The image of a furry feline lapping up a bowl of milk is a common and widely accepted one. Some of us may even have grown up with Garfield going wild over a pan of lasagna. But can cats eat cheese? More specifically, should you be feeding them cheese?

Many cats love cheese, and it’s no surprise. The high protein and fat content as well as the delicious taste of cheese means your kitty will likely gobble it up. But as we learn more about the digestion of our feline friends, it has become clear that they are not designed to eat dairy, no matter how much they may seem to enjoy it. 

Keep reading as Blue Valley Animal Hospital explores cats and cheese, and the facts about feline health. 

Is Cheese Bad For Cats?

Cheese is not a natural part of a cat’s diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they can only get necessary nutrients from meat. But even though cheese is also high in protein, it can upset a cat’s delicate digestive system. 

The reason for this is that cats don’t tolerate dairy very well. Humans and other omnivores naturally produce the lactase enzyme to break down lactose in dairy products, but cats don’t produce this enzyme. This makes it a lot harder for them to digest dairy. In fact, the majority of cats are lactose intolerant, and can even experience severe vomiting and diarrhea if they ingest dairy products. 

Fat Cat

If your cat stares at you while you make your grilled cheese, or jumps up and tries to take a nibble of the cheese cubes in your salad, you may be tempted to give in. But the digestive problem is not the only reason to hold your kitty off. Cheese has a high fat content, and cats who consume cheese can easily pack on the pounds. Obesity in pets is a common condition, and drastically reduces their life expectancy while causing any number of otherwise preventable diseases.  

Non-Dairy Cheese and Cats

You may be begging the question – if cats are lactose intolerant, would it be okay to feed them non-dairy cheese? While many people find this a delicious alternative, in truth non-dairy cheese is no better for cats than the regular dairy kind. Non-dairy cheese is still high in both fat and salt, neither of which is good nutrition for your cat

Treat Them Right

As natural carnivores, cats gain the majority of their nutrients from meat. But that doesn’t mean they can’t eat anything else. Instead of treating your cat to cheese, try some of these feline friendly snacks:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Small amounts of cooked fish
  • Cooked egg

Be aware that some other human foods can be toxic to pets. Whether you’ve got a finicky feline or an all-they-can-eat kitty, make sure their nutritional requirements are met. If you need help with a nutrition program for your cat, please give us a call.