Probiotics for Cats

Probiotics for cats

Shelly Adrian, DVM



Reading Time: 4 mins, 52 secs.


Some beneficial live microorganisms or, probiotics for cats, when dosed adequately may help maintain a cat’s GI system. Probiotic research suggests that supplementing the feline microbiota with certain probiotics is promising for symptom relief.

Probiotics for cats are beneficial microorganisms which can assist the normal gut bacteria to serve an essential biological role. The word probiotic stems from the Latin word “pro,” meaning ‘promoting’ and “biotic,” which means ‘life.’

In the early 20th century, Eli Metchinoff discovered healthy gut microorganisms. The Nobel Prize-winning Russian scientist observed Bulgarians who daily drank fermented milk lived longer than others. He theorized the bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus improves health and increases longevity.


How are Probiotics for Cats helpful:
  • Probiotics modulate the immune system.
  • Probiotics stimulates the release of a variety of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
  • Restore the functions of a leaky mucous membrane.
  • Reduces abnormal intestinal permeability.
  • Protects healthy microbiota from pathogenic bacteria because of the production of antimicrobial substances called bacteriocins.
  • Upholds an exclusion of pathogens by preventing adhesion, occupying binding sites, or consuming vital nutrients.
  • Helps to halt diarrhea, to reseed the gut with beneficial bacteria, improving digestion, and boosting immunity.


Successful probiotic treatment of diarrhea in humans suggests the use of probiotics in other animals such as cats. Probiotics have been suggested to aid in the treatment of cats with flatulence, persistent E. Coli Urinary Tract Infections, acute diarrhea, acute pancreatitis, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic inflammatory enteropathies.


What are Probiotics for Cats?


Probiotics work in protecting a cat’s intestinal microbiota, which maintains the health of the GI tract.

Probiotics are typically lactic acid bacteria, including strains like:

  • Enterococcus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Streptococcus
  • Lactobacillus spp

The strains which cats tend to do best with are typically in the genus Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus, but it is important to know that each species and strain of bacteria can have a very specific effect on the gut, and not always beneficial. While Bifidobacterium can be involved with digestion, the Enterococcus genus in general assists with the formation of excrement, and some species and strains appear to help maintain colonic health.

The idea is that adding “good bacteria” stimulates the production of more of the cat’s native beneficial bacteria. In doing so, the entire balance of intestinal flora shifts towards producing and maintaining more beneficial bacteria.

Understanding intestinal microbiota in a cat’s gastrointestinal tract, and the impact of probiotics in regulating interactions between microbiota and a cat's internal system is challenging, as it involves many intricate interactions and variability between individual cats.

Although the evidence of efficacy is at a minimum and conflicting, much peer-reviewed literature regarding probiotics is positive. For example, some strains of probiotics for cats helps not only GI tract health, but also, the immune system, which is exceptionally intriguing.


Why are Probiotics for Cats helpful?


Several studies of single-strain probiotics have shown decreased diarrhea during stressful situations, antibiotic administration and have suggested an impact of the immune health of cats with upper respiratory conditions. A recent open-label study of a multi-strain probiotic showed that 70% of pet parents reported improvements in their pet’s clinical condition with supplementation of a multispecies probiotic.


How are Probiotics for Cats Beneficial?
  • By helping cats maintain homeostasis or balance, probiotics keep a cat’s health in check.
  • Certain probiotics for cats can help with acute diarrhea and stress-related diarrhea.
  • Plus, it may work as a solution for at-risk cats that develop antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  • Fortunately, probiotic administration with certain species and strains seems to have minimal adverse side effects.
  • Young cats with viral diarrhea or who undergo stress can potentially benefit from certain strains of probiotics. A pet parent can administer probiotics to their cat a few weeks ahead of a stressful event.
  • In chronic diseases, long-term administration may beneficially stimulate the immune system.
  • Certain probiotics may help minimize a variety of illnesses and diseases primarily related to the GI tract.
  • May help maintain normal gut health. So, there are less clinical signs of digestive upset like decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or stool changes. One probiotic has been shown to aid in helping to promote immunity.



Top Probiotics for Cats Trivia


QUESTION: Does every strain of probiotics do the same thing?

ANSWER: Health effects are strain-specific, and for this reason, not all strains of bacterial species have the same functional characteristics. Therefore, knowing the probiotic strain designation and dosage is critical. Also, to compare products to clinical studies published in the literature.


QUESTION: Doesn't the US Food and Drug Administration regulate probiotics?

ANSWER: Currently, no governing agency oversees quality control, product content, or label claims. Also, commercial products over the counter have a considerable variation in quality control. It is important to talk with your veterinarian about his or her recommendations since many available products do no meet minimum standards.

While probiotics for cat research is promising, currently limited data makes recommendations challenging. Specific recommendations for the use of probiotic products should be talked about with your veterinarian.


QUESTION: Does it matter which probiotic I buy for my cat?

ANSWER: Every bacterial strain, even from the same bacterial species, can be entirely different in its properties and benefits. Only a few commercially available products have been studied in cats, so it is important to follow the recommendations of your veterinarian.


QUESTION: Is it essential to upkeep the health of microbiota and the gastrointestinal tract in my cat?

ANSWER: Microbiota composes 90% of the total cells in the mammalian body. Furthermore, intestinal microbiota research found a highly complex intestinal ecosystem which not only differs from patient to patient, but also, is vital in maintaining optimal health. You can maintain your cat's microbiota by feeding a nutritionally complete and balanced diet which contains prebiotic fiber sources, and always discuss any GI disturbances in your cat with your veterinarian.


How do I add Probiotics to my Cat’s diet?


  1. Consult with a Veterinarian: Before using any probiotic or other supplements on your cat, ask your Veterinarian's opinion.
  2. Assess the Probiotics Product Label: Evaluate the label to see if a guaranteed analysis offers the number of live bacteria, a list of the specific genus, species, strain, and expiration date.
  3. Select the Most Appropriate Form: Cat probiotics  come in powders, pills, and infused treats. Again, it's important to realize the significance of using a product that has published research in cats.
  4. Use the Correct Doses of Probiotics: Different strains have been studied at different levels of CFU (colony forming units). Pet parents must understand that the organisms in probiotics are alive. Administer at the recommended dose (and thus studied) to compensate for losses during the passage thru the GI tract and exclusion by resident microbiota.
  5. Administer a daily regimen, if needed: If recommended by your Veterinarian for long-term use, maintain a long-term impact on a cat's health by sticking to a daily, long-term routine of probiotics for cats.
  6. Follow the Probiotic Instructions: Follow the recommendations on the probiotic’s package. If a cat doesn't swallow the probiotic, altogether the pet parent can hide it in a treat. Or better yet, pick a probiotic supplement that can be sprinkled onto the cat's food.


What should I know about Probiotics for Cats?


1.) Maintain Quality Control: Previous studies found many commercial probiotics had labeling errors and forgot to list specific microorganisms. There were misspellings, and specific numbers of bacteria were not listed. Also, further comparison test report some probiotics didn't meet viable organism claims. They contain organisms without a probiotic effect or even included potentially pathogenic microorganisms. It is extremely important to discuss dietary supplement, including probiotics, with your veterinarian prior to selecting a product.

2.) Avoid Probiotic Use in Immunocompromised Patients: When considering probiotics in cats that are immune-compromised such as intestinal mucosa, proceed with caution, and consult a veterinarian.

3.) Select a Highly Regarded Probiotic Strain: Select a recognizable strain designation which is reputable in studies.

4.) Susceptible or Resistant to Antibiotics: Probiotics, like other bacteria, are sensitive or resistant to administered antibiotics. Talk with your veterinarian if the probiotic you've selected has been studied with the antibiotic your veterinarian recommends.



Shelly Adrian, DVM

Shelly resides with her physicist husband in San Diego and has 3 dogs: a 97-pound “houndbeast” named Doc, a 77-pound “greyhound-lookin’ thing” named Nutmeg, and a young “Monkey” golden retriever mix, who she found on


Shelly Adrian DVM