Butter can seem like a fine addition to a cat’s diet. After all, we’ve seen countless images of cats lapping up a bowl of cream or milk. Butter is another dairy product, and many cats adore it. So it would seem reasonable to give a cat butter as a treat or for help in certain medical situations. But is this adage about cats and dairy true? Can cats eat butter?
Cats should not eat butter. Butter is generally not safe for cats unless given in minimal amounts. The high contents of fat, lactose, and salt can cause many medical problems in your feline.
In this article, we’ll look at butter, what’s in it, what can happen if a cat eats it, and if there are any reasons to make an exception.
Is It Safe To Give Cats Butter
Butter is not the safest ingredient for cats. Generally, cats should stay away from butter. If they eat butter in excess, it can cause upset stomach, vomiting, and other not-so-fun side effects.
A cat’s digestive system is built to process and get vitamins from meat and some plants but can’t handle dairy products.
Some cat owners do give their cats small amounts of butter. It can be used to disguise pills or help a sick cat gain weight. But before you try this with your cat, it’s best to discuss it with your vet.
Why Is Butter Bad For Cats
The human digestive system can break down the enzymes in dairy, but cats cannot, meaning when they eat it, it can sit in their stomachs for a long time and cause stomach upset. This doesn’t happen with all cats but is a distinct possibility.
In addition to the lactose, butter contains a lot of excess fat. While cats do need fat in their diets, it needs to come from animal proteins in their cat food.
Even if your cat doesn’t show intolerance for dairy products, eating butter could make them gain weight, which can cause heart problems, joint stress, diabetes, and many other complications.
Lastly, butter contains salt. Cats need a minimal amount of sodium, but it needs to come from their meat-based cat food. Too much salt from other sources can cause stomach upset and, in extreme cases, death.
What Happens If A Cat Eats Butter
The results of cats eating butter depend on how much they get. If your kitty sneaks a little bit of potato with butter or licks a small amount off your plate, chances are they will be fine.
However, if your cat gets a more significant amount of butter, it could be in for some digestive trouble. Watch out for vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Your cat may also be sluggish or let out painful meows to signal that they are uncomfortable. If they’re susceptible to being touched on the stomach, that means they’re definitely in pain.
Salt is toxic to cats in large amounts. If your cat got butter that is particularly salty, it could be suffering from food poisoning. In addition to the above symptoms, they may be uncoordinated, excessively thirsty, or have seizures.
If this occurs, call your local emergency vet or animal poison control center immediately.
Can Cats Digest Butter
Cats are lactose intolerant and cannot digest dairy. This is because their systems are not built to process the enzymes or proteins that act as catalysts.
This can be traced back to cats in the wild. Domestic cats were bred from big cats, who lived on meat and the occasional plant. There were no dairy products in sight. Our little kitties may not be in the jungle, but they are still obligate carnivores, and their systems do not recognize dairy.
That being said, some cats are not bothered by butter at all. But the fat and salt content are not made for a kitty’s body either.
Can You Give A Cat Butter For Hairballs
Butter is sometimes mentioned as a natural way to help lubricate a cat’s throat so that they can cough up hairballs, and it might be okay in small amounts. Most commercial hairball relievers have some oil or lubricant in them to assist with the process.
However, if you’re looking for a healthier alternative, a small amount of baby food with squash or canned pumpkin flavor might be safer.
The safest thing for hairballs is to let your cat munch on some wheatgrass or special cat grass. This can help get the hairball up naturally without the excess fat and salt found in butter.
Can Cats Eat Margarine
Cats should not eat margarine.
Margarine is often touted as a healthy substitute for butter, but it doesn’t make much difference for a cat. While it is lower in sodium and is not technically a dairy product, it still contains fat and lactose, and the lactose part of dairy is what’s problematic for kitties to process.
Similarly to butter, if your cat gets a little bit of margarine, you likely will not have anything to worry about. Large amounts, though, can cause the same digestive problems as butter.
Can Cats Eat Ghee
In general, cats should not eat ghee.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter without lactose, so it would seem natural that it could be better for cats than regular butter. While the lactose element is removed, ghee still contains a high amount of fat. Because of this, like regular butter, it should only be given to your cat in small amounts.
Things To Consider
Chances are you’ve heard someone say they gave their cat butter, margarine, or ghee, and it was fine. While this may be true, moderation is essential.
A little lick off your finger or a fingertip-sized amount off of a plate is not going to hurt your cat. But it’s important to remember that their stomachs are small, their digestive systems are shorter, and dairy foods aren’t natural for a cat.
Quality cat foods are carefully measured to include the optimal amounts of protein, animal fat, and other nutritional needs for your feline. When you add something else to the menu, you risk digestive problems.
Cats will, however, probably go after your dairy. It tastes delicious and creamy, and they gravitate toward it. You may have to take some extra precautions to make sure they don’t get a hold of something buttery and chow down.
When it comes to unfamiliar and exciting foods, cats don’t have much self-control. Just remember that they don’t necessarily know what’s good for them, and just because they love something, it doesn’t mean they should eat it.
In short, butter should be a last resort to helping cats take their pills, gain weight, or cough up hairballs, mainly if your cat is older and has never tried it before.
There are many other options to try first, as the risks of butter can be too extreme. But every cat is different. If you’re in a situation where you need support on health matters and have heard that butter might be a good option, it’s essential to consult your vet first.