Is Yogurt Safe For My Cat?

Can cats eat yogurt? What a random question, right?

Well, it may appear that way at first glance. After all, some pet owners take the “my pet cannot eat ‘people food’ no matter what or they will die” approach. While dramatic, there are reasons why pet owners believe their pets should stick to pet food, and they are valid.

There are plenty of foods you should NOT give your cat, including raw meat or eggs, milk, grapes, raisins, or chocolate. Cats are natural carnivores and should be fed meaty cat food as the primary staple in their diet.

In fact, I took my cat, Libby, to the vet this summer for her shots, and even though she was healthy, the vet asked about her diet. At that point, her diet primarily consisted of dry cat food with the occasional can of tuna. My vet said that cats need “wet” meaty cat food primarily, and I could supplement with dry food sometimes. So, off to Petsmart I went to fill up on canned cat food, and you know, it has made the biggest difference in Libby. She is more energetic, is less skittish, sleeps better, and is, overall, a healthier, happier pet!

However, back to my question: can cats eat yogurt? This is a good question. Let’s take a deeper look.

What can my Cat eat?

Grown cats do not have the amylases enzyme, which means they cannot digest sugar. They don’t even want sugar (can you imagine?!) because their tongues don’t have the sensors to detect the sweetness. So, anything with sugar is off-limits for a cat.

As a kitten grows, their body stops creating the enzyme to digest lactose, which usually occurs around 12 weeks, and they become lactose intolerant. Some cat owners do not realize this, which is why they continuously give their cat milk or cream, only to wonder why their poor kitty throws it all up.

Yogurt, however, is a different story. Yes, yogurt is considered dairy, but the natural bacterial in live yogurt cultures, the Streptococcus thermophiles and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, breaks down the lactose in the lactic acid through the fermentation process. This acidic fermentation of lactose leaves little lactose remaining in yogurt.

This means that yogurt, in small amounts, is suitable for cats, and most cats are drawn to it because they still want the milk they drank when they were kittens.

So, does this mean you can go out and buy all the yogurt on the shelves? Not so fast. (Keep reading).

What Health Benefits can my Cat get from Yogurt?

Under extensive research, most veterinaries say that feeding cats small amount of plain, unsweetened yogurt can benefits a cat’s health.

Plain, unsweetened, Greek yogurt is best for cats. It is safe, and it offers a bunch of nutrients and probiotics. Greek yogurt, or strained yogurt, differs from regular, sweeter yogurt because making Greek yogurt adds the extra step of draining excess water and lactose. What’s left is a rich, creamy yogurt with less sugar, more carbs, and a tarter taste.

Here are the vitamins and minerals people and cats get from Greek yogurt:

  • Protein
  • Probiotics
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B2
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Sodium

One serving (one cup, which is way too much for a cat) is packed with nutrients and protein. A single serving, depending on the brand, has between 12 to 17 grams of protein. As we know, protein is a building block, since the body uses protein to build bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, hair, even blood.

Here are some other health benefits that Greek yogurt offers to your cat:

  • The magnesium in Greek yogurt helps your cat absorb other vitamins and proteins :

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is present in some foods, including Greek yogurt. There are plenty of benefits from magnesium, including improving heart health, bone health, and relieving anxiety. The presence of magnesium also aids your cat’s body to absorb other vitamins and proteins.

  • The calcium in Greek yogurt strengthens bones, muscles, and teeth :

Just like in humans, calcium is essential for cats. Calcium is known for its ability to strengthen bones, muscles, and teeth in cats. Calcium is also vital for bone health,

  • Yogurt helps improve nerve function :

The potassium in yogurt helps strengthen the nerves and muscles in your cat. This is an essential nutrient that we all need for cardiovascular health.

  • Yogurt can help aid your cat’s digestive system :

Because yogurt contains living bacteria and probiotics, it can be beneficial for your cat’s digestive system and bowel health. In fact, small amounts of yogurt have been used to treat some causes of diarrhea in cats.

In addition, yogurt can help your cat digest hairballs by soothing any inflammation in the throat or the stomach.

The good bacteria in yogurt can help restore a healthy bacterial balance within your cat’s gut.

  • Yogurt can help keep your cat’s teeth strong and white, while preventing gum disease :

The live cultures in yogurt are helpful at keeping your cat’s teeth whiter, healthier, and also helps prevent gum disease as it maintains balanced flora in your cat’s mouth.

  • Yogurt can help boost your cat’s immune system :

Because yogurt is packed with vitamins, protein, and probiotics, it helps fight off infections and harmful bacteria while giving your cat’s immune system a boost.

What is the Best Yogurt for Cat?

Unflavored, unsweetened Greek yogurt is your best choice since it is full of live cultures and healthy bacteria. Don’t think that a flavor like vanilla or chocolate will be tastier–remember, cats don’t taste sugar, and they cannot digest it.

Also, and this is a big deal, vanilla extract sometimes contains ethanol, and this tiny amount of liquor could be deadly to your cat.

Look at labels before buying a yogurt. If a label lists any ingredient made with corn sweetener, fructose, glucose, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, fruit juice concentrate, or any type of syrup, avoid it since all those are fancy words for sugar.

In addition, a word about xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in some food products. This sweetener can produce seizures in cats and liver failure a day or so after it’s ingested. Make sure the yogurt you choose is not sweetened with xylitol!

What about the “fruit on the bottom” types? Strawberries and blueberries with no added sugar are usually fine for cats. The extra vitamins that these fruits provide are beneficial, but your cat may not care for the texture, so don’t be surprised if he doesn’t eat the fruit.

The best Greek yogurt is the plain, unsweetened, low-fat, kind with the least number of additives and sugar or sugar substitutes.

How much Yogurt do I give my Cat?

When introducing yogurt to your cat, start with a teaspoon in her bowl. More than that may make her sick, especially when you are just introducing it to her.

See how she reacts, and if she eats it up and seems OK, you can start giving her 2-3 teaspoons a couple days a week. She doesn’t need more than this; remember yogurt is a supplement. It is not a necessary part of her diet.

If your cat is having digestive issues including diarrhea or constipation, you can add 2-3 teaspoons of yogurt to his food. The probiotics from the yogurt may help alleviate these discomforts. However, if your cat continues to suffer, it’s time to take him to the vet as there may be another underlying issue.

Some other considerations

Some cats are allergic to yogurt, and if they eat it, they will get sick. When introducing yogurt to your cat, start slowly with a teaspoon and see how she reacts to it before introducing it into her diet regularly. If it makes her sick, don’t give her anymore.

There’s also a chance your cat may not like yogurt. If he takes a bite and walks away, it’s fine. Don’t try to force yogurt on your cat.

Always make sure the yogurt you feed your cat is within date and fresh. Never feed him an out of date yogurt.

Make sure you clean your cat’s bowl after he eats out of it. I know this sounds obvious, but sometimes us pet owners forget since our pets “lick it clean” anyways. Cleaning with soap and water will help prevent illness in pets.

What about kittens? Can you give them yogurt?

Remember, kittens are still producing the enzyme lactose in the first few months of their lives since they are able to digest milk. They don’t necessarily need yogurt at all since they are getting the vitamins and minerals they need. It is not advisable to give a kitten yogurt.

Bottom Line – Can Cats eat Yogurt?

Yogurt (particularly Greek yogurt) can be beneficial to cats in small doses. Make sure it is plain and does not contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. Remember– cats are carnivores, so yogurt can serve as a supplement to their quality cat food. Yogurt should make up less than 10% of your cat’s diet and should not be consumed daily.

David Fields is a long-time animal lover and has been blessed to share his life with many companions. A short list includes ragdoll cats, siberian husky and greyhound dogs, an African Grey parrot, many fish of all sorts, and a pandemonium of parakeet. He writes most of the articles on iPetCompanion and is regularly featured on other popular websites on the Internet.