Can Cats Eat Cheese? Is It A Good Treat For Cats?

image of a person cutting cheese-wheel

Even before Lewis Carroll wrote his famous novel about a little girl named Alice who tumbled down the rabbit hole, “grinning like a Cheshire cat” was a common phrase. Because the county of Cheshire, England was (and still is) so abundant in dairy farms, it was assumed a cat from that area would be very happy because he could have all the milk and cream he wanted.

The famous Cheshire cheese was even molded to look like a happy cat. Perhaps Lewis Carroll got the idea for a disappearing cat from an easily disappearing cheese. It has since been found that adult cats can’t handle milk and cream, but what about cheese?

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Can Cats Eat Cheese?

The answer would be only in the strictest moderation, if indeed at all. A small cube, like you would see on an hors d’oeuvre tray, might not hurt your cat if she has just one every once in a great while. Some cheeses have more lactose than others. Lactose is the enzyme made up of natural milk sugars in milk that cats have trouble tolerating as they age. Different cats may have different levels of tolerance.

Kittens have lactase in their bodies, the enzyme that makes it possible to digest lactose. Because the only thing they can eat for the first weeks of life is mother cat’s milk, this enzyme is very necessary.

As the kitten ages and needs less milk and more meat, she may gradually develop lactose intolerance. Grown cats may still crave milk, the way a person might crave the comfort foods they associated with youth, but it is not always good for them.

Is Cheese Bad For Cats?

image of a feline

Once upon a time, people were encouraged to eat more cheese because it was made with protein rich milk, the healthiest of foods. Then it was revealed that most cheeses were little more than salted fat. Where your cat is concerned, you must be aware of how much dairy she can handle, or you are going to have a very messy litter box to clean up. Cheese is not a natural food for cats and too much can cause obesity.

An average adult cat’s healthy caloric intake is between 200 and 300 calories. A 113 calorie slice of cheese could make up half the calories she needs and cause her to put on weight. The salt content likewise must be watched. Most cheeses are very high in salt content, which is not at all good for an animal that dehydrates easily.

Can Cats Have Cheese As A Treat?

It might be good for your cat to have cheese as a rare treat. In fact, if your cat seems fond of cheese but won’t take medicine, you could mix some of her medicine in with some cheese and get her to take it like that. You can wrap pills in a slice of American cheese or grind them up and sprinkle them on a cube of Swiss or cheddar. Liquid medicine can be mixed with just enough cream cheese or cottage cheese to kill the taste.

Not only will keeping cheese a rare treat keep your cat from overindulging in the unhealthy parts of cheese but she will be more eager to eat it when it is presented, whether or not it’s been doctored.

Different types of cheese and cats

image of various cheeses

Cheeses flavored with onions, garlic and some herbs are not at all good for cats. Read the label. Soft cheeses have more lactose than hard cheeses, so go with a firm variety such as Swiss or hard cheddar if your cat must have cheese. While vegan cheese made of soy milk is high in protein and low in fat, many cats have a soy allergy. Feed your cat only a small bit and observe her reaction.

Cheese made with goat’s milk may be more easily digestible, but only if the milk is pasteurized. (Cheeses made with unpasteurized milk are typically only available outside the U.S.) Cats also do not need much salt in their diet so go for a low sodium type such as parmesan.

While cream cheese cottage cheese and mozzarella are low in sodium, they’re also high in the lactose that your adult cat may have trouble digesting. American cheese is mostly made of oils. While this is low in lactose, it is high in fat and sodium.

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Conclusion

It is not necessary to add cheese to a cat’s diet and an excess of it can do more harm than good. However, a tiny bit every once in a blue moon is not particularly harmful, especially if it is the only way Kitty will take her medicine. If your cat simply must have cheese, there are cheese flavored cat treats that are better formulated to your cat’s needs. Try them instead.

Incidentally, you shouldn’t feel too bad for the cats in Cheshire. They’re not constantly surrounded by food they want but can’t have. While adult cats have a tendency to lactose intolerance, the cats of Cheshire might still be quite pleased. Where there are cows, there are barns full of hay. Where there are barns full of hay, there are mice. A cat who likes his food to move could be very happy on a dairy farm.

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  • September 2, 2018
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.