Even though we may often think of cats as enthusiastic milk drinkers, the reality is that most cats are lactose intolerant. As cats get older, they lose their ability to properly digest lactose. However, yogurt is different from other dairy products because the active cultures in it make it slightly easier to digest. This makes the answer to the question of whether or not cats can eat yogurt complicated. Yes, cats can eat yogurt. However, many veterinarians don’t recommend it. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the relationship between cats and yogurt.
Cats and Dairy Products
The famous photo of a farmer shooting milk directly from the cow’s udder into the waiting mouths of thirsty barn cats is adorable. However, it is also misleading. Cats have long been associated with milk and many people still give their cats a saucer of milk as a treat. Unfortunately, dairy can cause extreme discomfort for adult cats.
Kittens can drink milk without problems. They are born with high levels of lactase, an enzyme that helps them digest their mother’s milk more easily. However, once they reach about 12 weeks of age, their ability to digest lactose decreases. Even though your cat may still like the taste of milk, giving any dairy products to them after this time might cause stomach problems.
Yogurt and Cats
Yogurt is different from other dairy products because it is made by using cultures to ferment the milk. This process breaks down some of the enzymes in the milk, like lactose, into smaller compounds. These compounds are easier to digest than the lactose found in regular milk. Because of this, yogurt may not cause the same digestive problems in cats that other dairy products do.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good idea to share yogurt with your cat. There is some debate in the veterinary community about this, but the majority seem to agree that any potential nutritional benefits are minimal and not worth the potential for weight gain and stomach upset.
Preparing Yogurt for Cats
If you do decide to give your cat a little bit of yogurt now and then, there are some things you need to be careful of. First, the yogurt should only be the plain and unsweetened variety. Artificial flavorings can be harmful to your cat. Many yogurts are also sweetened with artificial sweeteners. These can be dangerous for cats and should never be given to them in any form.
Second, you should not give your cat more than a tiny bit of yogurt. The more they have, the greater the possibility that they will have stomach troubles afterward.
Along with the potential for digestive problems, too much yogurt, or any treat, can lead to weight gain. An overweight cat will develop more health problems throughout its lifetime than a cat that remains at a healthy weight, including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and mobility problems.
Your cat does not need extra calories from foods like yogurt. High-quality cat food will provide them with the nutrition they need without the risks.
Benefits of Yogurt for Cats
If you do choose to give your cat a small amount of yogurt, they will get a small boost of a few nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
It is important to note that the nutritional benefit they receive from a small amount of yogurt will be minimal. Your cat is better served by getting these nutrients from their cat food.
Better Treats for Cats
Instead of yogurt, you can provide your cats with other small treats. Some fruits and vegetables make excellent choices.
Human Foods Cats Should Never Eat
Along with most dairy products, there are several other human foods that your cat should never eat. Many of the foods on this list are toxic to cats or can cause serious health problems.
Even though it is probably fine for your cat to have an occasional lick of plain, unsweetened yogurt, it is not necessary for their health, nor is it beneficial. The risks outweigh the benefits. After all, no one wants their cat to have an upset stomach. You are better off offering a small, safe, occasional fruit or vegetable treat if you want to share a snack with your cat.
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