Many cats love dairy foods. The stereotypical cat loves milk, though it may upset most actual cat’s stomachs. But, what about cream cheese? While cream cheese isn’t toxic to cats, it isn’t exactly the best option for them either.
Cream cheese is a dairy product, but it is much higher in fat and quite concentrated when compared to other dairy products out there. Some cats crave this high-fat food but may be unable to digest it properly.
Some cats may be particularly drawn to cream cheese, while other cats may not bother it much at all. Whether your cat seems to sneak cream cheese every time you turn around or not, you may want to think twice about letting your feline feast away. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to keep in mind when giving your feline cream cheese.
The Potential Downsides of Cream Cheese
Cream cheese contains the sugar lactose, as do most other dairy products. This sugar requires a specific enzyme called lactase to break it down. Otherwise, it won’t be digested properly and can cause stomach upset, though these symptoms are often not severe.
While cats have lactase in their digestive tract as kittens, they do not continue to have this enzyme into adulthood. By the time a kitten is a few months old, the lactase is mainly gone. This leaves their digestive tract similar to humans with lactose intolerance. Some lactase will remain, but it will be insignificant compared to the amount of lactose found in cream cheese.
Not all cats will develop this type of lactose intolerance. Some do just fine with dairy products as they grow older. Different cats will continue to possess different levels of lactase as they age. However, unlike people, the vast majority of cats will be lactose intolerant. The ability to digest lactose properly will be a rare event in the cat world.
Cream cheese does contain less lactose than other dairy products, like milk. However, it still contains more than most cats can handle, which is why we don’t recommend cats consume it. Cream cheese also contains quite a bit of fat, which can be a problem by itself.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they were made to live on a diet that consisted of meat. This also means they thrive on high protein and fat levels, as these are the things meat contains. However, cream cheese contains very high-fat levels – more than most cats can comfortably digest at once. Even if your feline can handle the lactose, they may be unable to handle the excess amount of fat.
Potential Symptoms After Eating Cream Cheese
If your cat consumes cream cheese, it likely won’t experience any severe symptoms. Like people with lactose intolerance, they often experience stomach pain and diarrhea. Their stomach may feel upset and cramp, and they will likely be more prone to accidents outside the litterbox. Usually, the symptoms pass after a few days when the lactose has left their system.
Of course, some cats have a more severe reaction to others. If your cat experiences severe diarrhea, it may be at risk of dehydration, which can be pretty serious. If your feline’s condition worsens, you may need to visit a vet to get your cat fluids through an IV. While diarrhea is rarely deadly, it can be if it leads to severe dehydration.
Vomiting is quite rare with cream cheese. The digestive tract typically doesn’t get irritated until the treat has moved through the system a bit – at which point vomiting doesn’t make much sense. However, some cats may have a faster reaction, which can potentially cause vomiting. This is especially true if they are sensitive to fat.\
What Are Some Alternatives to Cream Cheese?
The best treats and snacks for felines are those made of mostly meat. Freeze-dried chicken and other meats are great options, as cats evolved to live off meat anyway. You can find these sorts of treats at most pet stores. You can also make your treats by cooking unseasoned meat. Be sure that the treats never take up most of the cat’s diet, as they need to primarily be eating their cat food or a similar, formulated diet.
Home-cooked diets are possible, but these contain more than meat and must be formulated to ensure your feline receives all the nutrients they need.
If you decide to cook up your meat treats, then be sure you do not use any seasonings. Many seasonings are toxic to cats in large amounts.
While cream cheese is not blatantly toxic to cats, lactose can cause many felines digestive problems. It is often best to avoid cream cheese for this reason and opt for other treats instead. Some cats do fine with the lactose, as they retain enough lactase to digest it into adulthood. Still, these cats may be bothered by the excess fat, which can also cause digestive upset.
Many cats are drawn to dairy, but that doesn’t mean it is good for them. If your feline snuck some cream cheese behind your back, then there is likely no reason to worry. They may experience some digestive upset, but the symptoms usually aren’t severe.
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