As any feline parent knows, sometimes cats go crazy for human foods. At my house, it’s romaine lettuce. As soon as the clamshell packaging opens, there’s a flurry of little paws and frenzied meows surrounding me at all sides. It can be hard to resist our furry friend’s desperate pleas, so knowing what foods are safe for our cat to eat is crucial.
Yogurt is found in fridges throughout the United States. It’s versatile enough to be eaten plain, used in baked goods, mixed into sauces, or dolloped onto a warm, silky soup. Many of us enjoy yogurt daily, and it’s common for pet owners to slide the foil top over to their furry friend to have a lick. But is this a safe practice?
Can cats eat yogurt? The answer might surprise you. Find out everything you need to know about felines and yogurt in this article.
What Is Yogurt?
You’ve likely eaten yogurt before, but what is it really? Yogurt is a dairy made by the bacterial fermentation of milk. Heated milk is combined with bacteria and left to sit at a warm temperature. During this time, the bacteria converts the sugars in the milk, called lactose, into lactic acid. The lactic acid thickens the milk and creates yogurt’s distinctive flavor.
Go to any supermarket, and you’ll find various yogurt options. There’s plain yogurt and yogurt flavored with added fruit or other sweeteners. You’ll discover yogurts with diverse fat content or derived from different types of milk, such as cow and goat. Greek yogurt is strained during processing to remove whey protein, resulting in a thicker consistency. There are even plant-based, non-dairy yogurts made using soy, coconut, and other plant foods.
Health Benefits Of Yogurt
Yogurt is a source of various nutrients, particularly protein, calcium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. Yogurt is prized most for its probiotic content. The beneficial bacteria used to make yogurt, also called yogurt cultures, yield many health benefits for the people who eat it, including support for the digestive and immune systems.
Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S. thermophilus) bacteria strains are typically used in yogurt formation. Research shows that L. bulgaricus may support various health conditions, including diarrhea, eczema, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), liver disease, periodontal disease, and tooth decay. S. thermophilus is also linked to various health benefits, including sugar metabolism and the production of vitamins, increased anti-inflammatory markers, and inhibitory activity against pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria.
Can Cats Eat Yogurt?
Adult cats are typically lactose intolerant and cannot consume dairy without experiencing digestive troubles. Yogurt appears to be an exception to this rule. Due to the fermentation process, yogurt contains lower levels of lactose than standard dairy products. So, yes, it’s safe to feed your cat yogurt.
Confirm your yogurt is labeled as “probiotic,” which ensures it contains live cultures of beneficial bacteria. Some brands pasteurize their yogurts, which kills the bacteria and will be less tolerable.
Full-fat and strained yogurts, like Greek yogurt, are an even better choice because they contain more fat and less lactose. Greek-style yogurt is strained during processing to remove the whey protein, making it naturally lower in lactose.
Can Kittens Eat Yogurt?
Avoid feeding yogurt to your kitten. While they might be drawn to your yogurt, kittens have sensitive stomachs and may react poorly to new foods. Kittens thrive off of their mother’s milk. Even if your kitten has transitioned to wet food or kibble, it’s best to wait to feed them human treats. The quality of your kitten’s diet plays a massive role in supporting their immune system.
At birth, kittens only have a partially functioning immune system, which makes them more vulnerable to diseases. Mom’s milk contains colostrum, which helps protect kittens from infection and establishes a normal gut microbiome. At four to 12 weeks, kittens transition to solid foods. Their immune system is still developing during this time, and kittens experience an “immunity gap.” During this time, a cat must eat a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet to help support their growth and immune system.
While you shouldn’t feed your kitten yogurt, you should consider purchasing pet insurance while your kitty is still young. Pet insurance covers costs for eligible treatment of illnesses and accidents, which can benefit a growing, curious kitten. We review the best pet insurance for cats.
Is Yogurt Good For Cats?
Yogurt is rich in protein, calcium, and B vitamins. It also contains minerals potassium and magnesium. While your feline benefits from these nutrients, their regular diet will already have them.
The probiotics in yogurt can aid digestion and support immunity. However, if you’re considering adding probiotics to your cat’s diet, a cat-specific probiotic supplement will likely have more beneficial effects. Oral supplements typically contain more probiotic strains, thus offering additional support.
A probiotic supplement will have all the good bacteria with much fewer calories—a win-win. Plus, you don’t have to worry about checking for harmful added ingredients. In the end, a probiotic supplement is a more suitable option to give your cat daily, which is crucial for positive results.
Probiotics For Cats
A 2023 study found that a multistrain probiotic can improve gut health, increase antioxidant activity, reduce inflammation, and support immune function. While probiotics can be taken daily to support overall health, there are also situations that your cat would benefit from short-term probiotic use:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can kill beneficial bacteria in your cat’s gut and cause a digestive imbalance. Taking probiotics alongside antibiotics (but at a different time) can prevent adverse effects.
- Dietary Changes: Switching to a new food can disrupt your cat’s digestion. Consider feeding your cat a probiotic during the transition period.
- Stress: Gut bacteria produce and regulate neurochemicals, including serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. An estimated 70 percent of serotonin is made in the gut, which plays a role in mood, sleep, digestion, and more. The gut also produces GABA neurotransmitter that helps reduce anxiety and stress. Dopamine plays essential roles in pleasure and motivation. All of these “happy chemicals” can support your cat during times of stress.
How Do I Feed My Cat Yogurt?
If you want to feed your cat yogurt, choose a plain and unsweetened variety to see how they like it. Avoid yogurt flavored with fruit containing additional sugars that could upset your cat’s stomach. Always read the ingredients to ensure the product is cat-safe.
Start by offering your cat a small amount of yogurt to see how they like it. A teaspoon of yogurt is enough. Monitor your feline after feeding them yogurt, as it may cause stomach problems and diarrhea if they overeat.
Remember, when feeding treats, less is more. Treats should never be more than 10 percent of their daily caloric intake. The other 90 percent should come from quality, balanced cat food.
If your cat responds negatively to yogurt, discontinue feeding immediately. If the diarrhea isn’t resolved in 48 to 72 hours, seek help from your veterinarian.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Cats Eat Greek Yogurt?
Cats can absolutely eat Greek yogurt. Thanks to the fermentation and straining process, Greek yogurt contains even less lactose. Stick with plain and unsweetened varieties.
Can Cats Eat Flavored Yogurt?
Avoid feeding your cat flavored yogurts. Flavored yogurt typically contains extra sugar that cats don’t need. Some yogurts are flavored with chocolate, which is toxic to cats. Plain and unsweetened is best if you want to treat your cat to a bit of yogurt.
Can Cats Eat Yogurt With Fruit?
Yogurt with fruit will contain a lot more sugar than the plain stuff. It’s best to stick with plain and unsweetened for your furry friend.
While ideally, you’ll have cat treats on hand to satiate a begging kitty, cats can eat yogurt in moderation. Still, it’s probably best to offer up a cat-friendly treat instead. My cats love Inana’s Churus. They have a soft, smooth texture like yogurt, and most cats go crazy for them.