Like asking if cats can eat almond butter or whether cats can have whipped cream, asking, “Can cats eat yogurt?” may sound like an odd question.
Sharing healthy human food with pets has become pretty popular, with the idea is that if it’s good for us, it should be good for them.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as even some of the healthiest human foods can have dire consequences to your feline friend.
Read on to find out whether yogurt is one of them.
READ MORE: Can Cats Eat Refried Beans?
Can Cats Eat Yogurt?
The short answer is yes. Cats can eat yogurt as an occasional treat. However, they probably shouldn’t.
To understand why it’s important that we look at what a balanced diet for a cat is. Unlike dogs, which are naturally omnivorous, cats are obligate carnivores.
That means that a healthy cat diet consists primarily of meat. Despite the pervasive cliche, you should not give your cat milk from another animal. That includes the cow milk in saucers of milk.
Do you see where this is going? Yogurt is a milk product, and where cats are concerned, it shares all of the pitfalls associated with other dairy products.
If you feel that the benefits outweigh the health risks, you might consider some important tips.
Not for kittens
Although kittens are often resilient when it comes to ingesting foods that would leave a human sick, they still have a sensitive stomach.
In addition, cats adapted to eat certain foods, making kittens specifically ill-equipped to digest anything they would not find in nature. It would at the very least cause a kitten stomach pain.
Cats are allergic to dairy products. More specifically, adult cats suffer from lactose intolerance. Unfortunately, it is hard to know whether your cat has an allergy unless they have some dairy.
A small test is best. Let your cat lick a tiny taste of yogurt and keep a careful eye on her.
If she shows any sign of an allergic reaction or digestive issues, developers an upset stomach, or becomes sick in any way, it is better to leave yogurt off of the menu.
Cats are picky eaters
Your cat might not like yogurt, even though a little is a safe treat. If you give your cat yogurt and they have tasted it, their opinion should be clear.
A cat will turn away from foods that they don’t like. With most cats, that is pretty much the final word on the matter. You likely won’t be able to add yogurt to their diet.
If you have decided that your feline friend will benefit from eating yogurt, you will have to introduce it slowly. There is no question whether suddenly feeding your cat a large quantity of yogurt will have some nasty side effects.
It seems strange. A cat can practically swallow a mouse whole with little negative consequence. Still, a bowl of yogurt can give the very same cat symptoms similar to food poisoning in humans.
Diarrhea and vomiting are common in cats that have had too large a serving of any dairy product.
What is a good introductory serving? About one spoonful of yogurt for an adult cat. Remember that not all yogurt is made equal. So, what type of yogurt is better for your cat?
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CAN CATS EAT GREEK YOGURT?
Greek yogurt is a bit different from the regular stuff, so let’s explore that in more detail.
Plain is best
Greek yogurt that is unsweetened and unflavored is best for your kitty.
The science is sparse on this one, but the probiotics and healthy bacteria in plain, unsweetened yogurt may benefit cats.
At the very least, there is no evidence to suggest that a small amount of greek yogurt will do any harm as long as it’s unsweetened.
Cats do not eat sugar in nature. That means that no part of their digestive system developed to process sugar.
Make Sure it’s Not Artificially Sweetened
Greek yogurt is naturally sugar-free, but many manufacturers add sweeteners to it to make it tastier for us humans.
Even if the label says “sugar-free” you MUST read the ingredient list very closely to make sure they didn’t add artificial sweeteners, ESPECIALLY xylitol.
That is important because cats are highly susceptible to xylitol poisoning. A small amount of xylitol (a common artificial sweetener) can prove lethal to cats.
Then there are flavor additives. Again, while conclusive studies have yet to take place, there is a risk that a flavor additive could pose an as yet unforeseen risk to cats.
This problem is clear in the case of vanilla flavoring. Vanilla extract often contains small amounts of alcohol called ethanol. However, the amount is so small that it is considered irrelevant in human consumption.
Keep in mind that cats are physically much smaller than us. They also have a much lower threshold for alcohol to become toxic.
Therefore there exists a risk that even traces of ethanol could make your cat very ill. If they consume enough ethanol this way, it can even be fatal.
Cats Have No taste for sugary things anyway
Many of us are not fans of plain unflavored yogurt. Keep in mind that cats have no taste receptors for sweetness.
They don’t have the amylases enzyme that breaks sugar down, so it does not benefit them in any way. Cats need no sugar, crave no sugar, and certainly can’t enjoy sugar.
There is no guilt to be felt in exclusively offering them greek yogurt.
READ MORE: Can Cats Have Raspberries?
Can Cats Eat Strawberry Yogurt?
Cats should not eat strawberry yogurt. The first reason is obvious now.
All those flavor additives and sweeteners (real and artificial alike) are very bad for cats. Conventional flavored yogurts get their taste from such additives.
If you have a sweet tooth, try blending some fresh strawberries into plain yogurt. You will soon appreciate why they add additional flavor and sweeteners.
That said, even such a mix of fresh strawberries and plain yogurt has no additional benefit for cats. Strawberries are high in vitamin C, but cats, like most animals, can produce their own.
Moreover, the sugar in strawberries, fructose, presents the same problem as conventional cane sugar.
Cats can’t digest it. So it is better to stick to plain yogurt.
Can Cats Eat Blueberry Yogurt?
Blueberry yogurt for cats has precisely the same pitfalls as strawberry yogurt.
As a popular health food, blueberries are best known for being rich in antioxidants. That is great for humans but not all that important for cats.
They do contain a lot of water and fiber, which can be good for cats, but better ways exist to provide your cat with both. It’s not a hard ‘no’, as long as the blueberry yogurt contains only fresh blueberries and yogurt.
However, considering how minimal the benefits of adding blueberries to plain yogurt are, it probably isn’t worth it.
READ MORE: Does Cinnamon Hurt Cats?
How Much Yogurt Can You Give a Cat?
As we’ve mentioned, a spoon or two every week goes a long way. Excessive amounts of yogurt can cause a lot of health problems in cats.
So while it isn’t certain that a small amount of plain yogurt is necessarily bad for cats, we know that a large amount can be harmful.
Reasons Why Cats Should Eat Yogurt
Yogurt doesn’t have a lot to recommend adding it to your feline friend’s daily cat food. That said, some benefits may sway one’s opinion.
While any flavored and sweetened yogurt is a no-go, plain greek yogurt isn’t dangerous to cats in small amounts.
Yogurt is rich in vitamins
Cats should get the vitamins they need from their staple food, primarily meat supplemented with practical, healthy food.
Except for humans and guinea pigs, most animals produce their own vitamin C, so that isn’t essential for cats either.
Yogurt can add to your cat’s protein intake. It also contains minerals that offer health benefits, such as aiding a cat’s immune system, combatting gum disease, and fighting off bad bacteria in the digestive system.
Although the exact ratio varies, plain yogurt has a positive ratio of calcium to phosphorus. That means it won’t cause any bone health issues or contribute to kidney stones.
Calcium is key
Calcium is an essential nutrient for cats. In other words, they need to get enough calcium from their diet. That is one area where yogurt shines. Plain yogurt contains a lot of calcium. It helps with healthy bone development and aids in maintaining healthy teeth.
READ MORE: Things Cats Can’t Eat
We have touched on some of the reasons cats should not eat yogurt and looked at a couple of reasons they should. The difficult thing about deciding whether to feed your cat plain yogurt is that there are better ways to provide the same nutritional benefits. Ways that don’t share the potential risks.
Anything more than a couple of spoonfuls a week is a risk. Add to that the potential life-threatening sweeteners and flavorings added to just about any flavored yogurt, and the appeal of this ‘treat’ might pale in comparison to the risks. If you decide that your cat may benefit from the addition of yogurt to their diet, first consult your vet and get their input on how and whether you should.
- “Blog Archives.” 2020. Mallard Creek Animal Hospital. 2020. https://www.mallardcreekvet.com/dr-waldens-blog/archives/10-2020.
- “CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.” 2020. Fda.gov. 2020. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=169.175#:~:text=In%20vanilla%20extract%20the%20content,than%20one%20unit%20per%20gallon.&text=Vanilla%20extract%20may%20contain%20one,(1)%20Glycerin.
- Craig, J. M. 2018. “Food Intolerance in Dogs and Cats.” Journal of Small Animal Practice, December. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsap.12959.
- “Feeding Your Cat.” 2017. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. October 16, 2017. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feeding-your-cat#:~:text=Cats%20evolved%20as%20hunters%20that,fatty%20acids,%20and%20amino%20acids.
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