We Know They Love It, But Can Cats Eat Yogurt?
Cat owners know the story too well. You peel open a container of Chobani, and before you can even grab your spoon, your kitty is already pushing her way to get a taste. While we know they love it, can cats eat yogurt? The answer is yes, some types of yogurts are safe for cats. But that doesn't mean it should become a regular part of their diets, and you'll always want to check out the nutritional label before giving your kitty a nibble.
Is Yogurt Good or Bad for Cats?
Yogurt offers high levels of protein, calcium, vitamins B2 and B12, and probiotics, so you may think it's good for your kitty. But given your cat already eats a healthy, balanced diet of veterinarian-recommended cat food, these benefits aren't enough to warrant yogurt as an everyday addition to your kitty's diet.
Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, is a veterinarian toxicologist who works with Pet Poison Helpline. She explains that while cats can eat yogurt, it's not an ideal treat for all felines.
"Dairy products in general can cause GI upset in cats because most cats are lactose intolerant, causing mainly loose stool and vomiting," Schmid says. "Due to this, yogurt wouldn't be high on the list of ideal foods to feed a cat."
The most common sign of lactose intolerance is GI upset such as diarrhea or vomiting. Schmid says if your kitty experiences any of these symptoms within 8-12 hours after eating dairy, there's a good chance they're lactose intolerant.
For humans, yogurt is a strong source of friendly bacteria, or probiotics, that help aid digestion. However, our pets typically don't need those same bacteria unless dealing with GI problems, according to Schmid. If your kitty's digestive tract is out of whack, it's best to put down the yogurt spoon and take a trip to the veterinarian. Your cat's vet will be able to narrow down her digestive issues and may even recommend cat-safe probiotics to help her gut.
What Types of Yogurt Are Safe for Cats?
If your cat doesn't have any sensitivities to dairy, most plain, unsweetened yogurts are safe for cats. Before giving your cat a nibble, however, you'll want to make sure there are no extra ingredients that could cause your kitty harm. Generally, low-calorie and flavored yogurts are a no-go as they usually contain extra toxic ingredients that you'll want to keep away from your cat. These include:
How Much Yogurt Can Cats Have?
Given your cat doesn't react poorly to dairy, no more than one tablespoon of yogurt is a safe treat to share. As a general rule, treats shouldn't account for more than 10 percent of your cat's daily caloric intake. However, "Due to the high incidence of lactose intolerance in cats, it is preferred to give them a cat specific treat and just avoid dairy treats altogether," Schmid says.
Your cat should already be getting the majority of her essential nutrients through a healthy, balanced diet through her veterinarian-approved cat food. While a little yogurt here and there isn't likely to harm your kitty, vet-recommended cat treats or even homemade cat treats will allow your kitty to snack without any of the potentially messy issues that come with dairy.