4 min read

Can Cats Eat Cheese?


By Aurus Sy

Published: 09/09/2022, edited: 09/20/2022

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Cheese is an essential ingredient in many dishes, from pizza to mac and cheese. If your cat comes running into the kitchen every time you’re cooking with it, you may wonder if it’s safe to share it with them.

So can cats eat cheese? It’s a bit complicated, but in general, yes, cats can eat cheese in moderate amounts. Though cheese is not toxic to cats, felines lack the digestive enzymes to break down dairy products. So, while this salty treat is generally considered safe for cats to eat, it can cause potential problems, which will be discussed further below. But first, let’s take a look at why many cats beg for cheese.

Do cats like cheese?

Cats are drawn to a lot of human foods, and cheese is no exception. Many felines will jump on the counter when they see a pack being taken out of the fridge or ask for a bite of the grilled cheese sandwich in your hand. But why is that?

Cheese is high in fat and protein, both of which felines naturally enjoy. It also tastes good, so it’s really no mystery why so many cats are fond of the gooey stuff. Cheese isn’t a natural part of a cat’s diet, however, so if your feline friend ignores it when it’s offered to them, there’s no need to worry. Cats don’t need to eat cheese, and it can actually be better for them to go without.  

Stack of sliced cheddar cheese - Can cats eat cheese

Health benefits of cheese for cats

Cheese is a tasty treat for cats, but does it offer them any health benefits? The answer is no. As obligate carnivores, cats can most of the nutrients they need from meat. Felines have a short digestive tract that breaks down animal protein efficiently, but they are unable to reap many nutritional benefits from plant protein or dairy products. And although cheese is high in protein, it is not the type of protein that cats require.

Moreover, dairy products can cause an upset stomach, as most cats are actually lactose intolerant. The idea that milk is good for cats is a myth, and if Garfield were real, he would have gotten sick from eating all that lasagna. After kittens are weaned, they stop producing lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk and milk products. Some cats can tolerate dairy better than others. If your cat is lactose intolerant, they will show symptoms of diarrhea within 8 to 12 hours of consuming cheese or other dairy products.

Although cheese offers cats little to no nutritional value, there are a couple of benefits to feeding it to your furry friend from time to time.

A low-carb treat

Cats have little to no requirement for carbohydrates in their diet and cheese can be offered as an occasional low-carb snack. 

A high-value reward

Since many cats find cheese delicious, it can be used as a high-value reward for training. Just be sure to cut it into small bites so they don't get too loaded up with all that dairy goodness. 

Helps the medicine go down

Cats are finicky, and most don't enjoy taking their medicine. Many cat parents use cheese to hide pills and make administering them easier. 

How much cheese can I give my cat?

As with any new human food, start by giving your cat a very small amount of cheese to see how they react to it. If it doesn’t upset their tummy, you can offer your feline friend a tiny cube about the size of a die every now and then. If needed, cut it into smaller pieces that they can easily chew and swallow. If your furbaby is a picky eater, you can sprinkle a bit of cheese on their dinner to encourage them to eat. 

Keep in mind that treats should only make up 10% of your cat’s daily food intake, but since cheese is high in fat and sodium, you can cut it down to 5%. Additionally, cheese is a very calorie-dense food, so even a small amount can meet your cat’s calorie requirement for the day. 

Even if your cat can tolerate cheese, they should only eat it in small amounts occasionally. Too much cheese can lead to weight gain and obesity, as well as gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, flatulence, and nausea.

Various kinds of cheese

What types of cheese can cats eat?

Some types of cheese are better for cats than others. When planning to share a small piece with your furry friend, stick to hard, aged cheeses like swiss, cheddar, or parmesan, which have less lactose than soft cheeses like cottage, brie, or mozzarella. Your cat can also partake in goat cheese, as it contains less salt than hard cheeses and the least amount of lactose, making it the safest cheese for cats. 

What about vegan cheese? While non-dairy cheese is lactose-free, it is high in salt and fat, which aren’t good for your kitty. It can also contain spices like garlic and onion, which can be toxic to felines. You’ll want to avoid cheeses with mold like blue cheese too, as penicillium can harm your cat.

And if you were wondering if you could let your purrbaby snag a bite of your pizza, it's best to offer them a different cheese treat, as there are a lot of other ingredients in pizza that could be harmful or toxic to your feline pal. 

Can all cats eat cheese?

It’s important to note that only healthy cats should be allowed to enjoy the occasional cheesy treat, and some felines will have to do without it altogether. Because it is high in sodium, cheese is a no-no for cats with heart disease or kidney disease. Moggies on the heavy side will also want to avoid it due to its high fat and calorie content. And of course, cats with dairy allergies should steer clear of cheese completely. 

For cats without health issues, cheese is a safe and yummy treat to give in moderation! But if you are looking for an alternative dairy treat that is easier on your kitty's system, try a bit of yogurt instead.

A high-quality diet is essential for keeping your cat happy and healthy. Digestive problems and food allergies can be expensive to treat. Compare pet health insurance plans to save more than $270 a year on vet care.

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