Did you know that your cat has billions of microscopic soldiers parading around inside her, most of them in her gut? Well, they’re actually friendly bacteria, but their job is the same – to defend against invaders (bad bacteria).
Probiotics for cats are a way to build up the good bacteria in your cat’s body. Doing so will lead to positive health effects for both the digestive system and for overall health.
So what exactly are probiotics, what are the benefits, and how do you find the best one?
What are Probiotics for Cats?
Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your cat (and yourself and all your other animals).
Just like humans (and dogs), cats have this incredible system inside their bodies called the microbiome. It contains those billions of tiny soldiers, plus lots of other tiny microbes. And as we mentioned, most of it is located in the gut.
And just like us, the majority of your cat’s immune system makes its home in the gut as well. In fact, your cat’s immunity is almost completely dependant on a healthy digestive microbiome. So, if the digestive tract isn’t healthy, your cat isn’t healthy. When the digestive tract is out of balance, immunity may suffer. It’s this imbalance that can result in a whole host of illnesses and disease. Research tells us that poor gut health can even impact mental health. It’s incredible…
Unfortunately, there are plenty of things in the average cat’s environment that can impact that delicate balance, allowing the bad bacteria to proliferate and overwhelm the good bacteria.
This includes things like:
- Chemical cleaners
- Pharmaceutical drugs
- Depleted soil that our cats’ food comes from (and our own)
Seriously – you can feed the absolute best nutrition on the planet, give your cat plenty of playtime and exercise, and of course lots of love, but without a healthy gut much of that nutrition and effort goes to waste (not the love of course – that’s never a waste!).
Benefits of Probiotics for Cats
A study in the American Journal of Veterinary Medicine found that giving cats probiotics helps to rebalance the gastrointestinal microflora in cats, noting: “Probiotic supplementation was associated with increased numbers of beneficial Lactobacillus and L acidophilus groups in feces and decreased numbers of Clostridium spp and Enterococcus faecalis, indicating an altered bacterial balance in the gastrointestinal tract microflora.”
So, with the added probiotics in the diets, the kitties had an increase in good bacteria and a decrease in bad.
And so what does this rebalancing mean? The benefits of probiotics for cats include:
- Improved appetite
- Better, firmer stools
- Better nutrient absorption
- Improved digestion
- Boosted immunity
- Resilience against autoimmune diseases
- Better bladder health
- Healthier teeth and gums
Julie’s tip: Antibiotics can have a long term impact on your cat’s health by killing off all bacteria, not just bad bacteria, and causing permeant damage to the gut lining if you don’t replace the beneficial bacteria. A high-quality probiotic with added support for the gut wall will help encourage the repopulation of friendly bacteria after a round of antibiotics, bringing the microbiome back into an optimal state.
Feline Probiotics: What to Look for
To get the best probiotics for cats, there are a few specific things to look for:
- Cat specific. There are plenty of probiotics out there on the market. Probiotics for humans, for dogs, for horses. Look for one that’s specifically designed for cats, yet is top quality human grade. Yes, we all have microbiomes, but our systems are different, so different things are needed.
- Look for several different bacterial strains. Look for a probiotic that has a minimum of 10 strains of bacteria – not just 1 or 2. That way your cat gets the benefits of all of them and their different benefits can complement each other and no one strain overwhelms the others.
- Don’t forget the prebiotics. Probiotics need to be fed to survive, and that’s where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics feed the probiotics and many have their own unique benefits. Our favourite is larch – read more on why here.
- Easy to use. Cats are picky. It’s that simple. Trying to give your cat a probiotic in pill format will probably have you tearing your hair out on day 1. Just skip those ones. Find one that you can easily add to your cat’s regular food and is really tasty to keep the stress levels to a minimum.