Can Cats Eat Yogurt? Which Kind Is Good For Your Feline?
Perhaps there have been times you’ve sat down to enjoy a low fat snack when a pair of jewel-like eyes gazed beseechingly at you, followed by a plaintive mew. While we’re on the low-fat subject, maybe your tubby tabby is on a diet and you feel guilty about depriving her. Maybe your kitten is becoming a cat, but still wants milk even though she’s becoming increasingly lactose intolerant.
If your cat has been having digestive problems, you may have wondered if the benefits your yogurt touts applies to cats. If your cat has been sick lately, you might be trying to think of something tasty but gentle to the stomach to whet their appetite. In any of these scenarios, you may have wondered whether or not it’s safe to feed your cat yogurt.
What Your Cat Can And Cannot Digest
Because cats do not have the amylases enzyme, they cannot digest sugar. Their tongues don’t have the correct sensors to detect sweetness so they don’t even crave sugar. Cats should not eat any sugar at all. A kitten needs milk to survive, preferably mother’s milk but cow milk will serve.
As the kitten grows, their body stops making the enzyme (generally starting at about twelve weeks) to digest lactose and they gradually become lactose intolerant. This can be sad for a cat whose kittenhood was marked by dishes of milk or cream to lap up. The cat may see milk as a sort of comfort food and be drawn to the smell and taste, even though it is no longer healthy for them.
Click Here To Find Out If Your Kitty Can Have Almond Milk.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt might be something good to give a growing Kitty who wants milk but can’t have it. Even though it is a dairy product, the natural bacteria in the live yogurt cultures, namely Streptococcus thermophiles and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, will break down the lactose in the lactic acid through fermentation process.
Your cat will get the milky flavor she wants without the tummy troubles that follow. Just to be on the safe side, only give her a tiny amount at first to see if she’s allergic. Most flavored yogurts have added sugar that your cat doesn’t need. She might not even like the flavor. However, a few raw blueberries might add some antioxidants if she’ll eat them.
The Nutrients Your Cat Can Get From Yogurt
Not only is plain, unsweetened yogurt safe for your cat, it can be beneficial. Magnesium will help your cat absorb other nutrients such as phosphorus, vitamin C, potassium, calcium and sodium. It also helps to maintain healthy blood pressure. Calcium strengthens bones, teeth and muscles. It also aids in blood clotting and nerve function.
Potassium further strengthens the nerves and muscles as well as enzyme activity. It is an essential nutrient particularly for cardiovascular health. Vitamin B12 can prevent anemia and vitamin B2 helps kitty metabolize the protein essential to her diet.
Yogurt has active and live bacteria that can make your cat’s teeth whiter and prevent gum disease. The probiotics in yogurt that promote digestive health in humans work just as easily on a cat. It works with the natural bacteria in the intestines and just relaxes everything. This is especially good to know if your cat has problems with hairballs.
Probiotics can also aid in boosting the immune system, helping sick cats get well and keeping healthy cats from getting sick. Because yogurt has a smooth and creamy texture and has an appealing odor and taste your cat will actually like eating something that’s also good for them.
How Much Yogurt Should a Cat Eat?
Don’t give Kitty too much of a good thing! Think of yogurt as more of an appetizer, natural dietary supplement or small treat for your cat. She should only have three or four tablespoonfuls in a week. If your cat has no appetite due to illness, try giving her a daily teaspoon of yogurt to encourage eating. This will also enhance her immune system.
If your cat is being treated for an infection, try stirring the antibiotics in a tablespoon of yogurt. Kitty will get her medicine plus some probiotics to counter the side effects of antibiotics. If your cat is on any form of medication, you might try a spoonful of yogurt to make the medicine go down. A teaspoon of yogurt before a meal can help cats who are prone to diarrhea.
Do keep an eye on your cat should you decide to feed her yogurt. If she vomits or has diarrhea, she may be allergic and shouldn’t have yogurt. Read the label carefully. Your cat should not eat any sugar, including anything labelled sucrose or fructose. Even natural sweeteners in fruits might be more than she can handle.
Your cat neither wants nor needs sugar and it is more harmful than helpful. Any flavored yogurt might come with alcohols or sugars that are bad for cats. If you do feed your cat yogurt, then it must be plain and unsweetened.
What Kind of Yogurt is Best for a Cat?
Unflavored Greek yogurt is ideal as it’s full of live cultures and healthy bacteria. Vanilla may seem plain to you, but it is indeed a flavor. (One your cat probably doesn’t care for anyway.) What’s more, vanilla extract sometimes contains ethanol. Cats are the ultimate lightweights when it comes to holding liquor, so even this miniscule amount can be detrimental.
As said before, anything with sugar isn’t good for your cat. If the label on your yogurt says it’s made with corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, glucose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, sucrose or anything ending with the word “syrup”, it is a sugar. Xylitol in particular is an artificial sweetener to avoid. Honey is hard to digest and would counteract the main nutritional advantage of yogurt. Molasses likewise is not advisable. Chocolate is right out.
You may be wondering if the “fruit on the bottom” type of yogurt is good to give to a cat. For the most part, strawberries are non-toxic to cats but as with humans, some cats are allergic. They’re a bit too sweet and most cats don’t like them anyway. If your cat does like them, a little raw strawberry might not hurt.
Blueberries are low in fat, high and fiber and are full of vitamins A, C, E and K. If your cat will eat them, a few blueberries with no sugar can be a benefit. Bananas may be full of potassium, but they also have carbs your cat doesn’t need. Let her only have the tiniest bit if she likes it.
Too many peaches can give a cat diarrhea so use only small amounts and stay away from anything with “syrup” in the name. Pineapple has actinidain that could cause a bad reaction in your cat. The odd raspberry with no sugar is acceptable in moderation. Avocados sometimes carry persin toxin and may not be safe for your cat.
Yogurt with nuts is not good for your cat. Walnuts and cashews are a little too high in fat and salt and almonds can result in cyanide poisoning. Peanuts are also a bit on the fatty and salty side, but very high in protein. If your cat’s not allergic, a few crushed ones won’t hurt.
On the other hand, raisins and anything else made with grapes are toxic and should not be fed to your cat in any amount. Macadamia nuts and hazelnuts are toxic as well. Granola for the most part is just carbs that while non-toxic won’t really do your cat any good. If your cat likes crunchy things, an occasional pretzel is fine if it’s unsalted.
What More Need to be Said?
The cat is an obligate carnivore who ideally gets all the nutrition she needs from eating meat. If she never outgrew her taste for milk, is having tummy troubles or just hasn’t been eating much of anything, yogurt might be a good supplement to her usual diet. Cats don’t drink water as often as they should so yogurt and other wet foods might be a good way to help them rehydrate.
It bears reiteration; do not give your cat anything with sugar in it. Fruit (and then only some kinds of fruit) is only good for cats in the tiniest amounts. Most nuts and artificial flavorings are not good for cats. As when feeding anything to your cat, make sure it is not expired and the bowl is clean. Also remember to keep all things in moderation.
- Diagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerance in dogs and cats by Wills J1, Harvey R.
- ASPCA toxic plants for cats
- Yogurt Nutrition article by Harward’s school of public health
- Probiotics for your Pets Article by College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University
- Ethanol Poisoning in Cats