Cats’ digestive tracts contain many trillions of microbes which contribute to digestive health and support their immune system. Probiotics for cats are supplements that introduce healthy bacteria into your cat’s digestive system. There is some evidence that they can help with digestive upsets like diarrhea, and rebalance our cats’ gut bacteria population if it is disrupted. But many products simply do not contain all of the good bacteria they claim, and human probiotics are a no-go.
The Benefits of Probiotics For Cats
Probiotics for cats can help regulate digestion and improve overall health. They are even said to greatly improve a number of illnesses in cats, especially diseases associated with the gastrointestinal tract. One of the most promising discoveries, however, is the extent that they can affect diarrhea. Probiotics are commonly used to treat the symptoms of diarrhea in cats. So potential benefits include:
- Regulating digestion
- Help with gastrointestinal diseases
- Improve overall health.
Are Probiotics Safe for Cats?
As long as you are using the correct probiotics for your cat, it will be safe. But, using the wrong type of probiotics can cause problems. For a probiotic to work, it has to contain bacteria that is healthy for a cat’s digestive tract. Not just any probiotic will do. Giving the wrong type of probiotic can make your cat’s cut less balanced.
Side Effects of Probiotics
Whenever your cat tries something new, there are bound to be some side effects. Giving your feline probiotics for the first time is no different. Although studies have found most cats experience no major side effects in the long run.
Whenever your cat first starts taking probiotics, there might be a short “adjustment phase” as the good bacteria starts sticking around in the gut and your cat’s intestinal bacteria makeup changes.
This adjustment phase can include symptoms such as diarrhea or just a generally “icky” feeling. This should pass quickly. It might simply be a case of trying one or two different products until you find the right one for your pet. Some brands simply work better for some cats than others!
Using Probiotics to Treat Cat Diarrhea
Probiotics have been hyped up as practically curing diarrhea in our furry friends, but how true is this? One study done in 2012 sought to find out. In this study, cats with chronic diarrhea were given probiotics, and then their owners reported any kind of stool change after 21 days.
No other changes were made to the cats’ diets, and they were all screened for parasites and other illnesses before the test began. The cat’s diarrhea was assessed using a standardized scoring chart.
After the 21 day period, nearly all the cats’ diarrhea slightly improved. It wasn’t a huge leap, no doubt, but it was a significant, measurable change. Furthermore, 72% of owners reported that they noticed a substantial improvement to their cat’s chronic diarrhea.
Probiotics Dosage for Cats
The ideal probiotics dosage for cats will depend on the size of your cat, and the type they are taking. Probiotics for cats come in a huge number of forms, such as pills, sachets, and liquids. But, most of these will have instructions for dosage on the side of their packaging. For example, some may come in a tub, but others may come in individual sachets.
Most brands will recommend 1 scoop or sachet per feeding. However, some may even have a helpful dosage chart, to break down the correct amount for your cat’s weight. It’s wiser to purchase a probiotic supplement which hasn’t been sterilized and has a short shelf life.
Pet Ultimates Probiotics for Cats
This product contains twenty different species of good bacteria*. The specific bacteria your cat will benefit the most from depends on a lot of factors. So, this variety is really important.
This probiotic contains no artificial flavors, wheat, dairy, or cheap fillers. It really is just probiotics*.
Purina Fortiflora Nutritional Supplement
This probiotic from cat food mega-brand Purina* was specifically created to improve diarrhea in cats. So if your feline has that issue, this might be a solution your vet suggests. It also comes in super convenient, single serve packets, so there is no measuring necessary.
Natural Probiotics for Cats
Natural probiotics are basically naturally occurring good bacteria. These types of bacteria are commonly found in yogurt, as well as fermented vegetables. There are some drawbacks to attempting to feed your feline probiotics in this state.
I don’t know about your cat, but mine definitely are not touching any sort of vegetable. (They will hardly eat cat treats half the time but that’s beside the point…) Plus, some cats cannot stomach dairy products including yogurt.
The foods that natural probiotics occur in simply aren’t the foods that most cats would normally eat. Because of this, it is often impossible to use probiotics in this natural form. Some yummy-for-cat supplement is nearly always necessary.
Probiotic Cat Food vs Supplements
If you go shopping for probiotics for cats, you won’t have to look long or hard to find a glut of choices. But probiotics can’t survive the canning process, or be added to a sealed can, so avoid any canned food claiming to contain probiotics.
Pet food is typically formulated and packaged to have a long shelf life – often up to and over a year. This means we can buy in bulk and always trust that we’ve got a stockpile in the pantry, without worrying about it on a weekly basis.
BUT, probiotics are living organisms, and it’s unlikely they will go on living all that time too. In fact, one 2003 evaluation of probiotic pet foods – carried out before they had gone out of date – found that no product on the market actually contained all of the healthy bacteria they claimed to. And 26% actually didn’t contain ANY good bacteria at all!
Wider testing of probiotics for cats and humans carried out by the same team also found a staggeringly high rate of labeling errors – including 15 products claiming to contain probiotic species that don’t even exist!
The Right Type
In order for a probiotic to even have a chance at affecting our felines’ wellbeing, it has to be the correct probiotic. It has to contain bacteria that is healthy for a cat’s digestive tract.
The bacteria our cats need is very different from the bacteria that we need. Specifically speaking, the dominant good bacteria in humans are of the Bifidobacteria group. However, it is the Lactobacillus group that are most significant to cats. So giving your feline probiotics intended for humans will make their gut flora more unbalanced, not less.
On top of this, the specific good bacteria a cat needs also changes with his or her particular diet! A 2009 study at the University of Illinois found that the proportion of protein in a cat’s diet affected the bacterial profile of their poop.
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.