What Are Probiotics for Cats?

Updated: 5/17/20242-4 minutes
Cat owner holds grey tabby cat to chest

If your feline companion has digestive upset or certain health conditions related to their immune system, probiotics for cats may be a good solution.

Probiotics are live microorganisms similar to those found naturally in your cat’s intestines. When consumed through food or as a supplement, they can help maintain balance in the digestive tract. This can have a positive impact on your pet’s health.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of probiotics for cats, how they work, and when to use them.

What Do Probiotics Do for Cats? 

Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that promote balance in your cat’s intestines. 

The intestines contain billions of bacteria that make up the microbiome. An imbalance in the microbiome can cause digestive upset, including symptoms like diarrhea, gas, bloating and others. 

“Among other effects, probiotics decrease the pH in the gut and help the good bacteria thrive, which supports overall digestive health,” says Purina Veterinarian, Emily Cross, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline).

Dr. Cross used probiotics when she was practicing, most often to treat digestive upset. 

Can Cats Have Probiotics?

In many cases, cats can have probiotics. Typically, they’re recommended as a preventative measure or as treatment for digestive health problems, as well as other conditions.

Talk to your veterinarian before giving probiotics to your cat, however.

Do Cats Need Probiotics?

Your veterinarian can determine if a cat probiotic is necessary for your pet. They’ll evaluate your cat’s symptoms and overall health, and want to know if they’re currently taking other medications.

If your pet is in good health, they might not need probiotics. But even healthy felines can experience stress and anxiety, leading to stomach discomfort. In which case, vet-recommended probiotics for cats may be appropriate. 

Probiotics for Cats – Benefits

If you’re wondering, “Are probiotics good for cats?”, here are a few potential benefits:

  • Digestive health
  • Alleviates cat diarrhea
  • Boosts immunity
  • Stress relief 

Immunity may not seem related to digestive health but in fact they’re closely connected. “A large part of the immune system of dogs and cats is located in the digestive tract, giving the good bacteria plenty of opportunities to interact with immune cells and support immune health,” Dr. Cross says. 

Additionally, the benefits of probiotics for cats may be amplified by prebiotics, a soluble fiber that nourishes the healthy bacteria in your pet’s microbiome. If you’re interested in probiotics for your cat, ask your veterinarian if increasing their prebiotic intake is also a good idea. 

What Are the Best Probiotics for Cats?

If you’re trying to determine the best probiotics for cats, talk to your veterinarian. They can make a recommendation based on your pet’s particular problem. 

Here are some common categories of cat probiotics.

Probiotics for Cats With Diarrhea

Need probiotics for smelly cat poop or to treat diarrhea? Many supplements are formulated to help felines with gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as Purina Pro Plan FortiFlora.

Probiotics for Anxious Cats 

Intestinal balance can affect a cat’s stress levels. The bacteria strain BL999, found in Purina Pro Plan Calming Care, helps felines maintain calm behavior.

Probiotics for Cats – Side Effects

As you adjust the balance of bacteria in your pet’s intestines, there may be some side effects of cat probiotics. Some cats might continue to experience their current symptoms (potentially at increased levels) but only temporarily. 

Side effects of cat probiotics may be diarrhea, gas, bloating and other digestive issues. Contact your veterinarian if the problems you’re trying to treat don’t improve after a short period. 

When to Give Cats Probiotics

Stress can trigger intestinal imbalance in your cat, leading to an upset stomach. So, probiotics may be a helpful treatment (or preventative measure) in the following kinds of situations: 

If you notice a change in your feline’s feces, this may be another sign that your cat could benefit from probiotics.

Also, kittens and senior cats are more susceptible to intestinal imbalances.

Can I Give My Cat Probiotics Every Day?

When providing probiotics, check the package for important information, like dosage and how often you should give them. Your veterinarian can also advise you.

How Long Does it Take Probiotics to Work in Cats?

It can take anywhere from a day or two to several weeks to see results from cat probiotics. “It depends on the specific probiotic and what we’re trying to manage,” says Dr. Cross. 

When addressing digestive upset with a product like FortiFlora for cats, “we’re looking for improvement within a few days but may treat for longer to restore digestive health,” she says.

For immune health, your pet should experience a positive impact in about four weeks. 

Probiotics Aren’t Right for Every Cat

Although probiotics offer numerous benefits, they aren’t suitable for every cat or every circumstance. 

It may be contraindicated to use a probiotic in some circumstances, like cats with a significantly compromised GI tract or those undergoing treatments like chemotherapy. In which case, the decision to start probiotics should be made with the veterinarian’s expertise.

If your cat is not feeling well, always consult with your veterinarian so they can make the best recommendation for your pet.

Can Cats Take Human Probiotics?

Many people have experienced the benefits of probiotics for themselves and want their cats to benefit, too. 

Using human probiotics for cats isn’t recommended, however.

“An over-the-counter supplement recommended for human use that a pet owner considers giving to their dog or cat would concern me,” says Dr. Cross. “I only recommend probiotics that have been shown to be safe for dogs and cats and have a positive health effect.”

What about products like yogurt, which often contain active cultures?

Dr. Cross advises to steer clear because “safety and efficacy have not been shown for yogurt products in dogs and cats, and, with the exception of a few products out there, most yogurts do not guarantee live bacteria numbers. Plus, cats and dogs can also be sensitive to the amount of dairy in yogurt.” 

According to Dr. Cross, if you’re searching for probiotic foods for cats, the product or food should: 

  • Have an efficacious number of probiotic bacteria
  • Contain bacteria that remain alive on the shelf  
  • Survive to the lower GI tract where bacteria have the most impact

Can Cats Have Dog Probiotics?

When choosing a probiotic, make sure to select a product that’s proven to be safe and effective for cats. Remember to talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions as they can make recommendations and provide guidance.

How to Supplement Your Cat’s Diet With Probiotics

Want to add probiotics to your pet’s diet? Whether it’s probiotic chews for cats, cat probiotic powder that you add to their meals, or cat food with probiotics, there are a variety of options. 

Remember, the best probiotics for cats are formulated with strains of bacteria known to support your pet’s particular problem.

Whether your cat has anxiety, is experiencing digestive upset or you want to promote their immune health, talk with your veterinarian to find the right probiotic solution for your pet. 

Want more expert tips on caring for your feline companion? Explore our other cat health articles.

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