Cats begin their lives with a diet that consists solely of their mothers’ milk, as is the case with all mammals. But neither cats nor the rest of the mammals need milk during the rest of their lives (after weaning). Humans often keep drinking milk even later in life either due to its taste or its nutrients, but they often show lactose intolerances to milk.
But let’s see the dietary relationship of cats with the various dairy products.
Cats and milk
Cats beyond the first period of their lives, when they are breastfeeding (caution: if a cat is abandoned by its mother, you should give it special milk for cats and not cow’s milk), should not drink milk because it usually experiences lactose intolerance problems and diarrhea.
How is it that cats can drink milk as newborns but not as adults? Well, newborn cats have the lactase enzyme that can break down the basic sugar in milk, which is lactose. But in later stages of life the amount of lactase available in the cat’s gut slowly decreases (it’s natural) and so it can no longer metabolize lactose. Indigestible lactose starts being fermented by bacteria creating fatty acids that cause stomach irritation and even vomiting, while the symptoms of diarrhea are common as well!
However, that is not a rule because in small quantities, it is possible for some cats to have absolutely no problems at all – apparently because some lactase remains in their digestive tract. I, Chicho rarely drink 5-10 ml of milk without any symptoms whatsoever – it works like a treat for me. But be aware because milk has a lot of calories and in larger quantities can either cause intolerance problems or amplify obesity.
A good solution for cats that love milk is the lactose-free processed milk.
Cats and yogurt
The aphoristic idea that “whatever is consumed by man should not be consumed by cats” is wrong. Many cats seem to enjoy eating yogurt for some reason. But is it good for a cat to eat yogurt?
Considering what we have already mentioned about milk, we should say that yogurt results from the fermentation of milk during which, lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose, so only a small quantity of lactose remains in the final form of yogurt making it much more digestible than milk itself. At the same time yogurt has a high concentration of proteins, Vitamins B2 and B12 and minerals such as magnesium and potassium but also various friendly bacteria that promote digestion.
It should also be noted that especially fresh yogurt has probiotics that are useful for the proper functioning of the intestine.
On the other hand, yogurt also has a lot of calories and should not be eaten in large quantities to avoid obesity. However, if your cat loves it, you can definitely give it some in small amounts, mainly as a treat.
Cats and cheese
For all of you asking if cats can eat cheese, the answer is that a natural diet of a cat does not include cheese! Cats are carnivores by nature and eat live prey and a product such as cheese is not suitable for its diet for the following reasons:
- It has lactose
- It has sodium
- It has fats
So, it is clear that cats do not need cheese in their diet and if your cat has strong lactose intolerance, do not feed it cheese. However, if it shows low intolerance and really likes it, you can (with the consent of your vet) give it some cheese as a treat (that’s what I do). Otherwise, be content with its dry and wet food.
Chicho’s note: For a safer and more appropriate approach to such questions in relation to cats’ diet, it is advisable to talk to your vet, so do not stick with the above; they are mentioned as an example, so you can have a good discussion with your vet about these issues.