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The image of a cat blissfully enjoying a dairy treat is one of the most stereotyped. Yet, you’ve probably stumbled upon countless publications discouraging pet parents from sharing dairy products with their feline friends.
Determining how to proceed in the face of these glaring contradictions can prove challenging. And like any cat owner in your situation, you’re bound to wonder whether you can safely share yogurt with your feline companion without expecting negative reactions.
Well, those concerns shall be the focus of this post.
Can Cats Eat Yogurt?
Yes, cats can eat yogurt. Despite being a dairy product, yogurt is relatively safe and even potentially beneficial to cats.
However, cats should only consume yogurt in moderation. The product should never replace your feline’s staple food ingredients.
Besides, it’s best to only give your cat plain and unsweetened yogurt. As you shall find, most common yogurt flavorings present inherent risks to cats.
More About Yogurt
Yogurt, also commonly spelled as roghurt, roghourt, or rogourt, is a food product that results from the bacterial fermentation of milk.
Yogurt is one of the most popular dairy products. That’s mainly due to the combination of its yummy taste and dense nutritional profile.
How Is Yogurt Manufactured?
Yogurt is manufactured using bacteria known as yogurt cultures.
The process begins by heating milk, usually to about 185 °F or 85 °C. This helps to denature the proteins in milk, preventing them from forming curds.
The next step involves cooling the heated milk to about (113 °F).
Next, yogurt culture is added to the milk. The mixture is then fermented by subjecting it to a warm temperature of about 86 –113 °F for between 4 and 12 hours. Higher temperatures might produce faster results. But that could also cause whey separation and make the final product feel lumpy.
It’s also worth noting that most yogurt varieties are prepared using cow’s milk. However, the product may also be manufactured from the milk of water buffaloes, goats, sheep, camels, mares, and yaks.
How Is Yogurt Consumed?
There are numerous ways to consume yogurt. You can add the product to your breakfast or take it as a quick dessert. You can also consume yogurt as a tasty snack throughout the day.
What Does Yogurt Taste Like?
The taste of yogurt is described as tart. But that only applies to plain, unsweetened yogurt.
What Nutrients Does Yogurt Provide?
Plain yogurt contains 81% water, 9% protein, 5% fat, and 4% carbohydrates. The product also teems with minerals and vitamins.
They include vitamins B12, B2 (riboflavin), and B5 (pantothenic acid), as well as the minerals phosphorus, calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and selenium.
What Is Good About Yogurt For Cats?
Yogurt is rich in nutrients, many of which cats require in their diets. Below are some of those nutrients and how your feline friend might benefit from each of them;
Water constitutes over 80% of yogurt’s mass. Moisture-rich foods like yogurt can help fight dehydration in cats. Besides, water is involved in virtually all biological functions in a cat’s body.
Protein forms the foundation for the development of an animal’s muscles, tissues, and bones. That makes it the second most important nutrient after water.
Since yogurt is typically prepared using live cultures, the final product usually contains probiotics.
Probiotics can offer immense antioxidant benefits. The compounds are especially famous for their role in nourishing healthy gut microbiomes and guarding against metabolic and cardiovascular disorders.
All dairy products contain significant amounts of calcium, and yogurt is no exception. The biggest role of calcium in your cat’s body is supporting healthy bones and teeth.
5. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is the most abundant B-vitamin in yogurt, although the product provides decent amounts of all other B-complex vitamins.
Vitamin B12 works alongside vitamin B2 to protect your cat from cardiovascular diseases while also minimizing the risks of certain congenital defects.
6. Vitamin D
Natural yogurt doesn’t contain vitamin D. However, the vitamin is commonly fortified with the product during its manufacturing process.
Vitamin D is necessary for healthy bone development. It may also lower the risks of certain diseases in cats, including heart disease and anxiety disorders.
What Is Bad About Yogurt For Cats?
Most store-brand yogurts contain sugar and other sweeteners. Unfortunately, sweeteners can throw your cat’s blood sugar levels off balance.
Long-term exposure to sweetened yogurt might lead to dental issues and various weight-related ailments in cats, including obesity and diabetes. Besides, certain sweeteners like xylitol can be fatal to cats.
The potential risks of sweetened yogurt are due to the fact that cats produce very little amylase. Amylase is the enzyme that initiates carbohydrate digestion.
It’s also important to note that the risks of blood sugar issues aren’t entirely attributable to sweetened yogurt. Plain yogurt contains up to 4% carbohydrates, which is already too much for a cat’s body to handle.
Fat is another main ingredient in yogurt that cats shouldn’t consume. At least not in excess.
Although cats require a considerable amount of fat in their diets, fat-laden foods are the biggest risk factor for unhealthy weight gain.
Yogurt may contain useful bacteria in the form of probiotics. But if prepared using raw milk, the product could also harbor harmful bacteria.
Examples include Listeria, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli, Brucella, Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium. Ingesting any of these bacteria might cause gastroenteritis.
Traditionally prepared yogurt may be contaminated with aflatoxin-producing organisms, such as Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus nomius, and Aspergillus parasiticus. Exposure to these fungi might increase the risks of certain chronic diseases, including cancer.
Cats can develop allergic reactions to yogurt.
The allergy risks are usually high for cats consuming yogurt for the first time. But they can also occur among kitties that are sensitive to whey and casein proteins.
What of Lactose Intolerance?
Yogurt is a dairy product. As such, it contains the simple sugar lactose.
Now, adult cats cannot break down lactose so well. That’s because they do not secrete the lactose-digesting enzyme – lactase.
Note that all cats are born with the ability to produce lactase, which explains why kittens can safely consume dairy products. However, a cat’s body gradually loses that ability as soon as the animal is weaned.
The good news is that lactose isn’t such a big problem in yogurt as it is in other dairy products, such as fresh milk. The lactose content in most yogurts is usually small enough for your cat to break down. That’s especially considering that the product also comes with bacteria that may help kick-start lactose digestion.
When it comes to yogurt for cats, there are potential benefits and inherent risks. Fortunately, there’s a safe way to share yogurt with your feline friend without worrying about any adverse reactions.
Start by selecting yogurt prepared using pasteurized milk. This minimizes the risks of bacterial contamination.
Next, consider plain and unsweetened varieties. That’s especially if shopping for industrially-prepared yogurt.
It’s also recommended to feed your cat fresh yogurt as opposed to one that has been lying around for weeks. Otherwise, you might expose your canine friend to aflatoxins.
Most importantly, only give yogurt to your cat in small amounts and as an occasional snack.