Can I Give My Cat Butter?
So, can cats have butter? What are the benefits and risks associated with feeding butter to your cat? Are buttered carrots going to send Fluffy to the vet, or can they serve as a staple in her diet?
When it comes to butter and cats, the relationship (health-wise, anyway) is pretty similar to the one between butter and people: while they probably SHOULD avoid eating butter to maintain optimal health, they CAN eat butter without suffering from any immediate adverse effects. Unlike potentially deadly foods like onions or raisins, butter is not toxic to cats in any way that is life-threatening. For our cats (and for us), butter is junk food. Though you can feed your cat food containing small amounts of butter as a rare treat, the best policy is to avoid feeding your cat this fatty condiment whenever possible.
Are there any potential benefits to feeding your cat butter? Not really—your cat is an obligate carnivore, which means that their body has evolved to meet its nutritional needs primarily by eating meat foods. In addition, most adult mammals (including cats!) can’t digest milk products very well. Once they stop drinking their mother’s milk, cats often experience a big drop in the amount of lactase that they produce. Lactase is required to properly digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. This means that your adult cat may suffer from symptoms of lactose intolerance if they eat a substantial amount of butter. These symptoms include upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. Though it’s worth noting that butter contains less lactose than pure milk, some cats can’t handle any form of dairy. If your cat has shown signs of lactose sensitivity in the past, be careful giving them any butter.
So what about kittens, who are full of lactase? Unfortunately, their little bodies still aren’t properly calibrated for dairy products. From a nutritional perspective, dairy products like butter are very high in fat and don’t contain the correct balance of protein to be worthwhile. If your kitten is young enough to be drinking mother’s milk, you probably shouldn’t be feeding them anything else!
Even if your cat’s stomach can withstand the occasional helping of buttered carrots, it’s important to practice moderation. Butter is full of fat and calories, which can cause health problems in the long run. Butter’s high calorie content comes with no fiber and little in the way of micro-nutrients, so it’s easy for your cat to eat too much.
The road to feline obesity is paved in butter, and obesity increases your cat’s chances of all sorts of dangerous illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers. Carrying excess weight can also hurt your cat’s joints, raise their risk of lung problems, and shorten their lifespan. If your cat already struggles to maintain a healthy weight, avoid feeding them anything containing butter.
Things to Keep in Mind
Some people recommend feeding your cat butter as a way of treating hairballs. This is unnecessary—unlike consuming butter, coughing up hairballs are a perfectly natural part of your cat’s biology, no matter how unpleasant we find them. If you’re worried that your cat may have a problem that requires some assistance, take them to the vet’s office instead of feeding them fatty foods.
Though it isn’t toxic to your cat, there are no health benefits to feeding them butter. This rich dairy product does contain some lactose, which many cats can’t digest properly. It also contains extremely high amounts of fat and calories, which can put your cat on the fast track to obesity, pancreatitis, and other weight-related health problems. If you choose to feed your cat butter as a treat, keep the servings small and infrequent.