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Is cheese harmful to cats?

Quick summary

Cheese is not recommended for cats. While small amounts once in a while likely won’t cause major issues, cheese provides no nutritional value for cats and can lead to digestive upset and weight gain. The lactose and high fat content make cheese difficult for many cats to digest properly. There are also concerns around the added salt and other ingredients in some cheeses. Overall, it’s best to avoid giving cats cheese, and opt for more cat-friendly treats instead.

Can cats eat cheese?

Cats can eat small amounts of cheese occasionally as a treat. Cheese is not toxic to cats and won’t cause immediate illness if consumed. However, daily cheese treats or large quantities can lead to digestive issues, weight gain, and other problems.

Cheese provides no nutritional benefits for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require meat-based protein in their diet. Cheese does not offer the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that cats need. At best, cheese is an empty calorie treat for cats.

Some cats may have lactose intolerance or difficulty digesting the milk sugars and fat in cheese. This can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, gas, and abdominal pain after eating cheese. Cow’s milk cheese in particular contains lactose that cats struggle to break down.

Cheese is highly caloric and can quickly lead to weight gain if fed regularly. Obesity is a major health concern for domestic cats. Even small amounts of cheese provide lots of fat and calories relative to a cat’s daily energy needs. Just a few cheese treats a week can cause cats to gain unhealthy weight over time.

In summary, adult cats should not have cheese as a regular part of their diet. An occasional small piece of cheese once or twice a month is unlikely to cause major issues. But cheese provides no benefits and a number of potential health risks for cats. It’s best reserved for rare treats only.

Is cheese bad for cats?

Cheese is not inherently toxic or poisonous to cats. However, there are several components of cheese that can cause problems for cats if consumed regularly or in large amounts:

– Lactose – Most cats are lactose intolerant. The lactose sugars in cheese are difficult for them to properly digest. This can lead to digestive upset.

– Fat content – Cheese is very high in fat, which can quickly lead to weight gain or pancreatitis in cats.

– Salt content – Many cheeses are very high in sodium, which is unhealthy for cats.

– Milk origin – Cow’s milk cheese has higher lactose content than goat or sheep cheeses. But all dairy cheese can trigger digestion issues.

– Other ingredients – Processed cheeses may contain garlic, onion, chives or other additives that are toxic to cats.

So while not acutely poisonous like chocolate or xylitol, cheese can negatively impact a cat’s health if fed regularly or in excess. Upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, weight gain, and salt toxicity are all potential side effects of too much cheese for cats. Most veterinarians recommend avoiding cheese as a treat or diet addition for cats.

Can kittens eat cheese?

Kittens have even greater difficulty digesting cheese than adult cats. Kittens should not be given any cheese until at least 12 weeks of age.

Young kittens have lower lactase enzyme levels needed to break down lactose sugars. Their digestive systems are even more intolerant to dairy products like cheese.

Feeding cheese to a kitten can result in severe diarrhea, dehydration, malnutrition, and stunted growth. Never give cheese to kittens under 4 months old.

After 12 weeks, limit cheese feeding to a tiny piece once or twice a month at most. And monitor for signs of digestive upset. Diarrhea in kittens can quickly become dangerous if it leads to dehydration.

Kittens also require very precise nutrition for proper development. Cheese offers no benefits and only potential harm for growing kittens. It provides none of the protein, vitamins or minerals that kittens need. Stick to kitten formula, meat-based cat foods and treats designed for kittens for the healthiest diet.

How much cheese can cats eat?

The appropriate amount of cheese for cats is none. Cheese offers no health benefits and several potential risks. Any amount has the potential for causing digestive upset, weight gain, and providing unhealthy calories.

If you want to give cheese as an occasional treat, limit portions to no more than 1 teaspoon shredded cheese once or twice a month. Monitor your cat for signs of stomach upset afterward.

Cheese should never make up more than 1-2% of a cat’s total daily calories. With most cat foods providing 400-500 calories per day for an average adult cat, this equates to just 4-10 calories per day from cheese. A single treat of cheese should have no more than 10 calories at most.

Signs you are feeding too much cheese include:

– Diarrhea or vomiting
– Increased gas or abdominal noises
– Decreased appetite for normal cat food
– Weight gain, especially if too rapid
– Increased water intake

If you see any of these signs, stop the cheese treats and contact your veterinarian if they persist more than 24 hours. Getting calories primarily from cheese instead of balanced cat food can lead to malnutrition and health problems over time.

What kind of cheese is safe for cats?

No cheese is completely safe for cats. The best cheeses for cats are:

– Low lactose varieties – Lactose-free cheese or cheeses like mozzarella with less than 10% lactose content.

– Low fat varieties – Part-skim mozzarella or reduced fat swiss provide less fatty calories.

– Low salt cheeses – Avoid heavily salted cheeses like feta, parmesan or aged cheeses.

– Soft fresh cheeses – Cream cheese, cottage cheese, goat cheese have higher moisture and are easier to digest.

– Small portions of any cheese – Even cat-safe cheeses should only be fed in very small amounts.

Avoid giving cats cheese with added garlic, onion or chives. Also avoid mold-ripened cheeses and “diet” cheeses that may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol which is toxic for cats.

The healthiest treat options for cats are meats like boiled chicken, tuna or salmon. But all treats, including cheese, should be limited to protect your cat’s health. Don’t make high-fat, salty human foods a regular part of your cat’s diet.

Can cats eat melted cheese?

Melted cheese is even more problematic than room temperature cheese for cats. The high fat content coupled with warm temperatures can cause significant stomach upset.

Cheese has high fat content to begin with. When melted and oil is released, cats have an even harder time breaking this fat down. Ingesting a large lump of melted cheese overwhelms the digestive system.

Additionally, the warmer temperatures of melted cheese may burn a cat’s mouth or esophagus during eating. This can cause pain and damage.

Small amounts of melted cheese on top of cat-safe human foods may not cause issues. But avoid feeding your cat cheese straight from the fondue pot or giving them a melted cheese sandwich. The safest way to feed any cheese to cats is room temperature and shredded or diced into tiny pieces.

Can cats eat pizza with cheese?

It’s best not to share pizza with your cat, even if she begs. Pizza contains several ingredients that can be harmful for cats:

– Cheese – High in lactose and fat
– Onions and garlic – Toxic for cats
– Salt and spices – Too much sodium and spices can cause upset stomach
– Bread dough – Raw yeast dough can expand in the stomach and cause bloating.

Plain cooked meat toppings may be safe. But no pet owner should purposefully feed their cat pizza. At most, the smallest possible crumb of cheese or meat with no onion, garlic or dough may be an very occasional treat.

The safest way to let your cat enjoy human food is to share a small piece of plain cooked chicken breast or fish before adding any sauces, cheese or other ingredients. Cats have no nutritional need for processed human snack foods like pizza.

Signs of cheese intolerance in cats

If your cat experiences any of the following after eating cheese, they likely have some degree of cheese or lactose intolerance:

– Diarrhea
– Vomiting
– Increased gas or belching
– Gurgling abdominal noises
– Lethargy or lack of appetite
– Dehydration

These symptoms may occur within minutes to hours after eating cheese. They indicate the digestive system is struggling to handle the components of cheese.

Diarrhea and vomiting present the biggest risks to cats from cheese. Both can quickly lead to dehydration which can become life-threatening without treatment.

Stop feeding all cheese immediately if you see these signs. Withhold food for several hours and call your veterinarian if symptoms persist more than 24 hours or result in obvious lethargy or dehydration.

Mild gas or upset stomach after cheese may resolve on its own by avoiding further cheese. But recurrent diarrhea, vomiting or obvious discomfort are signs your cat cannot properly digest cheese.

Can I give my cat cheese as a medicine delivery method?

You may wonder if cheese can help you give your cat necessary medication. However, cheese is not the best way to give a cat pills or supplements. Here’s why:

– Strong flavors can cause your cat to avoid the pill and spit it out.

– Cheese may cause stomach upset that makes the medication less effective.

– Fat coats the medication, delaying its absorption and effects.

– Medications that need to be given on an empty stomach won’t work properly with cheese.

– Kittens and cats with diarrhea or digestive issues should never be given cheese.

Here are some better ways to give a cat medication:

– Hide pills in a small amount of canned cat food or tuna.

– Compound medications into transdermal gels your vet can prescribe.

– Have your vet prescribe flavored liquids instead of pills.

– Use a pill dispenser or syringe to place the pill far back on your cat’s tongue.

While cheese may mask a pill’s flavor, the risks usually outweigh any benefits. Talk to your veterinarian about the best method for medicating your cat in each specific situation.


Cheese is not recommended for cats in any amount. The lactose, fat and salt content of cheese makes it difficult for cats to digest and provides no nutritional benefits. While an occasional tiny piece of cheese likely won’t harm cats, it offers health risks and no advantages. Cat owners are best avoiding cheese, and choosing more appropriate treats and foods for their feline companions.