Probiotic Feline Treats

by Jon Mohrman, Demand Media
    Probiotic treats can help your cat's digestive function.

    Probiotic treats can help your cat's digestive function.

    Don't be alarmed to learn probiotics are bacteria. Contrary to what some people think, not all bacteria is bad; probiotics are the helpful stuff. Feline treats containing probiotics can provide your kitty with lots of benefits. Just consult your veterinarian before giving your cat supplements, probiotic feline treats included.

    Probiotics

    The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says a probiotic is "a preparation containing live bacteria that is taken orally to restore beneficial bacteria to the body." The World Health organization's definition of probiotics is "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host." The American Heritage Medical Dictionary extends the defnition, calling probiotics dietary supplements "containing live bacteria or yeast that supplements normal gastrointestinal flora, given especially after depletion of flora caused by infection or ingestion of an antibiotic drug."

    Strains

    You probably didn't think you'd be researching which bacteria strains to feed your cat. It may not seem like the most glamorous topic, but it can do your kitty a lot of good. Strains belong to different genera, such as Lactobacillus, Bacillus, Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus and Streptococcus. Just a few of the beneficial microorganisms you're likely to encounter in feline probiotics treats include L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. bulgaricus, B. bifidum, E. faecium and S. thermophilis. All probiotics strains provide general digestive benefits and have unique actions of their own.

    Selection

    There are plenty of probiotic treats for cats, and they come in various styles and flavors. Whether you go for organic or nonorganic, chewy or chunky, name-brand or generic, or fish- or poultry-flavored isn't particularly important. What does matter is choosing probiotic treats with numerous good bacteria strains that are known to provide benefits. Supplying just one or two strains isn't often useful and it can cause bacterial imbalances. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation and pick a balanced product.

    Uses

    Your cat's health depends on a proper bacterial balance throughout her digestive tract. Good bacteria strains, like those in feline probiotics treats, help keep harmful bacteria in check. They also contribute to healthy digestive function, absorption of nutrients, synthesis of B vitamins, appropriate stomach acidity, a stronger immune system and other aspects of health. Probiotics can help cats taking antibiotics, as these medications eliminate good and bad bacteria alike. Treats with probiotics can also benefit your kitty if she has irritable bowel syndrome or another digestive disorder, if she takes steroids or NSAIDs, if she doesn't eat well, if any other conditions or factors are interfering with healthy digestion or even if she's just getting on in years.

    Benefits

    Their effects on the digestive system provide many of the benefits of feline probiotics treats. They make digestion easier and gentler for your fuzzy companion. They cut back on flatulence--something you too can appreciate--and promote regularity. By assisting in nutrient absorption and B vitamin synthesis, as well as by boosting immune system function, probiotics treats generally improve your cat's health and mood, too. They also help prevent infections in the digestive and urinary tracts. These supplements may also benefit your cat's skin and coat, as well as her dental health.

    Considerations

    You may have heard giving your cat a spoonful or two of yogurt is a good way to provide probiotics. This doesn't supply enough bacteria to be beneficial, plus your cat is better off without dairy products. Treats are a convenient way to deliver helpful bacteria. Be mindful of the extra calories you feed your kitty so you don't inadvertently fatten her up. Ask your vet about when and how many treats to feed your cat. Don't give feline probiotics treats before a meal, because you don't want to fill your cat up before she eats enough food. Note that most products containing probiotics need to be refrigerated. Side effects are rare, but cats newly eating probiotics treats may temporarily experience nausea, vomiting or other digestive discomfort until a healthy bacterial balance is restored.

    About the Author

    Jon Mohrman has been a writer and editor for more than seven years. He specializes in food, travel and health topics. He attended the University of Pittsburgh for English literature and San Francisco State University for creative writing.

    Photo Credits

    • Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images