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The Benefits of Probiotics for Cats

Digestive upset can leave  cat owners looking for a safe and effective solution. Probiotics for cats, like FortiFlora, for example, can alleviate problems like this, and they can have other benefits as well.  

What are Probiotics & How Do They Work?

Your first question is probably “are probiotics good for cats?” The answer is yes. Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that promote balance in the intestines.  

The intestines contain billions of bacteria that make up the microbiome. An imbalance in the microbiome can cause digestive upset.  

“Among other effects, probiotics decrease the pH in the gut and help the good bacteria thrive which supports overall digestive health,” says Dr. Emily Cross, DVM, DABVP. 

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: How are They Different?

It’s easy to confuse prebiotics and probiotics because they sound and look similar, but they serve different purposes when fed to cats and dogs. 

“Probiotics are live bacteria fed to an animal to confer a positive effect. Prebiotics are not bacteria, but rather specific fiber sources, which can help encourage the growth of a cat’s own beneficial bacteria,” says Dr. Cross.  

What are the Benefits of Cat & Kitten Probiotics?

As Dr. Cross mentioned, probiotics help support digestive health. They can also support a cat’s immune health.  

“Most of our immune system is located in the digestive tract, giving the good bacteria plenty of opportunities to interact with immune cells and support immune health,” she says. 

When to Give Cats Probiotics

Whether you’ve introduced a new family member to your home (human or four-legged), you need to board your cat while you’re away or there are changes to your cat’s environment, these can all cause mild stress, which can lead to an intestinal imbalance. 

Kittens and senior cats are also more susceptible to these imbalances, and antibiotics can also disrupt normal gut bacteria. 

If you notice a change in your cat’s feces, probiotics may help. Dr. Cross uses probiotics in her practice daily, most often to treat digestive upset.  

In addition to probiotics for specific needs, she also recommends probiotic cat foods such as Purina Pro Plan SAVOR dry cat food to her patients. “Their probiotic in the diet proactively helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract,” she says. 

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 probiotics in cats. “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,” 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 counter-indicated 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 advice. If your cat is not feeling well, you should always consult with your veterinarian so they can make the best recommendation for your pet. 

“Hopefully, we’ll have an expanding knowledge of what probiotics can do and have other products in the future that we could use for a variety of different health issues,” she says. 

Are Human Probiotics Good for Cats?

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

You can’t give the same probiotics you’re taking to your cat, 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. 

“Cats and dogs can also be sensitive to the amount of dairy in yogurt. It’s important to use a product that has shown it has an efficacious amount of probiotic bacteria, they remain alive on the shelf and they can survive down to the lower GI tract where they have their biggest impact.” 

Try Probiotics for Cats

“We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what probiotics can do for us in veterinary medicine and we’re just beginning to understand the importance of the intestinal microbiome. 

“It’s an exciting area that is getting a lot more attention. I am hopeful we will have even more understanding of what probiotics can do in the near future,” says Dr. Cross. 

Although probiotics aren’t suitable for every issue or situation, Purina offers a variety of dietary and supplemental options to meet your cat’s needs. Work with your veterinarian to choose the right probiotic for your cat. Explore all our probiotic cat food formulas. 

Get more tips from our experts on our Pet Expertise page.