Cheese is a dairy product made by coagulation of casein, a milk protein and contains mainly milk, milk fats and proteins that come in various textures, forms, and flavors. Milk is often from cows, goats, buffalo, and sheep.
Note that cheese can be whole milk, low fats, fresh, aged, processed or non-dairy, i.e., made from Daiya, or soy. Some of the popular types include Mozzarella, Parmesan, Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss, Emmental, Brie, Camembert, Gruyère, Feta, Provolone, Cottage, Ricotta, Manchego, Gorgonzola, among many others.
Can cats have cheese?
No. cats should not have cheese if they are lactose intolerance. If they can tolerate lactose, then a small portion will not cause much harm.
Dairy products are not a good food choice for cats because most kitties are lactose intolerant even though they may seem to prefer a bowl of milk over water. Similarly, they will want to sniff or even have a bite of your cheese and other dairy products.
One of the reasons why cats love cheese is the protein and fats it contains. It feels something fatty, more like flesh they often eat.
Nutritionally, cheese may seem quite healthy. It is a source of fat, proteins, carbs, calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, among other nutrients. However, being nutritious doesn’t qualify it to be a good source of food for these pets.
a). Dairy products and lactose intolerance
Lactose is the main milk sugar which whose digestion requires lactase enzyme. While young, most babies of mammals can digest it since they have enough lactase.
However, after weaning or as they grown cats and other mammal’s lactase levels begin to reduce. As this happens, so does their ability to digest lactose until they become intolerant.
You may notice signs of lactose intolerance in some kittens once they are about 6 months of age. Since they cannot digest it, lactose will draw water to it as it passes through their digestive systems. Once in the colon, lactose fermentation will occur forming volatile fatty acids.
All this process may result in diarrhea, vomiting and stomach upset often noted within the first 8-12 hours after taking any other milk product.
Other possible symptoms include excessive gas, bloating, abdominal pain (cramping), constipation, dehydration, increased thirst, dry gums, and so on.
However, not all felines are lactose intolerant, some can handle this milk sugar without any symptoms of intolerance.
As Chewy.com notes, “foods like milk, yogurt, cheese and other items with lactose are not necessary for a balanced diet for adult cats and should be avoided if the cat has irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory disease in their intestines, because the lactose will upset the cat’s system.”
Finally, lactose intolerance in felines should not be confused with allergic reactions. Allergies are often a response by the immunity system when they notice something foreign, an allergen.
b). Other issues with cheese
If your cat can tolerate lactose, you can give it a small amount of cheese as a treat, occasionally. Note that it is highly calorific with 100 grams having about 402 calories. Excessive amounts may lead to weight gain and feline obesity.
Secondly, while talking to Vetstreet.com, Dr. Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN, an assistant professor of nutrition at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine notes that “cats do not gain anything nutritionally from milk that is not present in a well-balanced commercial [cat food] diet.”
Since it is not a complete cat diet, i.e., does not have all the nutrients these pets require, you must limit it as well as other foods that are not nutritionally balanced.
An ideal scenario is that all unbalanced diets should account for less than 10% of a feline’s daily calorie requirements.
Thirdly, cheese is high in sodium, i.e., about 620mg per 100g. This presents a risk of excessive sodium or salt intake. Excessive sodium can lead to sodium poisoning.
3. Is cheese bad or good for cats?
From the above discussion, you already know the answer. Cheese is not ok or good for cats unless they can digest lactose.
Even if they are able to digest it, do not forget that it is not a balanced food and excessive amounts will lead to obesity. Perhaps, the low-fat brands may be better but have to be a treat or use it for disguising medicine if your felines happen to love it.
It is best to always keep it away from their access. Cover it while eating or keep it in your fridge. Do not be moved by their curiosity or them staring you while you eat it or any other foods that are unhealthy to these pets. They may even beg or meow. Look at their safety. Instead, give them alternative safer treats.
Can you give your cats cheese cream, cottage or String, mozzarella, Feta, Parmesan, Cheez-its, Swiss, Cheddar, American cheese? Again, the answer is No. While these brands are not toxic or poisonous to felines, they are potentially is harmful, dangerous and can hurt felines that do not have enough lactase
Therefore, cants should not be allowed to eat cheese, milk and other dairy products. Goats cheese is slightly lower in lactose but still has it.
While some like that made from soy or Daiya may seem harmless, any highly calorific brand is not a good choice of food for these pets.
Finally, while some kitties are not lactose intolerant, this does not mean it can replace their usual diets that are balanced. These pets do not need any dairy products.