Can Cats Eat Yogurt? Which Kind Is Good For Your Feline?
Yes, you can give your beloved kitty a spoonful of plain yogurt once or twice a week; unless your veterinarian says otherwise. Yogurt is a very special kind of dairy product that can provide pets with many health benefits. And like all human foods, yogurt can also cause some problems like allergies and stomach upset in vulnerable kitties. That is why it is always best to talk to your veterinarian about it before giving your cat yogurt.
Dairy Products and Your Pet Cat
All young mammals, including kittens, depend on their mother’s milk for all of their nutrients. It is their source of complete nutrition necessary for optimum growth and development.
Lactose is a type of sugar that’s composed of both galactose and glucose. It is the principal sugar found in milk. Kittens below the age of 12 weeks are able to digest the lactose in their mother’s milk because they have the enzyme called amylase. This enzyme acts on lactose and breaks it down into its main components. It is these two molecules that get absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall.
As the kitten grows, however, Mother Nature deemed that the cat is already old enough to eat other foods. It does not have to depend on milk anymore. Its mother’s milk has already served its purpose. As such, the cat no longer produces the enzyme necessary for breaking down lactose and other sugars.
If you give the adult cat dairy products like milk, cheese, or cream, there is a chance that it may not be able to digest the lactose that these foods contain. Remember, lactose requires the action of amylase so that it can be broken down into glucose and galactose. Since the adult cat no longer has amylase, then the lactose molecule doesn’t get digested. This can lead to the most common manifestation of lactose intolerance – loose, watery stools.
Yogurt: A Special Kind of Dairy Product?
Yogurt, being a dairy product, also contains milk. The process of making yogurt will give you a clue as to why this dairy product is special. Everything starts with the pasteurization of milk to help kill bacteria and other microorganisms that may be present in the milk. After pasteurization, the now-sterilized milk cools down to around 106 to 114 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the ideal temperature necessary for fermentation. Up to this point, yogurt is still the same as any other milk.
The next step is the addition of bacterial cultures. This is the single most important differentiation between milk and yogurt. The addition of beneficial microorganisms facilitates the breakdown of lactose into galactose and glucose.
This is one of the main reasons why yogurt works on people who are lactose-intolerant. They no longer have to worry about their digestive system’s inability to break down lactose. The lactose in yogurt is already broken down for them by friendly bacteria. When they eat yogurt, they are ingesting galactose and glucose; not lactose.
Is it Safe to Give Yogurt to Cats?
Following our arguments, it is safe for a cat to eat yogurt. You don’t have to worry about the cat getting diarrhea or other digestive complaints. This is because the yogurt that it is eating no longer contains lactose, but galactose and glucose. They no longer require digestion because they are already in their simplest form. The only thing that the cat will do next is to absorb these nutrients through the intestinal wall and into its bloodstream.
Kittens below the age of 12 weeks can also benefit from yogurt. This is especially true in cases of abandonment by the mother cat or early separation from its littermates. There are milk replacements for kittens, of course, that you can buy. But given that these can be quite expensive, yogurt is a more practical solution. Yogurt already comes with glucose and galactose, eliminating the need for lactose digestion.
What Makes Yogurt Good for Cats?
The thing that differentiates yogurt from milk and other dairy products also happens to be its source of a very important benefit. The addition of live bacterial cultures in yogurt means your cat will also be eating these bacteria.
The good thing about these bacteria is that they are probiotics. These are microorganisms that can help strengthen the cat’s digestive system. They replenish the population of beneficial bacteria in the cat’s intestines. This way, they can negate the actions of harmful bacterial populations.
A 4.5-oz serving of yogurt contains about 1 billion colony forming units (CFUs). Giving your pet cat a tablespoon of yogurt can provide it with about 100 million CFUs of probiotic organisms. This is already sufficient to help maintain a healthy digestive system for your feline friend. And since a healthy digestive system is also equated with a healthy immune system, giving yogurt to your cat can also help enhance its disease-fighting capabilities.
Not All Yogurts Are Safe for Cats
While yogurt is safe for cats, you have to understand that there are many kinds of yogurt. In one of your future trips to the grocery, try to look at the shelf for yogurt and you will see different kinds of them. There are vanilla, blueberry, and strawberry yogurts as well as other flavored yogurts. There is also Greek yogurt.
One has to understand that regular yogurt and Greek yogurt are different in the kind of milk that manufacturers use. Authentic Greek yogurt comes from goat’s milk, while other types of yogurt feature cow’s milk.
Goat’s milk contains a lower amount of lactose than cow’s milk. It is also a lot easier to digest. While both will still undergo pasteurization and fermentation with live bacterial cultures, it is easy to see why Greek yogurt is the best for your cat.
Given that manufacturers will add the same amounts of live bacterial cultures in their pasteurized milk, Greek yogurt will have lower lactose levels than regular yogurt. If you look at the ratio of lactose to bacteria, Greek yogurt will have a lower ratio. This means there are more bacterial cultures than there are lactose molecules. This can result in the complete breakdown of the lactose molecules into galactose and glucose. On the other hand, regular yogurt may not have all of its lactose molecules broken down because of fewer bacterial cultures relative to lactose molecules.
There is also the issue of artificial sweeteners in flavored yogurt like vanilla, blueberry, strawberry, and others. Xylitol is one of the most common artificial sweeteners that manufacturers use. Excessive consumption of Xylitol can lead to insulin spikes. In the long run, it can result in liver toxicity, damage, and failure. This is for humans. Because of the differences in metabolism between humans and felines, Xylitol can be fatal to cats.
In addition to Xylitol, some flavored yogurts also contain ethanol. While this will not lead to the instant death of your pet, it does produce a number of worrying symptoms. Drowsiness, vomiting, very fast heartbeat, decreased body temperature, weakness, and low blood pressure are some of the symptoms of ethanol toxicity in cats.
As such, when it comes to giving yogurt to your pet cat, the best kind to give will be plain and unsweetened Greek yogurt.
However, one has to read the label of these products. There are those that will label their products as Greek yogurt yet the ingredients show it contains cow’s milk. It is best to get your Greek yogurt only from trustworthy sources.
How to Give Yogurt to Your Pet Cat
It is important to treat any food that is outside the cat’s regular meals as a snack. Hence, it should never account for more than 10 percent of the feline’s total calorie requirements for the day. A tablespoon of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt contains about 8.25 calories. Plain, regular yogurt can contain about 8.55 calories. Flavored yogurts may contain more, depending on additional ingredients.
You can give one tablespoon of Greek yogurt every other day to your cat. You can give it as is or mixed with a cat-safe fruits like strawberries and blueberries. These fruits are rich in antioxidants that can further improve your cat’s health. They can provide your pet with dietary fiber, too. This can help improve the passage of stools in the cat’s colon. You only need to choose the right berries and chop them up into smaller pieces. You can then mix them with yogurt. An alternative is to blend these berries for a smoother consistency. Mix them with yogurt and give to your pet.
Yogurt can also be an excellent tool for administering medications to your cat. There are drugs that have a very unpleasant taste. You can mix liquid medicines in yogurt to mask the nasty taste of the drug. If it is possible to crush the pills or tablets, you can mix these with yogurt, too.
Yogurt is a safe food for kitties. Experience dictates, however, that cats are like people, too. They can have different reactions to the same food. That is why it is always best to give yogurt in moderation and under your direct supervision.
- Cats and Dairy: Get the Facts – WebMD