cheese? What’s their favorite?