Pet Consider

Can I Give My Cat Probiotics?

Can I Give My Cat Probiotics?


When we first find out that our bodies contain higher numbers of bacteria than they do actual human body cells (really), we are horrified—school children shudder, adults obsessively Google search in the hopes that they’re being lied to, and people of all ages seriously consider dunking themselves in a giant vat of anti-bacterial hand soap. In recent years, however, many people (even doctors!) have begun to actively search for methods to encourage bacteria to colonize the insides of our body. We jump at the opportunity to supplement our diets with anything that markets itself as “prebiotic” or “probiotic.” Doctors and gurus alike are telling us that healthy gut bacteria are the key to fabulous overall health, so why wouldn’t we invite the little microbes into our bodies?

But, as pet owners, we always wonder if the things we do to improve our own health can apply to our pets, too. So, what about our furry friends? Can my cat have probiotics?

The answer appears to be yes, you can give your cat probiotics. There is no evidence that probiotics themselves are at all poisonous to cats, so you have no reason to fear if your cat gobbles up one of your probiotics by accident. In fact, it may be beneficial to supplement your cat’s diet with probiotics occasionally. Though it is usually safe to go ahead and give probiotics to your healthy cat, you may want to consult your veterinarian if your cat is currently ill, recovering from injury or surgery, pregnant, nursing, or taking any other medications. It’s always best to practice caution when adding anything new to your cat’s routine.

Health Benefits?

ProbioticsIt appears that many (if not most) cats can experience a multitude of health benefits if they receive probiotics. Probiotics exist both in supplements and in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, but regardless of their source, they are thought to support healthy digestion, boost immunity, and lower the risk of many diseases. Probiotics are loaded with healthy gut bacteria that, when consumed, move in and make their homes inside your cat’s digestive system. This is good partly because it acts as a buffer against bad bacteria that can cause disease—there is only so much space inside your cat’s gut, and if it’s occupied by good bacteria, there’s nowhere for the disease-causing pathogens to live!

These healthy bacteria survive by feeding on partially digested food, as well as other waste products that end up in your cat’s colon. And, unlike bad bacteria, good bacteria’s metabolisms produce waste products that can actually improve feline health. Among these waste products are short-chain fatty acids that may help prevent the growth and replication of competing bad bacteria. So, not only do probiotics boost the numbers of good bacteria within your cat’s gut—they also reduce the number of bad bacteria.

Unfortunately, there have not been too many studies on probiotics and cats, but there have been several studies performed on humans and other animals. These studies suggest that probiotic supplements may help prevent or alleviate the symptoms of many digestive problems, including constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, hairballs, and even irritable bowel syndrome. Because probiotics are thought to improve digestion and reduce inflammation, they may also help with allergies—particularly food allergies or allergy symptoms that manifest on your cat’s skin.

Because probiotics improve digestion, they may also boost absorption of certain important nutrients. This can reduce your cat’s chances of suffering from harmful vitamin deficiencies, boost their immune system, and lower the risk of infection or chronic disease.

Probiotics can be especially important for cats who have depleted the number of healthy bacteria in their gut. Vomiting, diarrhea, and antibiotics often decimate the microbiome, so it may be necessary to supplement your cat’s diet with probiotics to help restore a healthy digestive system.

Things to Consider

The downside to probiotics: it can be hard to find a good one. Supplements are poorly regulated, so many of them don’t even contain the living bacteria necessary to colonize your cat’s gut. The best bacteria for cats appear to be Enterococcus Faecium, Bifidobacterium Thermophilum, and Lactobacillus Casei. Look for supplements that market themselves as “food grade” or “human grade,” because these products meet the requirements necessary for human consumption. This means that they have higher safety standards, so there is lower risk of contamination. As a general rule, the best probiotics will have few other ingredients aside from the bacteria colonies and possibly some digestive enzymes. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a specific brand.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it is perfectly safe (and most likely beneficial) to give your cat a high quality probiotic from time to time. Probiotics are thought to improve digestion, boost immunity, and protect against short-term infections as well as chronic diseases. If your cat seems to struggle with any probiotic supplement, stop giving it to them and consult a vet.

 

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