Healthy nutrition is essential for the health and longevity in cats.. A healthy diet for cats will support the digestive tract's functioning and vice versa.  

Using a probiotic supplement is an excellent way of boosting the cat's digestion and ensuring a healthy and smoothly running GI tract. 

The science behind probiotics is not new, but their use in the veterinary medicine field is relatively novel. In this article, we will explain the science behind cat probiotics. 

What are Probiotics for Cats?

probiotics for cats

With a name that literally translates to “life-promoting,” probiotics are naturally occurring live microorganisms that inhabit the small and large intestines. They are popularly called “good bacteria” and are responsible for protecting the intestines from the “bad bacteria.”

The cat’s body harbors trillions of live bacteria. Most of them reside within the gut and are collectively referred to as gut flora or microbiome. Every cat has an individual microbiome whose population varies based on health, diet, and lifestyle.

Should Cats take Probiotics?

Yes, cats should take probiotics at times of disease (stress, inflammation, infection) when the number of bad bacteria increases and eventually outgrows the number of good bacteria.

When the gut bacteria population is out of balance (dysbiosis), your feline experiences digestive upsets, probiotics are an excellent way of ensuring the intestinal microbiota does not get knocked out of balance.

Benefits of Probiotics for Cats

The obvious benefit of probiotics is keeping the cat's gut microorganisms balanced and maintaining a healthy GI tract. 

Regular use of probiotics can prevent digestive issues and ease symptoms like vomiting, nausea, appetite changes, stomach irritation, constipation, and diarrhea.

However, there is more to these supplements than simple GI tract health. An important part of the immune system is located in the gut. 

When beneficial bacteria interact with the immune cells scattered throughout the digestive system, they support and boost the immune system.

When to Give Cats Probiotics

Benefits of Probiotics for Cats

There are various specific conditions and situations in which cats can benefit from a high-quality probiotic supplement. For example, we recommend supplementing your cat with healthy bacteria in cases of: 

  • Bacterial Imbalances. Infections, inflammations, and antibiotics can cause bacterial imbalances and trigger digestive disorders such as vomiting, persistent diarrhea, and lack of appetite. Adding a probiotic supplement will help restore balance in a cat's digestive system.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Pancreatitis. Both inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and pancreatitis are complex in terms of treatment and require a multimodal approach.

  • Prolonged Use of Medications. Antibiotics are not the only medication that affects the microorganisms’ balance within the GI tract. Steroids can have the same effect, especially if used for longer periods.  

  • Stress. Stress is closely linked with diarrhea as it causes a nervous tummy prone to upsets. Kittens and senior cats are more prone to stress and stress-induced diarrhea episodes.

  • Sudden Food Changes. All dietary changes should be smooth and gradual as sudden diet changes harm gut health. The diet transition period can be made even smoother by adding a probiotic supplement product.  

  • Intestinal Parasites. The presence of intestinal parasites affects the balance within the cat's digestive tract. Once the worms are eliminated, you can use probiotics to restore the gut’s default settings.  

Finally, it is worth mentioning that you can boost the probiotics’ effects by enriching your cat’s food with prebiotics. Prebiotics are fiber sources (like fructooligosaccharides or FOS) which probiotics feed on. In a nutshell, your cat needs probiotics, and they need prebiotics. 

How to Give Probiotics to Your Cat

Probiotic supplements for cats come in the forms of capsules, powders, and chews (treats or cookies). They can also be incorporated into the kibble coating. Which type you will use depends on what fits you and your cat most. 

You must give the capsules directly into the mouth, and probiotic powders can be sprinkled on top or mixed with the cat's food. The chews and probiotics-coated kibble are fairly straightforward when it comes to administration.

Types of Cat Probiotics

Types of Cat Probiotics

There are different types of probiotics, and the main thing you need to consider when choosing the right one is the number of colony-forming units (CFU). In general, probiotics with higher CFU are better.

Another thing to keep in mind is diversity. Cats need different probiotic strains from the lactic acid bacteria group, including:

  • Bifidobacterium family – live in the small intestine and help with digestion.

  • Enterococcus family – live in the large intestine (colon) and promote normal feces formation.

Since each family is associated with different benefits, the probiotic supplement should contain at least two strains of each group—ideally, five Bifidobacterium and five Enterococcus types. Members of the Lactobacillus and Streptococcus family are also beneficial to cats. 

Finally, talk to your veterinarian about which type of bacterial species is best for your pet in terms of a specific purpose. For example, some probiotics are good for resolving digestive upsets, others have anti-inflammatory properties, and some support the immune system. 

What is a Natural Probiotic for Cats?

There are also natural sources of healthy bacteria for cats. Just add plain yogurt or kefir to your cat's diet, and you have a natural probiotic. 

Both yogurt and kefir are excellent probiotics for cats. Just keep in mind that dairy products are a no-go if your kitty is lactose intolerant. 

How to Find the Best Probiotics for Cats

How to add Probiotics to Your Cat’s Diet

Sadly, not all probiotics are made the same. In fact, according to a study published in 2011, the number of colony-forming units in many supplements is much smaller than the number stated on the product label. 

Interestingly, some of the tested products’ label claims had listed non-existing bacteria as their ingredient. Finally, one of the analyzed formulas did not contain any live bacterium at all.   

To avoid purchasing a product that falls in the above-described category, we recommend following this short checklist and considering the following factors: 

  • Different types of bacteria. The best supplement should contain different healthy bacteria strains. Our formula features 5 different types of bacteria.

  • Number of colony-forming units. The next thing you need to check is the number of beneficial bacteria per serving. In general, the more good bacteria, the better. 

  • Added ingredients. All added ingredients should be natural and cat-friendly. Featuring prebiotics, vitamins, and minerals at the same time as probiotics is a big plus. 

  • Ease of use. Two factors determine the ease of use: form and flavor. Our probiotics are in powder form and can be sprinkled on top of the cat's food. As for taste, they have a natural roasted chicken flavor. 

What is the Best Probiotic for Cats?

In simple words, the best probiotic for cats should be species-specific, contain different bacteria strains, and be easy to administer. 

Our Honest Paws Wellness Pre+ Probiotic formula is custom-formulated with all the right ingredients to help keep your cat’s digestive system in tip-top shape. They are recommended for supporting healthy digestion, boosting the immune system, and maintaining proper gut flora. 

Our Final Thoughts on Probiotics for Cats

cat cuddling with owner

As responsible cat owners, adequate pet care is your primary concern. Adding probiotics is an excellent way of supporting your cat's healthy gut flora and overall wellness. 

Based on the circumstances, cat probiotics can be used to prevent issues or, if already present, an integral part of the management strategy.

If you doubt the exact probiotic type for your cat, its implementation, or dose, do not hesitate to talk to your trusted vet.

Probiotics for Cats Frequently Asked Questions

Do vets recommend probiotics for cats?

Yes, vets agree that probiotics are beneficial for cats and recommend and prescribe different probiotic formulas. However, some vets suggest using such supplements when an issue arises, while others opt for regular use. 

Can cats take human probiotics?

Human probiotics are not straightforward dangerous for cats. However, you cannot expect the same benefits as with probiotic supplements designed specifically for cats. Ask your trusted veterinarian if you need help choosing the right probiotic product for your pet.   

How long should cats be on probiotics?

The length of the supplementation depends on the underlying reason for using the probiotic in the first place. In cases of minor digestive upsets, few days are enough. On the other hand, addressing the symptoms of skin issues requires ongoing daily probiotic supplementation. 

Do probiotics help cats with vomiting?

Yes, probiotics help vomiting cats. This is because probiotics soothe digestive upsets and restore the gut's microbiota which are the main reasons for vomiting. 

Can probiotics hurt cats?

Like other supplements, the use of probiotic products comes with certain risks and considerations. First, you need to discuss the proper dose with your veterinarian as too much good bacteria can cause dysbiosis. Second, probiotics should be used with caution in dogs with compromised immune systems. 

Do cats need probiotics daily?

Yes, cats can benefit a lot from the regular use of probiotics. The accent is put on regularly, meaning you do not have to wait for an issue to arise to boost your cat’s digestive health with probiotics.

Can probiotics make a cat sick?

Some cats may experience mild signs of digestive upset (diarrhea, nausea, gassiness, and bloating) once probiotics are introduced to the diet. Same as with new cat foods, the cat’s digestive system needs time to adjust to changes. 

Does my cat need probiotics?

Probiotics help cats on various levels meaning all cats eventually need probiotics. However, we recommend talking to your trusted veterinarian. The vet will determine whether your cat's condition can benefit from probiotics and which strains of bacteria are best suited. 

What kind of probiotic can you give a cat?

You can give your cat a commercially available probiotic supplement or offer a natural food rich in healthy bacteria. Generally speaking, commercial probiotics give live microorganisms a bigger boost than natural probiotic-rich foods. 

How long does it take for probiotics to work in cats?

Depending on the underlying cause, it may take between a few days to few weeks of use for the probiotic supplement’s beneficial effects to become apparent.