Probiotics for Cats - 11 Frequently Asked Questions
Probiotics have had a lot of good press in recent years, as a digestive aid and health support supplement – in cats as well as people.
They’re live bacteria and yeasts that can keep a cat’s gut healthy by ensuring strong proportions of “good” or “helpful” bacteria. They occur naturally in the digestive system, but you can also add them to your cat’s diet through certain foods or through manufactured supplements in both tablet and liquid forms, or even in specially produced treats.
But are probiotics for cats a good idea? Can probiotics be helpful for cat health? Will it harm your cat if you give them probiotic supplements? How often should you give your cat probiotics?
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about probiotics for cats, and we’ll review three popular products that you can consider for your pussin.
How do probiotics work?
You cat’s digestive system is filled with billions of live micro-organisms that help to regulate digestion and support their immune system function. Ensuring your pussin has plenty of healthy bacteria in their gut is an excellent way to ensure they stay healthy. Adding probiotics to your cat’s diet can help to treat or prevent a range of illnesses and diseases, especially those that are related to the gastro-intestinal system.
Just like in people, the gastro-intestinal system in cats plays a huge role in their overall health. When a cat suffers from digestive issues, their overall health can suffer too.
Cats can experience a range of tummy troubles. Maybe your cat has had a short-term infection and has had antibiotic treatment – that can upset the balance of good and bad bacteria in their gut. Sometimes a cat will eat something they shouldn’t, or they might groom themselves too much and end up with too much fur in their stomach. And of course, pussins can also suffer from longer-term gastro-intestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease or other chronic conditions.
All of these illnesses can upset the balance of bacteria in the gut. Adding probiotics to your cat’s diet can help to support their immune system by quickly re-establishing the colonies of good bacteria.
What kinds of probiotics are there?
Probiotic strains for cats are different to the ones you might know for humans. There are many different varieties out there, but those that work best in cats are complementary, and each of them perform a different kind of function.
- Bifidobacterium – this strain lives in the small intestine. It’s primarily involved with effective and healthy digestion
- Enterococcus – this strain lives in the large intestine and it helps to maintain the health of the colon and produce normal feces.
Acidophilus, saccharomyces boulardii and lactobacillus are some other well-known bacterial strains that can assist with probiotic use.
Of course, the best way to ensure your pet has all the probiotics they need is by feeding them a minimally-processed, species-specific diet. For many cats that means no kibble, as kibble doesn’t occur naturally in the wild – but fresh meat alone won’t have the necessary bacteria that they would gain by eating whole prey such as birds or other small animals.
So often a supplement can be a good idea. When you’re choosing a supplement, it’s important to make sure that it has at least these two different strains in the same product. And of course, you should look for a product that has the highest amount of bacteria you can find, as this will help to establish the healthy colonies quicker, making the supplement more effective.
When should you give your cat probiotics?
If your cat has a chronic condition or illness, such as IBD, or has recently had a course of antibiotic treatment, this can be a good time to think about probiotic support.
And if you’ve noticed other signs of an upset tummy, such as a lower appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or changes in their toileting, that can also be a time to consider adding probiotics to help promote immune system health.
Of course, you should always have these symptoms checked by a veterinarian, especially if they persist for longer than a day or two. It’s important to remember that probiotics are NOT a cure. They can be a helpful addition, but not always. Proper veterinary advice is essential. Your cat might be experiencing a more serious issue that needs specific treatment.
Can you give your cat probiotics for humans?
It might be tempting to give your cat the same kind of probiotics that you take. But the micro-organisms in a cat’s digestive system are unique to their species, and they’re different to the one we have in ours. If you’re thinking about giving your cat probiotics, it’s better to choose a product that is designed especially for felines.
Always check with your vet before introducing probiotics
If you’re thinking of adding probiotic supplements to your cat’s diet, it’s critical to check with your vet first. Don’t just go out and buy them and start feeding them to your pussin! Some probiotics need to be introduced slowly, others can’t be paired with antibiotic treatment, and some can cause overdose-effects that can serious compromise or worsen your cat’s health.
Three products to consider discussing with your veterinarian
Purina Fortiflora Nutritional Supplement for Cats
This product is designed specially to help manage and shorten diarrhea and digestive issues in cats. Users report that cats love the taste, which is a great advantage and eliminates traumatic pill-giving scenarios! It comes in a handy three-pack for 90 days of treatment.
Pet Ultimates Probiotics for Cats
This product has 20 different kinds of beneficial bacteria, ensuring that your cat gets a variety of helpful micro-organisms. It also has a very high bacteria count, with every scoop containing around five billion bacteria. It comes in a powder form that can be sprinkled on your cat’s food, with 120 servings per pack. It’s manufactured in the US at a GMP (good manufacturing practices) facility.
Dr Mercola Complete Probiotics
With 10 different strains of bacteria and over 58 billion bacteria in each serving, this product packs a powerful punch. It’s a powder that can be mixed with wet food or sprinkled over dry. It’s designed to work for both cats and dogs.
Disclaimer: the contents of this column are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you have regarding the medical condition or health of your pet. Reliance on any information in this column is entirely at your own risk.