A hairless cat about to eat from a bowl of cheese. Photography © ElenaBoronina | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Can Cats Eat Cheese? Get the Facts About Cats and Cheese

Can cats eat cheese? And if cats can eat cheese, are there certain types of cheese to avoid and how much cheese can cats have?
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Don’t be fooled by the famous pop culture images of cats lapping up milk. It turns out that cow’s milk isn’t actually all that good for cats. In fact, cats are more or less lactose intolerant because their digestive systems aren’t able to produce enough enzymes to properly digest cow’s milk. But does that lactose sensitivity extend to cheese? Can cats eat cheese?

Can cats eat cheese? The basics

An orange tabby kitten sniffing at a cheese board with small hearts on it.
Can cats eat cheese? Photography © Okssi68 | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Jenna Mahan, Director of Claims for Embrace Pet Insurance, says that — in small amounts — cheese made from plain cow’s milk is safe for cats. Cheese isn’t a healthy part of a cat’s diet … but it’s also not a dangerous treat.

So, why isn’t cheese healthy for cats? Think back to the aforementioned lactose sensitivity. Most cheese has cow’s milk and cow’s milk is hard for kitties to digest. “Cats become lactose intolerant after weaning, so any rich dairy, such as cheese, should be offered only sparingly,” cautions Emmy award-winning veterinarian, Dr. Jeff Werber.

Can cats eat cheese that’s not made from cow’s milk?

But can cats eat cheese that’s made from something other than cow’s milk? Goat’s milk is a bit easier for cats to digest, so goat cheese is a slightly better snack option for your cat.

Can cats eat cheese — as a treat?

So, can cats eat cheese — even in small amounts, maybe as a treat? Small amounts of cheese are safe for cats and might be useful if you need your cat to do something she doesn’t like to do, like take medicine.

Always consult with your veterinarian before feeding your cat cheese in this manner, but with most cats you can hide a pill in a small amount of cheese.

What cheeses should cats not eat?

So, the answer to, “Can cats eat cheese?” seems to be that it’s safe to share a little bit of cheese with your cat on occasion. But are there types of cheeses you shouldn’t share with your cat?

Jenna says that cat parents should avoid feeding their cats blue cheese. The good thing is that blue cheese is a type of cheese that isn’t likely to attract most cats.

In addition, Dr. Werber says that sticking with the simplest cheeses are best. The richer the cheese, the more you should avoid sharing it with your cat, he advises.

Quantity is also a big concern when it comes to giving cheese to your cats. If you give your cat cheese, only give your cat a very small amount.

What are the side effects of cats eating cheese?

“Since cheese contains lactose it may affect some cats with noxious side effects, mainly gas and diarrhea,” explains Jenna. Because cats are lactose intolerant, some cats will experience dietary upset with cheese.

My youngest cat loves the occasional cheese snack and thankfully has never had any dietary upsets from cheese. If your cat shows any signs of sickness after eating just a bit of cheese, try another snack instead.

Plus, do YOU love cheese? Check out these four healthy cheese options to feel good about >>

Thumbnail: Photography © ElenaBoronina | iStock / Getty Images Plus. 

About the author:

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author whose novels have been honored by the American Library Association and the Lambda Literary Foundation. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor who shares her home and writing life with three dogs, two bossy senior cats and a formerly feral kitten. Learn more at sassafraslowrey.com.

Read more about what cats can — and can’t — eat on Catster.com:

13 thoughts on “Can Cats Eat Cheese? Get the Facts About Cats and Cheese”

  1. The author of this article claims that the bad’ thing in cheese making it less desirable for cats is the lactose. The problem is, many cheeses, particularly the hard, aged cheeses like Parmesan, Swiss, and cheddar, have only trace amounts of lactose. The bacterial process that takes place in aging breaks down the lactose. Even lactose intolerant people can safely eat these cheeses.
    If lactose is the only consideration, then those cheeses are perfectly safe for cats and make good treats (which is why they are in some processed foods treats for cats). Simply stay away from the soft cheeses.
    The author is remiss in either not understanding or explaining this.

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for reaching out! The main point here is that cheese is a “people” food … and just about any sort of people food isn’t ideal for cats. https://www.catster.com/cat-food/what-foods-are-toxic-to-cats

      However, harder / aged cheeses don’t pose AS MUCH of a lactose problem as the softer cheeses.

  2. Our cats (3) love Norwegian Brown Cheese. We LOVE IT, so they only get a tiny touch of it. It is called Gjestost. It comes in small blocks or a big wheel and quite expensive. I am Norwegian, you can get it at Central Market or special cheese stores. I believe it is made from goats milk! One uses a flat utinsel with handle that has a slit in it and you pull it across the cheese block for thin slices, it is best on warm homemade bread for breakfast! Yum! Also good on lefsa!

      1. Hi there Jeff,

        Thanks for reaching out! We suggest contacting your vet to see if lutefisk is right for your cat.

  3. My little 17 yr old Calico girl loves feta cheese. She instinctively knows I bought feta and starts yowling. Something she never did until she got older.

  4. Goat’s milk products are better for cats and dogs. I use raw, organic goat’s milk Kiefer for mine and they love it. Whatever you feed them make sure it is organic or you will be giving your furry ones antibiotics, growth hormones and heaven knows what else.

  5. Whenever I make a bowl of mac and cheese and get called away for something, when I return my cat Shadow will have his face buried in it, going to town!

  6. My vet actually suggested using the canned Squeezy Cheese to give a cat a pill – she said she’s never had a cat that didn’t like canned cheese, and it’s true all my babes have loved the stuff, even wrapped around a pill. I also give my boy a nibble of cheese when I’ve got a sandwich, but my little girl isn’t interested.

  7. My vet suggested a teaspoon of plain yogurt for our cat with bad breath. It didn’t help her breath but she enjoyed having it. (We quit giving her yogurt after the new vet pulled 2 odd teeth out and her breath got so much better.) She also likes a small bit of string cheese asa treat.
    We used to have a cat that was crazy for cheese and you couldn’t take any out of the fridge without her suddenly right there to get some.

  8. If milk was raw like it used to be, complete with enzymes, it might be a different story. At this point, even we shouldn’t drink milk. It was made for baby cows to put on weight and grow fast.

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