Cat owners commonly contemplate about the toxicity of human foods. The questions about the safety of different foods increased after learning that certain foods were toxic which yielded a lot of press coverage. The most important toxic foods for cats are onions, garlic, chocolate, alcohol, and excessive amounts of fish. In dogs, Grapes and Raisins, and Peanut Butter are commonly discussed as dangerous foods.
Knowledge of dangerous foods has encouraged pet owners to ask about other human foods such as can cats eat yogurt. Learn more about what cats can and can’t eat in this article: The Ultimate Guide to What Cats Can’t Eat.
Can Cats Eat Yogurt?
Yogurt is a food product made from milk. It is formed by bacterial fermentation with yogurt cultures. Milk is heated then allowed to cool and mixed with the bacterial culture. The lactose fermentation gives yogurt its unique texture and flavor. Yogurt can be made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats, yaks, camels, and buffalo and created into a large variety of textures and flavors. Each type of milk produces different flavors. The milk used to make yogurt can be homogenized, pasteurized, or raw.
When researching the safety and dangers of yogurt for cats, while yogurt is not considered toxic or dangerous, it is not necessarily good for your cat. It can be fed to some cats in very small amounts.
Why is yogurt not good for cats? The answer is that most cats are considered to be lactose-intolerant. This is contrary to popular belief. After all, many children’s books contain iconic photos of adorable kittens lapping up saucers of milk.
Lactose intolerance is a normal part of being an adult cat. Kittens produce an enzyme called lactase to break down lactose which is the milk sugar. As kittens age and are weaned, they produce less and less lactase and therefore are unable to digest most dairy products.
When lactose is ingested and not broken down by the lactase, the lactose continues through the intestinal system and is not digested. Water is drawn into the intestine and bacteria ferment the undigested milk sugars. This results in symptoms that may include gas, discomfort, and diarrhea in 8 to 12 hours.
The Dangers of Yogurt to Cats
As discussed above, cats naturally have an inability to digest lactose. This can affect some cats more than others. Ingestion of any type of yogurt or dairy product can produce severe symptoms in some cats.
Flavored yogurts, such as those with garlic, onion, or garlic/onion powders can cause severe problems in cats. Cats lack the enzyme to appropriately digest onions that can cause flatulence (gas), vomiting, diarrhea, or severe gastrointestinal distress. Regular ingestion of onion or garlic products can cause life-threatening red blood cell damage.
However, some cats appear to be more lactose intolerant than others. I’ve seen cats on dairy farms seem to tolerate milk ingestion. I personally have a cat that begs for various dairy products including cheese, milk, and yogurt and he loves it. I only feed a small amount the size of a pea and he seems to consistently tolerate this without any signs of problems. In general, dairy products are not recommended for most cats.
NOTE: Any food can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats. What may not bother some cats may cause signs of illness in another cat. The same can happen in people. Some foods can bother some people and not others. Overfeeding can cause gastrointestinal upset and/or obesity.
How Can You Tell if Your Cat is Lactose Intolerant?
You can test your cat’s ability to digest lactose by offering a small amount of milk such as a tablespoon of milk or yogurt and look for abnormal symptoms.
There are differing amounts of lactose in various dairy products. For example, goat’s milk commonly contains less lactose than cow’s milk. Therefore, some cats may digest yogurt made with goat’s milk better than yogurt made with cow’s milk. Milk, cream, butter, yogurt, yogurt, ice cream all have different amounts. Some dairy products may agree with your cat more than another.
With that being said, there is nothing in yogurt that your cat requires. It is safest to choose a treat that is without yogurt. There are some lactose-free products available on the market that could be options. They also make some lactose free products specifically for cats that are available in some pet stores.
Do Cats Like Yogurt?
Some cats love yogurt (as well as other dairy products) and other cats don’t. This really varies from cat to cat. Some cats often love the flavor of yogurt’s soft creamy texture and enjoy this as a healthy snack. Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, and Vitamin B12. In fact, I personally have one cat that loves yogurt and begs for it on every occasion.
Do Cats Need Yogurt?
There is nothing in yogurt that cats require. What cats do need is a high-quality AAFCO approved cat food. Learn more about Nutrition in Cats.