While many people take probiotics every single day, most aren’t aware that the seemingly miraculous supplements can also be beneficial for animals. The cat probiotic industry is new and exciting, but it can also be difficult to navigate.
Do probiotics really help cats, or are all of the wondrous claims that companies make just a bid for your money? What kind of benefits do probiotics have? Are they safe? How do they work? How can you judge a good product from a mediocre or bad one, and which brands have the best products?
This article answers every query you might have about probiotics for cats and helps take the guesswork out of choosing a product to suit your feline friend.
- The Top
- What are Probiotics?
- What Conditions do Probiotics Treat?
- Should I Give Probiotics After Antibiotics?
- General Benefits
- Are Probiotics Safe?
- Can Cats Use Human Probiotics?
- How We Chose the Best
- The Reviews
- What About Yogurt Probiotics?
- Side Effects
- How To Feed Probiotics to Cat
- Keeping Your Cat’s Gut Healhty
Our review process is unbiased and based on extensive research. If you buy through the links on our site, we may earn a commission.
Quick-Find Best Probiotics for Cats Table
- Veterinarian recommended
- Highly effective
- Cats can’t get enough of the taste!
- Best suited for sudden-onset GI problems
- Seven different strains of bacteria
- Scientifically proven effectiveness
- Includes digestive enzymes
- Easy to administer
- Neutral taste
- Duck flavoured treat
- Highly palatable
- Easy to administer
- Moderately priced
- More compact than some other large auto cat waterer models
- Quiet running
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, amongst other benefits, improve gut health. This is about the most specific that a definition of a probiotic gets because they come in all different sorts of strains, formulations, and types.
Purposefully exposing your cat to what essentially is bacteria might seem unwise, but this misconception is mostly due to the negative connotations surrounding the word ‘bacteria.’ While some bacteria can be harmful, there are other types that are essential to everyday functioning in all species of animal, cats included. For some perspective, a cat’s small intestine can contain up to 100 million bacteria cells per gram, most of which assist the digestive process in some way or another.
These bacteria, also known as ‘gut flora,’ are in a delicate but all-important balance with each other. Think of it like a complex ecosystem, with different species all cohabiting together in harmony. This makes up what’s known as your cat’s ‘gut microbiome.’
So, it’s obvious that bacteria is pretty important. But if there’s already so much of it in your cat’s gut, then what’s the point of adding more? The idea behind probiotics is to help balance the gut flora, adding some of one element to encourage or regulate a certain process. The way this actually works is largely not understood in humans, let alone in felines, but probiotics have been proven to relieve a range of gut diseases in both humans and cats. Basically, we don’t know how they work, but we know that they do.
What Conditions do Probiotics Treat?
As mentioned before, probiotics treat a range of gastrointestinal diseases and conditions in cats. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
If your cat has a disease that isn’t on this list but is related to the general functioning of the digestive system, check with your vet to see whether probiotics might have a positive effect. Many vets will recommend a specific type of probiotic to help manage your feline friend’s disease.
Should I give my Cat Probiotics after Antibiotics?
In short, yes.
Antibiotics are arguably the most important class of medicine to be developed, but they can wreak havoc on sensitive digestive tracts.
Think about it: antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, so it makes sense that they’d affect good bacteria in the gut as well as more dangerous ones.
Probiotics help get the gut microbiome back to a balanced, healthy state. While this process does occur naturally, giving your cat probiotics will certainly speed it along.
For the best results, ask your vet to recommend an appropriate strain of probiotic.
What are the General Benefits of Probiotics?
Aside from treating gut disorders and being useful after a course of antibiotics, there are a few key benefits to giving your cat probiotics. These include:
- A boost in immune function: The gut is connected heavily to immune function, and it’s been found that taking probiotics helps to improve the immune system’s effectiveness in fighting disease.
- A decrease in the likelihood of the development of skin conditions: In humans, some probiotics have been proven to reduce the severity of certain skin conditions, such as acne. While not much research in this area has been done with cats, it’s safe to assume that probiotics have a similar effect in felines.
- Generally better gut functioning: Even for cats with relatively healthy digestive systems, probiotics can still have a beneficial effect. Making something that already works work better is never as obvious as making something that doesn’t work work again, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still an improvement!
- An improvement in life quality for cats with kidney disease: Kidney disease is all too common in senior cats and can severely depreciate a pet’s quality of life. Preliminary studies have suggested that administering probiotics can improve the quality of life in cats with kidney disease. While the supplement is unable to actually treat the disease, it can alleviate some of the symptoms and reduce your cat’s overall discomfort.
Are Probiotics Safe for Cats?
Thankfully, no study has ever found that probiotics cause harm to any animal, cats included, so you can rest easy knowing that your feline friend is safe.
Even if the probiotic is past its used-by-date, there shouldn’t be any negative effects to your cat, although it’s advisable to always check that the supplement isn’t expired because if it is, it won’t confer any benefit.
Can Cats use Human Probiotics?
There are specialized probiotics made for cats for a reason; giving your cat human probiotics may actually hurt your kitty’s stomach more than help.
The main reason for this is the differences in gut flora between felines and humans.
Most human probiotics have strains of bifidobacteria, the primary ‘good bacteria’ in humans, while in cats, lactobacillus bacteria are more likely to be beneficial.
Giving your cat human probiotics can worsen the exact symptoms that probiotics are meant to relieve, like diarrhea and constipation.
Also, it should go without saying, but if a human takes cat probiotics, the exact same thing can happen. Stick to medicine meant for your own species!
How We Chose the Best Probiotics
Several criteria were used to determine the best probiotics for cats. These include:
An obvious way to gauge how any probiotic is by studying whether or not it actually works.
There are two parts to this criteria; the viability of the actual strain of bacteria included in the probiotic and the effectiveness of the brand-specific additives included in the probiotic (these may include vitamins, minerals, and flavors).
It’s all well and good to comb through impersonal scientific studies to determine the efficacy of a type of probiotic, but there’s some information that can only be provided through veterinary and customer feedback.
How fast does the probiotic work? Is there a different outcome in different breeds of cat? How long will a packet last you? Does it work better for one kind of GI problem than another?
All of these questions are important when it comes to choosing the best probiotic for your cat.
A probiotic might be effective and have a great reputation, but if you can’t persuade your cat to actually eat it, then it’s next to useless. The best probiotics have a neutral or even enticing taste and are easy to feed your cat.
These three metrics, along with affordability and special features, were assessed, and the top five probiotics for cats were selected from a wide range of products.
These include the best overall probiotic for cats, the best quick-fix probiotic, the probiotic with the best extra features, the best treat-formulated probiotic, and the best liquid probiotic.
Reviews of the Best Probiotics for Cats
#1. Purina Pro Plan FortiFlora Probiotic
- Scientifically proven effectiveness
- Beneficial additives
- Highly palatable
- 4.5 star average customer rating
- Usually takes a week or two to see the full effect
- No proven effect against constipation
If you’re looking for a fantastic feline probiotic, it doesn’t get much better than this product. The strain of bacteria included in Purina’s FortiFlora is Enterococcus Faecium, which has been widely proven to decrease instances of diarrhea and increase levels of immunoglobulin A, which helps boost the immune system. Each sachet of powder includes 500 million CFUs, or Colony Forming Units.
The additives in FortiFlora include vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, all of which have been proven to further boost immune function. Aside from this, the formula also includes protein and fiber to help make the powder more palatable.
FortiFlora is regularly recommended by vets for cats with acute and chronic diarrhea and other general digestive problems, although efficacy against constipation hasn’t been proven. The overall reported effectiveness in symptom relief is very high, and even for cats without specific GI issues, the probiotic seemed to be beneficial.
The probiotic, which comes in sachets of powder, is easy to mix into cat food. Some owners even say that their normal picky cat wolfs down food containing FortiFlora, meaning that it’s not only tolerable but actually tasty!
If you’re looking for a trustworthy, reputable, and scientifically backed probiotic, this is the best option for you and your cat.
BEST QUICK-FIX PROBIOTIC
#2. PetAg Bene-Bac Plus FOS & Probiotics Powder Supplement
- Results can be seen almost immediately
- Doses are every two days for the first week, and then once a week afterwards
- Contains seven different strains of bacteria
- 4.7 star average customer rating
- No added vitamins
- Not necessarily intended for long-term use
- Added sugars
Other products on this list are intended for long-term, sustained use. However, sometimes cat owners aren’t willing to commit to adding yet another element to their daily cat-care regime.
PetAg’s probiotic powder supplement is perfect for those owners who want to help their cat or kitten through a short-term problem with their gut; for example, after they eat something that disagrees with them, or if they become stressed due to a sudden change or move, etc.
PetAg’s probiotic powder contains seven different strains of bacteria, all of them proven to be beneficial to cats, both in terms of immune functioning and overall GI health.
PetAg also claims that its unique formulation helps inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella, which isn’t specifically proven but is impressive if correct.
Additives in this product include dextrose, which increases palatability, and sodium silico, which prevents the powder from clumping. There are no bonus vitamins or minerals added in the formulation, which is a plus if your cat has an intolerance to a certain vitamin but is a minus for those cats who need additional vitamin supplements.
One of the best features of this product is that it only needs to be dosed every second day for a week and then, if the owner wants to continue using the product, once a week. For busy cat moms and dads who don’t have time to painstakingly stir power into their cat’s food, this works perfectly.
While there are no reports of cats adoring the taste of the PetAg powder, it is palatable enough that even picky cats won’t generally notice it’s sprinkled on top of their wet food. The powder comes in a bottle, not in a pre-measured sachet, so owners will simply need to measure out each dose before giving it to their cat.
BEST EXTRA BENEFITS
#3. NaturVet Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotic Dog & Cat Powder
- Digestive enzymes included
- Effective against diarrhoea
- 4.7 star average customer rating
- Added sugars
- No proven effect against constipation
- Not suitable for kittens
Aside from containing strains of bacteria, this product also includes a shot of digestive enzymes. Enzymes are the body’s main tools when it comes to breaking down nutrients, and the extra boost that the NaturVet powder provides means that your feline friend’s gut health will improve even beyond what regular probiotics can provide.
The four types of enzymes included in the product are alpha-amylase, protease, cellulase, and lipase, which help to break down starch, proteins, cellulose, and fats respectively. A cat’s gut naturally contains all of these enzymes, so you’re not adding anything that your pet’s digestive system isn’t already used to, which makes the potential for harm very low.
Aside from the digestive enzymes, the NaturVet powder contains Fructooligosaccharide and maltodextrins, which are both sugars used to help improve palatability.
This product was formulated by U.S. veterinarians and is particularly recommended for cats undergoing a diet change; for example, if a cat is moving to a new type of food after a sustained period of eating the same thing every day.
The supplement comes in a powder format, like many others on this list, and has a neutral taste that means it’s virtually undetectable when mixed in with cat food.
#4. VetriScience Probiotic Everyday Gastrointestinal Health Cat Chews
- Very affordable
- Includes prebiotic fibre
- It’s a treat!
- Not suitable for cats who don’t like treats
- Sub 4 star (3.8 star) average customer rating
While most of the other products on this list come in powder form, VetriScience probiotic chews are tasty, duck-flavored treats!
While cats that don’t enjoy treats (there are like, two cats in the world who don’t like treats, right??) might reject this type of probiotic, food-motivated pets won’t be able to get enough of them.
This product particularly suits pet parents who are on the go or maybe don’t have the stomach to thoroughly stir power into moist, squishy cat food every morning and night. Instead, you can feed these treats to your pet from your hand in half a second and then go about your day.
The strain of bacteria included in this probiotic is Bacillus Coagulans, which has been proven to support healthy gut flora by stopping the growth of unwanted bacteria, which works to reduce diarrhea in cats. Each treat is guaranteed to contain over 100 million CFUs of live bacteria.
The treats also include a percentage of soluble prebiotic fiber, which feeds desirable bacteria and encourages its growth.
As these come in a treat form rather than as a powder there are a lot more additives; mainly preservatives to keep the product fresh and grain fillers to bulk up the size of the treat.
Other additives include sugars, glycerin, duck flavoring, and calcium sulfate, which provide extra calcium to keep your cat’s bones and teeth strong and healthy.
VetriScience probiotic chews are manufactured in the U.S and have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, but generally aren’t recommended by vets unless a cat really can’t stomach a powder or liquid probiotic (they are treats, after all, and therefore aren’t necessarily healthy).
The treats are duck-flavored and most cats will gobble them up eagerly. However, like some humans don’t enjoy deserts some cats just don’t respond well to threats, so it’s best to steer clear of this product if your fur-baby tends to avoid cat treats.
BEST LIQUID PROBIOTIC
#5. The Honest Kitchen Daily Boosters Instant Goat’s Milk with Probiotics for Dogs & Cats
- No harmful additives
- Multiple strains of bacteria
- Human-grade quality
- 4.3 star average customer rating
- While goat milk has less lactose than cow’s milk, it may still cause stomach upset for cats who are lactose intolerant
- Preparation is slightly more involved than other probiotics
Some cats and cat owners prefer liquid probiotics to powder formulations, and of all of these types of products on the market, Honest Kitchen’s instant goat milk is a standout.
To use it, simply add warm water and watch the powder turn into warm, nutritious, and probiotic-packed milk for your cat to enjoy.
Honest Kitchen advises that the milk can be served by itself, poured over a cat’s kibble (like you yourself would add milk to cereal in the morning), or even frozen into ice blocks to give your cat on hot days.
The strains of bacteria in this product include Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, and Bacillus Coagulans. Because it has multiple types of live bacteria the milk provides multiple benefits to the gastrointestinal tract, including inhibiting the growth of H. Pylori and boosting immune function.
The only ingredients in the milk powder are human-grade dehydrated goat’s milk, digestive enzymes, and probiotic bacteria, which means that you know exactly what you’re feeding your cat.
This product isn’t openly endorsed by many vets, but the fact that goat’s milk is 100% human-grade certainly is a plus in the eyes of the veterinary industry. Pet products are often stuffed full of ingredients that don’t pass the human-grade certification, so it’s nice to know that if you buy this product you’re getting the best.
All reports indicate that the goat’s milk is highly palatable and that most cats lap it up eagerly. However, not all cats enjoy milk, so it might be best to test the waters with some more traditional lactose-free milk before buying this product.
What About Yogurt Probiotics?
You’re probably used to seeing the word ‘probiotic!’ emblazoned all over the packaging of your favorite brands of yogurt, and indeed for humans, most types of yogurts have probiotic properties due to the live bacteria contained in the product. This does not, however, mean that you should just dish some of your favorite yogurt into your cat’s bowl and expect a miracle.
As discussed previously, you’re going to get the best results if you use a product designed specifically for cats. On top of this, yogurt contains lactose, which many cats are sensitive to, and can have additives like flavoring and sweeteners that can be too harsh on cats’ stomachs.
However, if you’re looking for a cheap and all-natural probiotic for your cat there are ways to make yogurt work. The most important thing is to make sure you’re buying plain, unsweetened yogurt. Let it warm to room temperature and then try feeding a small amount to your cat. Even cats that are lactose intolerant should be able to stomach small amounts of yogurt.
After feeding, watch your cat closely for signs of an upset stomach (vomiting, diarrhea, general discomfort, etc.). If everything seems to go well, you can try incorporating yogurt into your cat’s regular diet.
Are there any Side Effects of Probiotics?
As mentioned previously, there really aren’t any dangers associated with probiotics.
Even if you continue to use the supplement past its used-by date the bacteria strains used in probiotic products are harmless.
The only real side effects of probiotic use include a return to bad gut health after discontinuing their use, or if your cat is allergic to one of the additives included in the product.
The latter situation is quite rare but can be dangerous, so if you suspect that your cat is reacting badly to the probiotic you’re giving him or her then seek help from your vet immediately.
How do you Feed Probiotics to Your Cat?
The feeding instructions for any given probiotic supplement are specific to the product and should be clearly explained by the manufacturer.
For powered supplements, sprinkling it over wet food is the generally recommended method.
For fussier cats, you may need to mix it into the food so it isn’t as noticeable, but many cats will be happy to eat the food even if the powder is visible.
Liquid probiotics, on the other hand, generally require the addition of water and can be mixed in with dry food or given by themselves. The majority of cats aren’t bothered by the addition of probiotic supplements to their meals, but for the ones that are try buying a product that’s formulated as a treat to get their interest.
Keeping Your Cat’s Gut Healthy
Given the massive benefits that probiotics can have for cats, it’s clear that having a balanced gut is an essential piece of what makes a happy, healthy cat. While probiotics can help with this, there are also other things that, as an owner, you could be doing to help your cat.
This includes making sure that you feed your cat the correct amount, avoiding exposing your cat to highly stressful situations, and monitoring bacteria levels in your cat’s gut to determine whether there’s an overpopulation of one type that might indicate the early stages of gut disease. The best way to do this is by purchasing a gut microbiome testing kit.
If you’re interested in doing more to improve your cat’s gut health, take a look at our Microbiome Testing Kit Review to learn more about how you can test your cat’s gut flora and get to know more about his or her digestive health!