Can Cats Eat Cheese?

By Jenny Nolan / January 19, 2018

Cleaner Paws is a mother-daughter run blog. Together we have over 40+ years of professional pet grooming experience and we hope to pass some of that on to our readers throughout our in-depth and non-bias reviews and buyers guides.

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This review guide was updated in December 2018.


It is no secret that cheese tastes amazing and makes everything else taste better.

I for one, love it!

Sometimes we even want to spoil our furry feline friends and treat them with a nice piece of cheese.

Other times they gaze and guilt us into dropping few pieces their way.

But is it actually good for cats to eat cheese? The shortest and simplest answer would be no.

Simply stated, our nutritional needs are vastly different from our cats’ nutritional needs.

Some foods we commonly consume can wreak havoc on our cats’ digestive systems.

The list of foods cats must not eat is relatively short and includes foods like onions, garlic, grapes and raisins, chocolate and alcoholic drinks.

Although cheese is not named on this list, most veterinarians and feline nutritionist agree cheese is not best suited for cats.

Why cats are not supposed to eat cheese

The reasons why cheese is not recommended for cats can be classified into several categories:

  • Cats prefer carnivorous diet – Cats are classified as obligatory carnivores.This means that cats only need meat for thriving and survival.Therefore cheese and other dairy products are not part of the feline’s natural diet.
  • Most adult cats are lactose intolerant – It is a common misconception that cheese and other dairy products are good for felines.In fact, as cats mature to adulthood they have a tendency to become lactose intolerant.Lactose intolerant means that the cat’s body does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase needed for breaking down the milk sugar named lactose.

    Therefore lactose intolerant cats are unable to process dairy food.

    During the breastfeeding period, the kitten’s body produces enough lactase for proper breast milk digestion.

    After weaning the body stops producing lactase.

    Feeding lactose intolerant cats dairy products such as cheese results in stomach upset, thus causing vomiting, gassiness, and diarrhea or watery stool.

    Keep in mind that lactose intolerance in cats is not a health issue. It is the natural order of things and it does not require treatment.

    It is also important to remember that even though most adult cats are lactose intolerant it does not mean that all cats will be.

  • Cheese can be fattening for cats – Depending on its size the average adult cat needs 200-300 calories per day to maintain optimal body-weight.A single slice of cheese contains around 113 calories which is about half of the daily calorie intake needed.A problem occurs when the owner does not extract the cheese’s calories from the daily calories intake and regardless of the cheese treat feeds the cat her normal meals.

    That is fine, as long as it only happens on occasions. If the cat eats both cheese and normal amounts of the usual meals on a regular basis she will start putting on weight.

    Such cats are prone to obesity and at higher risk of suffering from obesity-related health issues like arthritis, diabetes, liver and kidney failure.

  • Cheese can be too salty for cats –  Cats have an extremely low need for salt.They only require around 21 milligrams of salt per day. According to the National Research Council, the recommended daily intake of salt for cats should not exceed 42 milligrams.A single slice of cheese contains around 400 milligrams of salt which is almost 10 times the recommended upper limit.

    Excess salt intake leads to higher thirst levels and more frequent urination, thus burdening the kidneys. High salt intake can also cause hypertension.

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Is all cheese bad for a cat?

The good news is that certain types of cheese can be classified as feline-friendly as long as they are used in small amounts.

The group of feline-friendly cheeses includes aged cheese varieties and hard cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss cheese, Parmesan or Gouda. These cheeses have lower lactose levels and high calcium and protein contents and are relatively easy to digest. Usually the harder the cheese the less lactose it contains.

Regarding the salt and fat, soft cheeses like Mozzarella, Cottage cheese, and Cream cheese have lower salt and fat contents. On the flip side, they contain higher lactose levels.

Feline-friendly cheeses can be used either raw or baked into treats. However, it is of imperative importance to remember that their safety is limited by their amount. Even the most appropriate cheese can be harmful if given in larger quantities.

If you insist on feeding your cat dairy, give her extremely small amounts at first and see how her digestive system handles it. If there are no issues, you can gradually increase the amount without exceeding the safe limit.

Should you Feed Your Cat Cheese Substitutes – yes or no

With so many cheese substitutes available on the today’s market, it is not unusual for cat owners to ask themselves whether cats can eat them.

Driven by the idea that reason number 1 why cats should not eat cheese is their lactose intolerance, it is easy to assume that low-lactose cheese varieties would be more cat appropriate. However, it should be noted, that even low-lactose cheese varieties have high caloric and salt contents.

Another option worth discussing would be vegan cheese. Vegan cheese does not contain lactose and its caloric value, salt content and fat content are lower than in regular cheeses. However, vegan cheese is not best suited for cats because vegan cheeses are soy based and most cats are allergic to soy.

When is it ok to give your cat a piece of cheese

Despite the previously stated facts, all cat parents know that cats love cheese. A smidgen of cheese can be more than useful in one particular case – getting a finicky cat to take its medicine.

Grinding up pills and putting the powder on cheese is a good way for sneaking medicines and tricking picky cats. In such cases, the benefits of the medicine exceed the drawbacks of feeding your cat cheese.

The final verdict on Whether cats can Eat Cheese or not

Although many human foods are safe for cats, a good general rule is that human foods should not make up for more than 15% of your cat’s diet. Non-processed foods like most fruits and vegetables are good for cats, but processed foods like cheese are usually not. Despite its palatability, cheese is not part of the cat’s natural diet.

In a nutshell, a tiny piece of feline-friendly cheese, here and there, is not likely to harm your cat.


Concerned your cat has eaten too much peanut butter? Check out our guide.

About the author

    Jenny Nolan

    Hey, I'm Jenny and along with Mom Sue the main contributor here at Cleaner Paws. As a mother-daughter partnership, we absolutely adore animals and together have over 40 plus years of pet grooming experience!

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