Not many of us can resist the smell and taste of freshly melted butter. And that includes our cats as well.
You might have left your pancakes or waffles drenched in melted butter and maple syrup sitting on the counter. Only to see your cat happily licking up the pools of butter to your horror.
What happens when cats eat butter?
Is it safe for them?
Time to butter up and read on for the answer.
What Is In Butter?
Butter is considered a dairy product and is usually made from cow’s milk.
You can also find butter made from the milk of other mammals like goat and sheep.
It has a very high fat content with some protein.
Butter is made by churning milk until a firm consistency is formed. It is solid when cold and tends to melt at room temperature.
Is Butter Safe For Cats?
The majority of our cats can indulge in a buttery treat every now and then without any adverse reactions.
Eating butter won’t harm cats unless they have a very serious existing allergic reaction to anything containing dairy or lactose.
While many of us relish the creamy taste of butter, it’s essential to evaluate the safety of butter for our cats in greater detail.
Cats Are Lactose Intolerant
Many adult cats are lactose intolerant.
This might come as a surprise to many cat owners as cats are frequently portrayed as liking dairy.
Such misconceptions have led to many owners feeding their cats cheese and milk too often.
There’s a reason for this which I will touch on later.
Lactose intolerance stems from the body’s reduced ability to produce lactase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose found in dairy products such as butter.
This can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea, stomach upset, nausea and bloating.
The majority of cats can handle small amounts of butter but too much too often can definitely lead to gastrointestinal issues.
High In Fat
I am a butter fiend and love to slather generous amounts on my toasts and waffles. But that’s not a healthy option as butter is fattening.
Butter is a rich source of fat and can contribute to excessive calorie intake.
One tablespoon of butter has more than 100 calories which can make up a third of half of your cat’s daily calorie intake.
Consistently feeding your cat fatty foods like butter can lead to health issues such as:
- Feline obesity
- Liver disease
High In Salt
Most store-bought butter contains added salt to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life.
While small amounts of sodium are essential for your cat’s bodily functions, excessive salt intake can be harmful.
If you are already feeding your cat a proper diet, it is already getting all the sodium that it needs to stay healthy.
High salt consumption can lead to:
- Increase thirst and urination
- Kidney Failure
Cats that are experiencing sodium poisoning need medical attention immediately before it becomes life threatening.
Might Contain Toxic Ingredients
Take a look at the butter section at your grocery store and you can find butter being sold with added flavors and ingredients.
Butter that contains added herbs and spices in them aren’t good for cats.
Some of these ingredients can be toxic for your cat.
Butter that contains garlic or onion is a big no-no for cats as plants from the allium family are highly toxic to cats.
Ingesting even small amounts of these ingredients can cause your cat to become anemic due to the destruction of red blood cells in its body.
Symptoms include lethargy, weakness, decreased appetite, and pale gums.
Why Do Cats Lick Butter?
Cats love foods that are high in fat content.
Fat has more than 2x the calories than protein which makes it a great source of energy for cats.
As much as we love our cats and want to spoil them, eating butter or fatty foods is definitely not healthy for cats.
We as cat owners should not let our cats dictate what is good for them.
Cats are obligate carnivores and need a diet that is high in protein from a meat source.
Cats don’t have the enzymes to digest carbohydrates. But don’t be surprised to see your cat try to take a bite out of your banana bread or pancake.
How Much Butter Can I Give My Cat?
If your cat has never tasted butter before, there’s no point starting it now.
But if you have a cat that loves butter, make sure you only give it as a rare treat.
My cat gets some butter a few times a month which amounts to not more than a third of a teaspoon each serving.
As butter has a high fat content, a small serving of butter is enough to make a cat feel full and not want to eat its normal cat food.
This is not healthy as treats should only form 10-15% of your cat’s diet.
Can Cats Be Allergic To Butter?
It is possible for a cat to be allergic to butter. This is called a dairy allergy and it affects close to 10% of cats.
A dairy allergy isn’t the same as a cat that is lactose intolerant.
A cat that is lactose intolerant lacks the enzyme to break down lactose which is the sugar component found in dairy products.
A dairy allergy in cats means that the cat’s immune system is sensitive to the allergen called casein which is a protein found in milk.
Food allergies in cats can show as early as a few months old or when they are senior cats.
Some cats develop an allergy after being exposed to the allergen over a long period of time.
Symptoms Of Dairy Allergy
If your cat has such an allergy, eating too much butter or even some butter can trigger it.
Symptoms of dairy allergy include:
- Stomach upset
- Loss of appetite
- Skin irritation
- Loss of fur
- Weight loss
If your cat is showing the above symptoms please get it to the vet right away for treatment.
An allergic reaction in cats left untreated can lead to other health issues.
What Should I Do If My Cat Eats Butter?
There’s no need for you to panic if your cat has eaten a small amount of butter.
But if your cat has ingested a large amount or has eaten butter that contains toxic ingredients, please get it to the vet ASAP.
The vet might have to induce vomiting and provide other supportive treatments to stabilize your cat.
How To Wean Your Cat From Butter?
Cats that regularly eat butter should be closely monitored even though they aren’t showing negative symptoms.
You’re not doing your cat a disservice if you plan to stop its butter treat.
The best way to do it is cold turkey and replace it with a much healthier alternative like homemade cat treats.
If your cat is being difficult and not wanting to eat anything else if it doesn’t get its butter, slowly reduce the quantity and frequency till your cat is fine not having any.
I once had a colleague whose cat was addicted to cheese. And she had a bad habit of giving her cat a large slice daily.
I told her many times that that wasn’t healthy for the cat and has to be stopped.
My advice fell on deaf ears and unfortunately, her cat suddenly passed away one day in its sleep.
It may or may not be due to the dairy but I won’t be surprised if it contributed to the cat’s demise.
Can Cats Eat Butter For Hairballs?
Getting hairballs is a common occurrence for cats. Cats can spend up to 5 hours a day grooming themselves to remove loose fur.
All this fur gets collected in your cat’s digestive tract and gets expelled from vomiting or via its stool.
Some cat owners give their cats some butter to help lubricate the trapped hairballs making it easier for the cat to get rid of it.
If your cat has no dairy allergy and can handle butter well, a little butter every now and then to help with hairballs is ok.
There are other better natural remedies for hairballs that you can consider.
However, if your cat has a chronic hairball issue that has been affecting its health, eating butter isn’t going to help much.
What your cat needs is veterinary attention.
Is Butter Good For Cat Constipation?
Some butter to help ease your cat’s constipation is ok if given in small quantities.
But if your cat is suffering from constipation regularly, it is best to let the vet take a look to see if there are any underlying health issues that are causing this problem.
Butter isn’t the best solution for solving chronic constipation in cats.
You can try giving your cat some fresh pumpkin or psyllium husk to help regulate its bowel movement.
Constipation can also mean that your cat isn’t drinking enough water to soften its stools to be passed out easily.
Cats don’t have a strong thirst drive and the lack of water in them can be made worse with a dry food diet.
Try feeding your cat some homemade tuna water or broth to help increase its water intake. Most cats love the smell of tuna and will drink it.
Can You Use Vegan Butter For Cats?
For cat owners who are planning on using vegan butter as a healthier alternative, don’t bother.
Even though vegan butter might contain less lactose than normal butter, it still has a high fat content like normal butter.
Can Cats Eat Peanut Butter?
Some cat owners might think that feeding their cats peanut butter might be another alternative to butter.
One thing that you need to know is that nut allergy is very common in cats and should be avoided.
Feeding your cat peanut butter can also come with the following risks:
- Choking hazard
- High in cat
- Can contain toxic ingredients (chocolate, artificial sweeteners, etc)
Can Cats Eat Margarine?
Margarine is rather similar to vegan butter as it is made from plant matter rather than from the milk of mammals.
That being said, it still has the same high fat content as butter.
Cats that eat vegan butter are in fact eating margarine and should not be given too much of it.
Foods That Are Poisonous To Cats
Even though some human food is ok for cats as a treat or if they happen to consume it out of curiosity, there are certain foods that can cause serious harm or even death if eaten by your cat.
- Garlic and onions
- Grapes and raisins
- Raw eggs
- Human medicine
If your cat has eaten any of the above, it would be better to bring it to the vet right away for a check even though it is not showing any symptoms.
The good thing about butter is that it isn’t toxic to cats. So you don’t have to worry if your cat eats butter for the first time.
The bad thing is too much butter can cause health problems in cats in the long run.
Make sure to ration the amount of butter that your cat eats to prevent it from becoming a butterhead.