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Are cats allowed to have cheese or is cheese bad for cats? Discover what happens if cats eat cheese and why they enjoy this dairy treat so much

If you’ve ever noticed your cat sniffing around your cheese board or trying to nibble at your cheese sandwich, you’ll know that cheese is often irresistible to cats. However, cheese and other dairy products, such as milk, are not good for our feline friends. While giving cats milk or cream to drink used to be common practice, we now know that this is not a healthy option.

Although cheese isn’t toxic for cats, many cats are actually lactose intolerant, meaning they cannot properly digest the type of sugar found in dairy products, and so eating milk and cheese can cause digestive issues. Even if your cat is not allergic to dairy, cheese is very high in fat and salt and doesn’t contain the important nutrients cats need to stay healthy, so it’s much better to feed them a proper cat food instead.

close up image of yellow cheese slices with lots of holes in

Why do cats love cheese?

Cats’ taste buds are programmed to detect fatty and meaty flavours as they are carnivores and need to eat meat to stay healthy. This means their appetite is driven by foods with a high fat content, and so they are often drawn to the irresistible taste of cheese despite it being bad for them.

Interestingly, cats’ taste buds are not as receptive to tasting sweetness, so they don’t have as much interest in sugary foods. If they go for your ice cream or chocolate, it’s likely the fat content they’re attracted to, not the sweet taste. Remember that chocolate is highly toxic to cats though, so always keep it out of their reach!

Why is cheese bad for cats?

As many cats are lactose intolerant, eating cheese can upset their stomach, resulting in vomiting and/or diarrhoea. It can also make them feel sluggish or lethargic. If they eat cheese regularly, or it forms a big part of their diet, they are also likely to become overweight and may suffer from skin disease, resulting in fur loss.

Is all cheese bad for cats?

All types of cheese, including cheddar, parmesan, brie, feta, mozzarella and blue cheese, are not healthy for cats, as they all contain lactose which can make them unwell. Also avoid giving your cat any lactose-free or plant-based cheese, as a lot of dairy alternatives contain ingredients that could be toxic for cats. It’s best to avoid feeding your cat any cheese-flavoured human foods too, as even though they may not contain actual cheese, they could still be unhealthy or even poisonous for cats.

What about cheesy cat treats?

white-and-ginger cat missing their front right leg reaching their head towards a human hand holding a cat treat

Some cat treats made specifically for cats have a little bit of cheese in them or are cheese flavoured, and these can be ok to give to your cat in small amounts as an occasional treat. They can also be useful for hiding your cat’s medication inside, to encourage them to take their pills. However if your cat is lactose intolerant, these treats can still upset their stomach, so keep an eye on your cat and if they become unwell, use a different type of cat treat in future.

My cat ate cheese, what should I do?

If your cat has just eaten some cheese, there’s no need to rush them to the vet. Keep an eye on them and if they become unwell or you notice any change in their health or behaviour, give your vet a call and let them know what’s wrong and how much cheese your cat has eaten – they’ll be able to advise if they think an appointment is necessary. If your cat does become unwell after eating cheese, try to keep it out of paws’ reach in future and save it as a treat just for you!

Find more information about what to feed your cat.

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