Knowing what you should and should not feed to your cat is vital, and for newcomers to the feline world, it makes sense to check out those foods that are not good for puss! The thing is, use humans are soft, and we like to share snacks with out pets, but we often forget that a cat’s digestive system is vastly different to ours. This makes certain food unhealthy – and even dangerous – for cats, so we come to the question: can cats eat cheese?
There’s a common image in children’s literature, cartoons and elsewhere of a cat being given a bowl of milk. In fact, cats – in general – are actually lactose intolerant! Cats are natural carnivores, unlike humans and many other animals, so they weren’t designed to dine on dairy products! That’s not to say they don’t like them – in many cases quite the opposite – but the problem is their system cannot cope with it. Let’s have a closer look at why cat’s don’t do dairy products.
First, we should say that a small amount of cheese or other dairy item is by no means dangerous for your cat; it will simply upset his or her stomach for a while. Larger amounts can lead to your cat suffering from severe reactions, so the best way forward is to steer clear of feeding the cat anything dairy. Here’s an explanation why.
Humans – like many other animals – are omnivores. This means we can eat both meat and vegetable products, and our digestive system will handle it properly. You may well have a friend or relative who is lactose intolerant – it is not uncommon – but in general, we can eat cheese and drink mill products without side-effects.
Our body produces a lactase enzyme which breaks down the lactose found in dairy products (people who are dairy intolerant are lacking in sufficient lactase enzyme) but cats do not produce this enzyme. Therefore, they cannot correctly process the cheese they have eaten or milk they may have drank.
It is important that before you feed your cat anything that is not made especially for them, you check that it does not include milk or other dairy products. The best thing is, as we said, steer clear of sharing your cheese with kitty!
But…Kittens are Weaned on Their Mother Milk!
This is true, and it does cause a lot of confusion. Kittens are babies, and are at the development stage. They differ in many ways to adult cats, and hence have specialised dietary requirements. Kittens, by nature, initially produce a larger amount of the lactase enzyme. This continues as they are weaned. Once they can move onto solids safely, production of the enzyme will stop, and kittens must certainly not be fed any dairy products.
It’s important that you follow all the instructions on raising a kitten – just as you would your own baby – as you need to ensure it builds up its health in the right time period. So, that’s no dairy for kittens, in any circumstances.
What Else Should Cats Not Eat?
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth mentioning a few other things that you really shouldn’t feed your cat, and these may come as a surprise to you!
What, no Tuna?
That’s right! You might assume that cats would be OK with tuna. In fact, while they love it, that’s the problem! Cats can actually become addicted to tuna if you feed it to them on a regular basis – we’re not kidding, they really can! The problem is that too much seafood can mean your cat suffers from mercury poisoning, which would also happen to you or I if we gorged on tuna only! There’s no harm in giving your cat a little bit as a treat here and there, but no regular tuna feasts for Felix!
Onions – and garlic in particular – are toxic for cats. Many people will tell you that a tiny amount is OK; we prefer to advise you to steer clear of anything to do with garlic and onions – in any form including powdered – when it comes to feeding our feline friends. Onion will actually damage the red blood cells in your cats system, and it will suffer from anaemia. This can be dangerous in a cat. Consider that garlic is as much as 5 times more toxic than onion and you can see why a complete avoidance of these items is essential. Always check for onion in anything you are giving to your cat.
It used to be the norm to give cats – and especially dogs – grapes, and their dried version the raisin, as a treat. Quite simply, don’t do it: we now know it can cause kidney failure, which will be fatal in most cases.
If you see your cat starting to behave abnormally, or you suspect it has eaten any of the above, take it to your vet as quickly as you can. They are the experts that can help, and any home remedy you attempt may worsen the situation.
Now that we’ve painted a grim picture of the snacks you may have been thinking of sharing with your cat, let’s add a bit of colour! Here are a few things that you and puss CAN share quite happily!
What You Can Feed Your Cat
You should buy a quality, specially created food for your cat’s regular meal, as it will include all the ingredients to give the animal a balanced and healthy diet. If in doubt, ask your vets advice as they will be able to recommend the best options. Now, here’s a few things you might want to know that are safe for kitty!
We have already talked about tuna, but your cat can eat many different types of cooked fish – never raw, always cooked – if given in small quantities. If you avoid the fish that are carnivores themselves – such as tuna, swordfish and so on – then you’ll be OK, and having said that, a small amount of tinned salmon can be a great treat for a cat. Tinned sardines will become a favourite, but as always with fish, only in small amounts and every now and then.
This one may surprise you! Boiled or even scrambled eggs are actually good for cats, as they contain a variety of proteins that cats need to live a healthy life. Once again, we are not advocating you make a bowl of scrambled eggs your cats regular diet, but once in a while it will make a nice treat. Also a repeat – never give the cat raw eggs, as they can be rife with bacteria. Cooked eggs should be part of the diet for pregnant cats too.
Fruit and Veg
You might think that a natural carnivore would not be suited to fruit and vegetables, but in fact there should be an element of such in your cats diet. If you read the ingredients of your cats usual food, you will likely find the following are in there: carrots, broccoli, asparagus green beans and other chopped greens. These are great sources of nutrition and essential fibre.
Fruit such as bananas and oranges, pears and apricots, and apples also make a great treat for cats, but make sure they are free of pips. In fact, if you want your cat to enjoy a treat with you every now and again, try them on fruit and veg rather than the commercial cat treats that may include amounts of sugar.
That’s about it and we hope we’ve answered your questions about feeding cats cheese – it’s best to keep it as a simple don’t do it – and other foods that may or may not be healthy for kitty. Cats make wonderful pets and companions, so make sure you enjoy your time with yours, and share some healthy snacks along the way!