In fairy tales and nursery rhymes, cats are often seen drinking milk and many people are familiar with the image of a cat drinking milk from a saucer or the phrase “the cat that got the cream”. But actually, adult cats are often lactose intolerant so should not be given dairy products such as milk, cream or cheese. But what about yogurt? Can cats eat it and does it have any health benefits? Does it matter what type of yogurt it is? Read on to find out more…
Cats and Dairy Products
Like all mammals, kittens initially survive solely on their mothers milk. However, as they get older and start to eat solid food, they stop producing the enzyme which enables them to digest lactose. This usually begins to happen at around twelve weeks of age and they may eventually lose the ability to process milk altogether. This is true for many mammals. Adult cats have no need to consume any dairy product, and too much milk, cream or cheese could give your cat diarrhoea or other digestive problems.
However, although yogurt is a dairy product, it contains some “good” natural bacteria which are able to break down the lactose into lactic acid, which the cat should be able to digest, making yogurt easier to digest than other dairy products.
Is Yogurt Safe For Cats?
Although most adult cats are lactose intolerant, they can usually tolerate small amounts of plain yogurt. Flavoured yogurt should be avoided, as it has usually been flavoured with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Although kittens are able to digest milk better than adults, it is best to avoid even plain yogurt with kittens as their growing stomachs can be very sensitive.
Is Yogurt Good For Cats?
Yogurt contains many ingredients which are good for cats (and humans) including calcium, potassium and magnesium. However, any good, complete cat food will include enough of these ingredients to keep your pet healthy so it shouldn’t be necessary to supplement your cat’s diet.
Yogurt also contains healthy bacteria, which can be beneficial for your cat’s immune and digestive system. Sometimes, a small amount of plain yogurt can help to settle your cat’s stomach and resolve minor digestive upsets.
Is Yogurt Bad for Cats?
As long as your cat is not allergic to yogurt, plain yogurt should be fine as an occasional treat, however, it is important to avoid flavoured yogurt or yogurt that contains any artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
Are All Yogurts the Same?
There are lots of different varieties of yogurts and some are better for your cat than others. Generally, plain yogurt is best, and anything with artificial sweeteners or colours should be avoided, but let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular options.
- Greek yogurt
Unflavoured Greek yogurt is usually fine for cats, but you should always check the ingredients and perhaps try a few different brands to see what suits your cat best.
- Vanilla yogurt
Many cats don’t like the flavor of vanilla, but it isn’t actually harmful to them. However, vanilla flavoring can contain ethanol which is toxic to cats. It is best to avoid vanilla yogurt just in case.
- Strawberry yogurt
Strawberries are not toxic to cats but are quite high in natural sugar so may cause some problems. If your cat really likes the flavour of strawberries, you could chop up a few strawberries and mix with some plain yogurt as a treat.
- Blueberry yogurt
Blueberries have lots of health benefits for humans and are often referred to as a “superfood”. Although they probably wouldn’t be part of a wild cat’s natural diet, they are believed to have similar health benefits to cats as they do for humans. Some cat foods now include blueberry extract for this reason.
However, any flavoured yogurt usually contains some ingredients (such as sugars or artificial colourings) that can be harmful to your cat, so if you want to give your cat blueberries, it is best to mix a few blueberries with some plain yogurt. Blueberries do contain a lot of natural sugar so should only be fed as a treat.
Yogurt is a dairy product, however, unlike milk, cream and cheese, adult cats are able to digest it without any problems. Yogurt contains natural, “good” bacteria which has health benefits for your cat and can be used in small quantities to soothe digestive upsets (always consult your vet if you are concerned about your cat’s digestive health). It is important to remember that it is best to give your cat plain yogurt only as any flavored yogurt is usually high in sugars (natural or artificial) and other potentially harmful ingredients. If your cat enjoys fruit such as blueberries or strawberries, it is best to mix just a few with some plain yogurt, so that your cat gets the flavor and the health benefits without any of the potential harmful ingredients.
- Cats and Dairy: Get the Facts – WebMD