Can Cats Eat Yogurt? The Truth About Yogurt and Cats

Introduction

Yogurt is a dairy product made from milk that has been fermented by friendly bacteria. It has become a popular snack and food item for humans due to its nutritional benefits and tangy, creamy flavor. As a result, cat owners often wonder if they can also feed yogurt to their feline companions as an occasional treat or addition to their diet. Cats do not naturally consume dairy products, so yogurt may be a novel food for them. It’s understandable that cat owners want to share foods they enjoy with their pets. However, there are important factors to consider before feeding yogurt or any human foods to cats.

Nutritional Value of Yogurt for Cats

Yogurt can provide some beneficial nutrients for cats in moderation. According to Healthline, yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, and probiotics [1]. The protein in yogurt comes from the milk used to create it. Plain, nonfat yogurt contains around 10 grams of high-quality protein per 8 ounce serving. The calcium in yogurt is in a bioavailable, easy to absorb form. One serving provides 30-40% of a cat’s daily calcium needs. Lastly, the live active cultures contained in many yogurts provide probiotics. These healthy gut bacteria aid digestion and support the immune system.

Potential Benefits of Yogurt

One of the main potential benefits of yogurt for cats is providing probiotics that can improve digestive and immune health. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits when consumed (1).
Yogurt contains probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that may positively impact a cat’s gastrointestinal and immune function (2).

Specifically, the probiotics in yogurt can help:

  • Improve digestion and nutrient absorption
  • Restore balance to the microflora in the gut
  • Strengthen the gut barrier function
  • Reduce inflammation in the GI tract
  • Prevent and treat diarrhea
  • Bolster immune system function

The probiotics may also help reduce gastrointestinal issues like constipation, vomiting, and indigestion in cats. Overall, the probiotics in yogurt have the potential to support a healthy digestive system and immunity in cats (3).

However, more research is still needed on the specific benefits of yogurt-based probiotics for cats. Consult your veterinarian before giving yogurt to your cat.

Sources:

(1) https://yourpetandyou.elanco.com/us/health-and-care/probiotics-for-cats

(2) https://thevets.com/blog/cat-probiotics/

(3) https://be.chewy.com/probiotics-for-cats/

Risks and Drawbacks of Yogurt

While yogurt can provide some benefits, there are also potential risks and drawbacks to feeding it to cats that need to be considered:

Many cats are lactose intolerant to some degree. Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products like yogurt. When cats don’t have enough of the enzyme lactase to properly digest it, lactose can cause digestive upset, leading to diarrhea, vomiting or gas.

Even lactose-free varieties can be high in sugars. Too much added sugar from flavored or fruit yogurts could lead to weight gain, diabetes or other problems over time. It’s best to choose plain, unsweetened varieties.

Some cats may be sensitive or allergic to ingredients found in yogurt. Reactions could include vomiting, diarrhea, itching or skin irritation.

Overfeeding yogurt risks nutritional imbalances if it makes up too much of the diet. Yogurt alone doesn’t provide complete nutrition for cats.

How Much Yogurt Can Cats Have?

Yogurt should only be fed to cats in small amounts and infrequently, not as a regular part of their diet. Most experts recommend limiting yogurt to no more than a teaspoon or two every so often as an occasional treat. More than this can upset your cat’s digestive system and potentially cause diarrhea or vomiting.

Due to lactose intolerance, cats cannot properly digest the lactose found in dairy products like yogurt. Consuming too much can lead to gas, bloating, and other GI issues. It’s best to introduce yogurt gradually and monitor your cat for any signs of intolerance.

Kittens under 12 weeks old should not be given yogurt at all since their digestive systems are even more sensitive. For adult cats, limit yogurt to a teaspoon a couple times a week at most. Never free-feed yogurt or leave it out for your cat to consume at will.

While yogurt can offer some benefits in moderation, cats simply do not require dairy products. There are safer, healthier treats you can offer instead to ensure your cat’s nutritional needs are met.

Tips for Feeding Yogurt

When giving yogurt to cats, it’s important to follow some basic guidelines:

Choose plain, unsweetened yogurt – Flavored, sweetened, or artificially sweetened yogurt can be harmful to cats. Plain, unsweetened varieties are the safest choice.

Give small servings – Yogurt should only be an occasional treat for cats. About 1-2 teaspoons per day is a good serving size. Too much can upset their stomach.

Don’t give it every day – Feeding yogurt daily, even in small amounts, may lead to digestive issues or cause cats to become resistant to the probiotic benefits. Stick to giving it 2-3 times per week at most.

Check for signs of intolerance – Monitor your cat after giving them yogurt, as some cats are lactose intolerant. Diarrhea, vomiting, or flatulence after eating yogurt could indicate intolerance.

Avoid giving to kittens – Kittens under 12 weeks old should not have yogurt, as their digestive systems are very sensitive and unable to handle dairy products well.

Signs of Yogurt Intolerance

Lactose intolerant cats often show signs of gastrointestinal distress after consuming dairy products like yogurt. The most common symptoms include:

Diarrhea – Loose and watery stools is one of the classic signs of a food intolerance in cats. Yogurt contains lactose sugar, which cannot be properly digested by many cats, leading to diarrhea. According to WagWalking, diarrhea from lactose intolerance may contain undigested bits of food.

Vomiting – Some cats may vomit after eating yogurt. The indigestible lactose can cause nausea and vomiting in sensitive cats. VCA Hospitals notes that vomiting is a common reaction to dairy products in lactose intolerant cats.

Gas – Yogurt may produce excessive gas or flatulence in cats unable to properly digest the milk sugar lactose. Bloating and abdominal discomfort are also common signs according to Dutch.

Other symptoms like lethargy, reduced appetite, and signs of stomach pain may also occur. If your cat shows any persistent gastrointestinal issues after eating yogurt, it’s best to avoid dairy products in the future.

Yogurt Alternatives

If you decide yogurt is not the right probiotic for your cat, there are other options to consider that can provide similar gut health benefits. Many cat owners have success using probiotic supplements specifically formulated for felines.

Some popular probiotic supplements for cats include:
Purina Fortiflora,
VetriScience Probiotics, and
ProPlan Veterinary Supplements. These contain strains of bacteria that are natural inhabitants of the feline intestinal tract. Many cat owners find probiotic supplements help resolve issues like diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and urinary tract infections.

Probiotic supplements designed specifically for cats are available in powder, chew, or capsule form. Always follow label instructions for proper dosing. Check with your veterinarian before introducing any new supplement.

When to Avoid Yogurt

The main types of cats that should avoid yogurt are kittens and cats with allergies or intolerances. Here’s some more detail:

Kittens

Kittens should generally avoid yogurt until around 12 weeks of age. Their digestive systems are still developing and may have difficulty properly digesting the lactose in yogurt. Too much yogurt could cause digestive upset like diarrhea or vomiting in kittens. It’s best to wait until kittens are a little older before introducing yogurt in small amounts.

Cats with Allergies/Intolerances

Some cats are lactose intolerant or have an allergy to dairy products like yogurt. For these cats, yogurt should be avoided completely. Consuming yogurt could trigger an allergic response or cause digestive issues in sensitive cats. Signs of an intolerance include vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain after eating yogurt. If your cat shows these signs, discontinue yogurt and consult your vet.

Summary

To summarize, yogurt can be a good occasional treat for cats in small amounts. The probiotics in yogurt can support digestive and immune health, and some cats enjoy the taste. However, yogurt is not an essential part of a cat’s diet. Too much can lead to digestive upset, and lactose-intolerant cats may have negative reactions. Avoid full-fat or sweetened yogurts, as cats don’t need the extra calories and sugars. Limit yogurt to small spoonfuls a few times a week, separate from main meals. Yogurt should never make up more than 10% of the diet, and discontinue feeding if any GI issues arise. Yogurt may be a tasty snack but should not replace more complete feline foods. Consult a veterinarian before making major changes to the diet.

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