Can Cats Eat Cheese? The Surprising Truth


Cheese is a beloved snack for many humans, but should you share a bite with your feline friend? The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no. While an occasional nibble of cheese is unlikely to harm a healthy cat, regular cheese can lead to digestive upset and weight gain.

This article will explore the pros and cons of cats and cheese. We’ll cover cheese’s impact on your cat’s health, which types to avoid, how much is too much, and healthier treat alternatives. Our goal is to provide cat parents with a thorough understanding of cheese and cats so you can make the best decisions for your furry friend’s wellbeing.

Can Cats Digest Cheese?

Cats are often thought to be lactose intolerant and unable to properly digest dairy products like cheese. However, the reality is more nuanced. While many cats are lactose intolerant to some degree, some cats can digest cheese just fine in small amounts.

Lactose is a sugar found in milk and dairy products like cheese. To digest lactose, the body needs the enzyme lactase. Kittens produce lactase to digest their mother’s milk, but lactase production declines after weaning.

As cats age, they often lose the ability to produce enough lactase to digest lactose. This results in lactose intolerance. The severity varies – some cats have complete intolerance while others have partial intolerance.

Therefore, some cats can enjoy an occasional small treat of cheese without issue. However, feeding too much can cause digestive upset like vomiting or diarrhea. It’s best to introduce new foods slowly and watch for signs of intolerance.

In general, cats have no nutritional requirement for dairy. While the occasional cheese treat is unlikely to harm most cats, it’s better to primarily feed high-protein, species-appropriate cat foods.

Health Risks

While cheese can be okay in small amounts, it does carry some health risks for cats that pet owners should be aware of. The main issues revolve around cats’ inability to properly digest dairy products.

Cheese contains lactose, a sugar found in milk. Cats lack the enzyme lactase needed to break down and digest lactose. When cats consume cheese, the undigested lactose can result in digestive upset and discomfort.

Eating cheese may lead to symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Gassiness
  • Stomach cramps

These symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the amount eaten and the individual cat. Some cats may experience an inflammatory bowel flare up. In rare cases, lactose intolerance can cause more serious conditions like dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and even pancreatitis.

The high fat content in some cheeses may also lead to gastrointestinal upset. Too much fat at once can overwhelm the digestive tract. Additionally, the extra calories from fat and carbs can cause weight gain if cheese is given too frequently.

Benefits of Cheese

Certain cheeses can provide some health benefits for cats in moderation. The biggest benefits of cheese for cats are the protein and calcium it contains. Cheese is a good source of protein, which is an essential nutrient for cats. Calcium is also important for cats, as it helps support healthy bones and teeth. Other nutrients found in cheese that can benefit cats include vitamin A, vitamin D, phosphorus, and riboflavin.

According to’s article Can Cats Eat Cheese?, some cheeses like cheddar are rich in protein and calcium, making them a tasty treat that provides nutrients. Just be sure to only give small amounts. The Cattylicious article Can Cats Eat Cheese? also notes that cheese can provide protein, calcium, and digestive aids to cats in moderation.

Cheese as an Occasional Treat

While cheese should not be a regular part of a cat’s diet, small amounts on occasion are generally fine. According to experts at, tiny amounts of cheese are okay as a special treat [1]. A small bite of cheese here and there will likely not cause harm.

Cheese can be an enticing reward and training aid for cats. Using a tiny piece of cheese makes it easier to give a cat medication or supplements. The strong smell and taste keep a cat’s attention during training as well. Just be sure to limit cheese treats to no more than once or twice a week.

In moderation, cheese as an occasional treat provides a special flavor cats enjoy. But it should never become a dietary staple or make up a large portion of your cat’s calories. Be sure to monitor your cat’s weight and health as you offer cheese rewards.

Cheeses to Avoid

Some cheeses are too high in fat, salt, and seasonings for cats to handle. Hard cheeses like cheddar, swiss, parmesan and romano tend to be very fatty. Soft cheeses like brie, camembert, feta, and blue cheese can also be too rich. Salted cheeses or those with lots of spices and seasonings can upset a cat’s stomach.

As Dr. Samir Vet Clinic advises, cheeses that are very fatty, salty or spicy can lead to gastrointestinal upset like vomiting or diarrhea. The high fat content could also potentially cause pancreatitis. Dr.Samir Vet Clinic recommends avoiding feeding cats cheese that is too hard, salty or spicy.

Signs of Overindulgence

Eating too much cheese can cause digestive issues in cats, with the most common symptoms being diarrhea and vomiting. According to Vets Now, diarrhea caused by cheese tends to be soft, loose and quite smelly. Other signs of overindulgence include:

  • Lethargy and lack of energy
  • Decreased appetite or refusal to eat
  • Excessive thirst
  • Stomach gurgling
  • Flatulence

As noted by Catster, some cats may also vomit after eating too much cheese. The vomit may be yellow or white and quite smelly. If your cat shows any of these concerning symptoms after eating cheese, monitor them closely and contact your vet if the symptoms persist or worsen. Mild cases may resolve on their own as the cheese passes through your cat’s digestive system.

When to See the Vet

If your cat consumed a large quantity of cheese and is exhibiting concerning symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea that persist for more than 24 hours, it’s best to take them to the vet for evaluation. Symptoms that last longer than a day could indicate a more serious issue that requires medical treatment. According to the experts at PetMD, if your cat vomits more than once or has diarrhea for over 24 hours after eating cheese, veterinary care is recommended.

Some signs that warrant an urgent vet visit include lethargy, lack of appetite, dehydration, bloody vomit or stool, attempting to vomit without bringing anything up, crying in pain, and other behavior changes. The vet can run tests to check for pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal blockages, and other conditions. With prompt treatment guided by a veterinarian, most cats will recover fully after an episode of cheese overindulgence.

Healthy Snack Alternatives

While cheese should only be given occasionally, there are many other healthier snack options for cats that pet owners can consider on a regular basis. Lean proteins like chicken and fish make excellent treats that most cats love. Here are some healthy cat snack ideas:

  • Baked or boiled chicken breast – Shredded into small pieces, plain chicken is great source of protein without too much fat.
  • Canned tuna or salmon (in water) – Fish is full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Drain the water first to remove excess sodium. Only feed fish in moderation due to mercury content.
  • Freeze-dried chicken or salmon treats – These often come in bite-sized pieces perfect for rewards. Avoid treats with artificial preservatives.
  • Steamed vegetable pieces – Fiber-rich veggies like carrot, zucchini, or green beans make low-calorie snacks.
  • Fruit pieces – Small amounts of strawberry, blueberry, banana, or melon can provide vitamins.

When choosing treats, look for options without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. And be sure to adjust their daily calorie intake if giving snacks frequently.

For more healthy commercial cat treat recommendations, see this guide from Petco or this list from cat food brand Yarrah.


In conclusion, cats can eat cheese in small amounts as an occasional treat, but too much can be unhealthy. The most important cheeses to avoid are soft cheeses like brie due to risks of bacteria. Hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss are safer options. Look out for signs of lactose intolerance or overindulgence. Offer healthy snack alternatives like cat treats or cooked chicken for daily nutrition. The key takeaways are that cheese is fine for cats in moderation, but should comprise only a very small part of their diet. Focus on quality cat food and proper pet nutrition. With a balanced diet and careful cheese portioning, your cat can safely enjoy it as the occasional snack.

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