I’m not the best of cooks and when I have guests over, my secret weapon is to use lots of parmesan cheese. The flavor power of this parmesan cheese can turn an acceptable tasting dish into something incredible (you can thank me later).
Call me a cheese head but I love most cheeses except for blue cheese which makes me gag. No prices for guessing that my go-to cheese is always parmesan cheese for its rich, tangy and bold flavor profile. My cat would agree with you as well because he goes bonkers when I take it out from the fridge.
I might get disapproving frowns from the hardcore cat-raising purists but I do feed my cat parmesan cheese from time to time. But can cats eat parmesan cheese safely?
Most cats can eat parmesan cheese without any problems provided that it is only given in small quantities. Not many cat owners are aware that cats are lactose intolerant and too much cheese or dairy products can cause problems with your cat’s digestive system.
Let us take a look at why even though parmesan cheese is considered safe for cats, it might not be the best thing for your cat.
What Exactly Is Parmesan Cheese?
To some of us, all cheeses kinda taste alike with some stinkier than others. I used to be this way too until a friend of mine dragged me to a cheese appreciation workshop.
Like most cheeses, Parmesan cheese is made from milk, salt and bacteria culture. Full cream milk is allowed to rest in huge containers to let the cream rise to the top. The creamy top is then removed from the milk and whipped into butter.
Once the cream is removed, the milk, which is now skimmed milk, is mixed with some whole milk and heated up. Rennet which is an enzyme commonly used in making cheese is added into the mix.
This mixture will then start to curdle and coagulate within 24 hours and drained of liquid before. The dry curd will be soaked in a brine solution for a few weeks to absorb some of that salty goodness.
The final stage is to be patient and wait for the cheese to age which can take anywhere between 12-72 months.
Real authentic parmesan cheese is made in northern Italy. Not quite the kind of knock-offs that we get in supermarkets these days.
Can our Cats Eat Parmesan Cheese Without Issues?
Well, yes and no.
To further understand the impact of cheese on your cat’s diet, we will have to take a closer look at your cat’s natural diet.
Cats are what we call obligate carnivores, I am quite a carnivore myself but I still do need my carbs and fiber too. An obligate carnivore like a cat needs a diet that is very high in protein. Not just any kind of protein but animal protein.
Our feline friends need this particular diet to survive and be healthy. This means that your cat wouldn’t be in very good shape if you just fed it tofu all day long.
This makes planning for your cat’s diet very simple because it doesn’t need macronutrients like carbs, sugar and fiber.
Here are some reasons why eating parmesan cheese might not be too good for your cat.
Most Cats Are Lactose Intolerant
9 out of 10 times, I will get a look of bewilderment when I tell other cat owners that they should not be feeding their cats milk.
The most common reply to that is usually “But isn’t that what they always feed hungry cats in the movies and on TV?”
Yes, but they can also leap off burning buildings on screen and end up alive. Don’t put too much weight into what you see from Hollywood.
Cats do not fare too well with dairy products because they are lactose intolerant. This doesn’t just mean parmesan cheese but also cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, etc. Basically, any dairy product that has been made from animal milk.
My cat has a love-hate affair with butter. He loves it when I offer him a small lick but hates it when I tell him no more. When I have my morning toast with butter, he is just there in my face hoping to get a lick.
Any living thing that has lactose intolerance lacks the lactase enzyme which is needed to break down the lactose in milk.
The only time when cats aren’t lactose intolerant is when they are kittens. But the important to know is that a mother cat’s milk doesn’t contain as much lactose as cow’s milk which makes it easier for the kittens to digest.
Some of my friends will call me to ask why on earth are their cats having explosive diarrhea. And it is almost always due to the ingestion of dairy products.
The ingestion of dairy products in cats can cause:
- Itchy skin
The above would also apply to anyone who has been feeding their dogs a high amount of dairy products. Although dogs do have a higher tolerance than cats, many canines are lactose intolerant as well.
Parmesan Cheese Is High In Salt
One thing about cheese which makes it tastes so good when eaten alone or in your dish is its saltiness. The brininess of cheeses just adds so much flavor to our food.
Here’s a culinary tip, never forget to grate a generous serving of parmesan cheese on top of your homemade meatballs. The cheese can do wonders for the taste. Don’t be surprised to see your cat asking for a meatball while you eat.
As yummy as it may be for us, the high sodium content for cats can cause a lot of health issues.
That being said, you don’t have to strip your cat’s diet completely free of salt. Both humans and animals need a certain amount of salt in their diets to be healthy.
Salt helps to:
- Contract and relax muscles
- Conduit for nerve impulses
- Helps with thyroid function
- Maintains hydration in the body
The problem here is when our cats are eating too much salt than they actually need.
On average, a cat needs about 20-40 mg of sodium in its daily diet. If you are feeding your cat a good and balanced diet, this need should be met without much problem.
Just so you know, 1 oz (30g) of parmesan cheese contains a whopping 433mg of sodium. That can be more than 10-20x the amount of salt that your cat needs.
Doesn’t seem very healthy to me.
Too much sodium in your cat’s diet can cause the following health problems:
- Excessive thirst
- Lack of appetite
Too much salt leads to salt poisoning in cats which can happen very easily if you are not careful. Feeding your cat a lot of human food can already cause such problems.
Parmesan Cheese Is High In Fat
Similar to sodium, fat is something that is needed in our daily diet but can turn unhealthy quickly when eaten in large amounts. Some fat is needed for healthy cell development and metabolic functions.
My cat is on a raw meat diet which means that he takes in a fair amount of animal fat. Out in the wild, cats hunt live prey like mice, rabbits and small critters. Once caught the cat will devour the entire prey and its fat content.
But when your cat starts to eat parmesan cheese on a regular basis which has 8g of fat per oz, that is way too much fat for its own good. Imagine a cat owner feeding the cat scrambled eggs with parmesan cheese for breakfast, that isn’t the healthiest of breakfast for a cat.
More than 50% of our cats in the United States alone are overweight which isn’t good news. An overweight cat can face many health issues:
- Heart diseases
- High blood pressure
- Joint pain
- Skin disease
You don’t have to weigh your cat’s food intake to 2 decimal places before feeding it. As long as you follow the proper guidelines and feed your cat a high-quality diet rich in animal protein, the rest will take care of itself.
What Happens If My Cat Eats A Little Cheese?
I wouldn’t worry too much about it if you plan to give your cat a little small amount of parmesan cheese as a treat.
As much as it can be hard to say no to our cats, you need to make sure these it is only given as a rare treat and in very small amounts. Do not leave the whole block of parmesan cheese out in the open and allow your cat access to it.
Be mindful when feeding your cat snacks that contain cheese such as white cheddar popcorn. Such snacks contain cheese as well and are very high in salt.
If by any chance your cat has eaten a lot more cheese than it should, it might be a good idea to take your cat to the vet for a check. If the vet thinks that it could pose a health problem, your cat will be made to vomit everything out before it gets problematic.
What Kind Of Cheese Can A Cat Eat?
Cats can eat most cheeses without them being toxic to the cat. But if you want to be extra careful stick to cheeses that have lesser lactose in them like hard cheeses and goat cheese.
Do not feed your cat any cheeses that contain ingredients that are toxic to cats like garlic, onion, grapes, chocolate and citrus fruits.
Can Cats Eat Parmesan Crisps?
Parmesan crisps are just grated Parmesan cheese that are lumped together and baked in the oven until they are melted down to form a little biscuit.
A little small bite is fine but I wouldn’t give my cat the whole crisp as a treat or snack.