In this article, you’ll learn what probiotics can do for your cat, which cats need probiotics, and which products work best. We’ll conclude with a list of the top 5 best probiotics for cats.
To find the best probiotics for cats, I’ve examined product listings, consulted with experts, read customer reviews, browsed cat health forums, and dove into scientific publications and resources like the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the NIH’s in-depth report on probiotics. And because this space is plagued by fake customer reviews, I put their veracity to the test on FakeSpot.com.
Quick Look at Our Top Picks:
- Overall Best Probiotic For Cats: Hyperbiotics PRO-Pets – A Probiotic for Dogs & Cats
- Best Probiotic Powder For Cats: Nusentia Probiotic Miracle for Dogs and Cats
- Best Probiotic For Cats With A Loss Of Appetite: Fortiflora Nutritional Supplement for Cats
- Best Affordable Probiotic For Cats: Jarrow Formulas Pet Dophilus Powder
- Best Probiotic Gel For Cats And Kittens: Benebac Plus Probiotic Pet Gel
Do cats need probiotics?
Probiotics can benefit cats, but is there a historical or evolutionary precedent for feline probiotic consumption?
Like all animals, your cat’s natural prey has their own microbiome, meaning that a fresh mouse or bird comes with a variety of both good and bad bacteria. What’s more, a bite-size pocket of fermenting plant matter and microorganisms is built into every meal.
Externally, prey animals have feathers, hair, teeth, claws, and other indigestible animal tissue. For a carnivore, this may serve a purpose similar to plant fiber. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, helping to promote probiotic activity in the gut.
Just as humans have been eating probiotic-rich fermented foods for thousands of years, so have cats historically consumed probiotic material. This suggests that a modern-day diet lacks the beneficial organisms found in a cat’s natural prey.
Here’s how probiotics can help.
You’ve probably heard some of the grandiose claims made by probiotic peddlers.
- MaryRuth’s Liquid Probiotics for Cats “Provides defense from emotional and physiological stressors”.
- PremoPet’s Premo Probiotic for Cats “will even cut LITTERBOX SMELL!”
- According to the product’s Amazon listing, iDash’s probiotic supplement “strengthens bones and muscles”.
In reality, the microbiome and its relationship with the gastrointestinal tract, immune system, and every other part of the body, is impossibly complex. It’s logical to anticipate benefits from tossing extra bugs into the billions already populating the body, but we don’t know precisely how far those benefits go.
Given the importance of the microbiome, it’s plausible that probiotics could have an impact on emotional health, bone and muscle strength, and other aspects of general health, but these benefits are little more than hypothetical at this stage.
Researchers have only scratched the surface of the human microbiome, and we know even less about the feline microbiome.
Cats can definitely benefit from probiotic supplementation, especially if they are suffering from diarrhea or other forms of digestive distress. If your cat has IBS or IBD, probiotic supplementation should be part of your treatment plan.
Probiotics for IBS and IBD, General GI Problems
Because probiotics both promote a healthy community of microorganisms and stabilize barriers in the digestive tract, they can protect the body from inflammatory bodies, help the microbiota to flourish after antibiotic therapy, and aid in recovery after digestive disturbances.
According to several controlled trials, probiotic supplementation can reduce transit time, improve stool consistency, and increase stool frequency. This means that in addition to reducing diarrhea, probiotics can treat constipation.
Probiotics for Immune Function
Certain genes and compounds derived from probiotics mediate immunoregulatory effects, enhancing innate immunity and modulating inflammation. Therefore, probiotics can help cats with immune-related disease like allergies or infections.
Probiotics for Chronic Kidney Disease
In chronic kidney disease, the kidneys have reduced ability to detoxify the body. Instead of being filtered out in the kidneys, bacteria and endotoxins have no choice but to enter the gut. Theoretically, probiotic supplementation can perform a sort of “enteric dialysis”, doing in the gut what the kidneys can no longer do.
Cats with kidney disease are often given a synergized prebiotic and probiotic called Azodyl as part of their diet. Azodyl is marketed specifically for these cats and, according to some research, can help to move toxins and bacteria out of the gut and bloodstream, helping your cat to feel better.
Azodyl’s efficacy is unclear, but it doesn’t hurt your cat. And when they’re suffering from a terminal illness like CKD, there’s no harm in trying it out. Probiotics can increase an overall sense of wellbeing, which is definitely a good thing for CKD kitties and every cat.
Probiotics for Cats on Antibiotics
While the antibiotics wipe out both good and bad bacteria, regular doses of a probiotic supplement helps to rebuild the friendly populations destroyed during antibiotic therapy.
Probiotics and antibiotics can be friends if you give them to your cat together. You don’t have to wait until antibiotic therapy is complete. Instead, give your cat a probiotic a few hours before or after each antibiotic treatment.
How do you choose probiotics for your cat?
Seek out bacterial species with a reputation for effectiveness.
Ideally, you would pick up a probiotic that directly imitates and fortifies the feline microbiome.
Currently, the only way you can do this is through a fecal transplant. Because they’re taken from a healthy animal of the same species, fecal transplants represent the full range of microbiota found in the feline gut. Instead of expecting humans to figure out exactly what’s going on inside of your cat’s gut and replicate it, this transplant allows us to draw out what is there, named or nameless, and move it from one cat to another.
Probiotic supplements lack this sophistication.
Because we don’t know enough about the feline microbiome to create this dream supplement, most people opt for the shotgun approach and select the probiotic with the most strains.
Remember that you’re introducing living organisms to your cat’s inner ecosystem, and like any other ecosystem, your cat’s microbiome is competitive. If you attempt to colonize with too many species, competition and dilution could result. Furthermore, it’s likely that you’re getting only a small amount of each strain and therefore not getting the full therapeutic effect of each strain.
Look for probiotics made with several thoroughly-researched species and strains.
Don’t underestimate the importance of probiotic viability. Viability is a more important metric than CFUs.
Remember that when you buy a probiotic supplement, you’re not buying capsules of inert white or tan powder. You’re buying a jar of tiny bugs. Unless handled with care, the rigors of storage and transport will kill them before they reach their would-be home inside your cat’s body.
When Labdoor performed microbiological testing on 37 of the United States’ best-selling probiotics, they found that:
“Total viable bacteria ranged from 0% to 308% of the products’ stated label claims.”
Dead bugs aren’t as beneficial as live ones, so you need to ensure that you’re getting well-handled, humanely treated probiotics.
Will the milk test tell me whether or not the probiotics are alive?
This test involves mixing a probiotic supplement with milk, letting it sit for 24 hours, and observing whether or not the milk ferments into yogurt. If the milk goes sour and creamy, the probiotics are deemed viable. If not, they’re pronounced dead.
While the test is a valuable indicator of viability in certain probiotic strains, it’s not universally reliable. Not all probiotic strains ferment milk and some non-probiotic additives do. Coatings and supplement format may also impede the bacteria’s ability to ferment milk.
You can’t always trust customer reviews.
Reviews of probiotics are generally less trustworthy than those of other products. Here’s why—charlatans love supplements.
Whether they’re peddled for cats or humans, the purported benefits of health supplements are usually vague, making them easy to exaggerate and hard to refute. And because probiotics are so little understood but so full of potential, it’s easy to make bold claims without pushback.
Gushy reviews may be a reflection of a great-quality product, but they could be deceptive.
Before adding any product to our list of top probiotics, I checked its trust score on FakeSpot to ensure that the positive reviews were trustworthy. When doing your own shopping, this is always a good idea, especially when shopping for something pushed as panacea.
Can cats use human probiotics?
Everything we know about probiotics for cats is based on our experience with humans and other animals.
Buying probiotics for pets doesn’t mean that you’re getting a mix of strains that’s targeted to the the feline microbiome, because people don’t know enough about the feline microbiome to create such a supplement.
Therefore, feline-specific probiotics aren’t necessarily better for your cat than a supplement packaged for humans. However, they do have an advantage in the flavor department. This brings us to our next point.
Look for palatable, easy-to-feed probiotics.
Probiotics come in a variety of forms. You can get them in pills, powders, and liquids. Pet probiotics may be flavored with animal digest, which is made from hydrolyzed animal tissue and is incredibly tasty to cats. If you’ve ever given your cat a Temptations treat, you’ll know how much cats love this flavor additive.
Are there any side effects and how much should you give your cat?
For healthy cats, side effects are rare. If your cat has a weak system, probiotics could overwhelm them and make them feel sick or, in rare cases, develop an infection. There are no official dosing guidelines for cats, but it’s recommended that you give your cat a supplement guaranteed at between 1 billion and 5 billion CFU’s each day.
Top 5 Best Probiotics for Cats
All of the following probiotics meet our standards for safety, viability, and effectiveness.
Overall Best Probiotic for Cats: Hyperbiotics PRO-Pets – A Probiotic for Dogs & Cats Review
This is the only probiotic supplement on this market that comes in a small pearl format. The pearl is easy to hide in your cat’s food or a treat. It has a beef flavor that, according to customer reviews, cats love. Each pearl contains 3 billion CFUs.
This probiotic blend contains six bacteria species.
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Enterococcus faecium
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Lactobacillus reuteri
Unlike some other probiotics that contain artificial colors and sweeteners, this supplement is all-natural.
- Contains 6 well-known and effective bacteria species
- Has a beef flavor cats love
- 3 billion CFUs per serving
- Easy to dose and serve
- Some might dislike the pearl-shaped capsule
Best Probiotic Powder for Cats: Nusentia Probiotic Miracle for Dogs and Cats Review
This probiotic supplement contains six species of beneficial bacteria. They are as follows:
- Bifidobacterium Animalis Lactis
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus Salivarius
- Lactobacillus Plantarum
- Lactobacillus Reuteri
All of these bacteria have well-documented benefits for animals, particularly dogs. Research on their benefits for cats is less extensive.
Each scoop contains 1 billion CFUs of live bacteria, and this bacteria count is guaranteed for up to one year after the date of manufacture. This date is stamped on the bottom of the jar.
To increase efficacy, the formula includes inulin, which is a prebiotic fiber that promotes probiotic activity in the gut.
- Synergized with prebiotics for maximum efficacy
- Easy-to-administer powder format
- A well-known and popular supplement
- High CFU count
- Some may not like scooping the powder
Best Probiotic for Cats with a Loss of Appetite: Fortiflora Nutritional Supplement for Cats Review
This best-selling probiotic supplement is commonly recommended by veterinarians and is probably the first product people think of when discussing probiotics made for cats. Fortiflora is different from other probiotics in several respects. First of all, it doesn’t contain the multiple strains that we typically look for.
Instead, each sachet contains 100 million CFU’s of a single species of bacteria—Enterococcus faecium.
Because it has well-known benefits for cats and dogs suffering from digestive issues, E. faecium is recommended for cats with diarrhea or digestive problems. It can also promote healthy immune function.
It’s made with hydrolyzed animal tissue, a crazy-concentrated flavor additive that drives cats wild. For this reason, Fortiflora is well-known as an appetite stimulant and widely used among cats with kidney disease and consequent loss of appetite.
Some rail against animal digest, saying that it’s made from animal ingredients of unknown quality. This is true—we don’t know what animals went into this flavor juice. There’s a chance that the animals used aren’t of the quality you’d prefer. However, you need not worry that the animal digest will irritate your cat’s allergies. Hydrolysis renders animal proteins non-allergenic, so that’s not a concern.
- Good for inappetent cats
- Contains a well-documented and well-researched strain of beneficial bacteria
- A well-known product with thousands of authentic customer reviews
- Comes in easy-to-serve packets of powder
- Contains just one probiotic species
- Relatively low CFUs
Jarrow Formulas Pet Dophilus Powder Review
Jarrow is one of the most well-respected names in the probiotic supplement industry. Their Pet Dophilus formula is similarly well-received. It’s made with five probiotic bacterium and comes in a powdered form, making it easy to mix into your cat’s food. Each gram or ¼ teaspoon of the powder contains 1 billion CFUs.
Pet Dophilus contains the following substrains:
- L. casei KE-0
- E. faecium PF7101
- P. acidilactici PF7103
- L. acidophilus La-14
- B. animalis subsp lactis B1-04
To enhance the performance of the probiotic bacteria, the formula contains inulin, a fiber that helps to promote friendly bacteria growth. It’s also made with metabolin, a blend of metabolites and cell wall components. Metabolic also works synergistically with the five probiotic bacteria.
- Contains five well-researched bacteria with known benefits
- Easy-to-feed and highly-stable powder format
- High CFU count
- Synergized with the prebiotic inulin and metabolin
- Some cats dislike the taste of the powder
Best Probiotic Gel for Cats and Kittens: Benebac Plus Probiotic Pet Gel Review
This well-known probiotic gel contains seven beneficial microorganisms. Each gram of gel contains 20 million CFU of viable bacteria. It’s recommended that adult cats take 1 gram for every 10 pounds of body weight.
Species present in the gel:
- Lactobacillus Casei
- Lactobacillus Fermentum
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus
- Lactobacillus Plantarum
- Enterococcus Faecium
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum
- Pediococcus Acidilactici
The gel syringe is a good choice for cats who cannot or will not take probiotics in their food, like kittens who are bottle feeding. Because these kittens don’t receive an inoculation of bacteria from their mother’s milk, a probiotic supplement can help support the growth of good GI bacteria.
The gel is guaranteed viable for 1 year after the date of manufacture printed on the package.
- Ideal for kittens
- Dial-a-dose syringes are easy to use
- Relatively affordable
- Made with the prebiotic fructooligosaccharide (FOS)
- Well-known and respected
- Contains artificial color
- Some cats won’t like the syringe application
- Relatively low CFUs
Cultivating Healthy Gut Flora
Once you’ve chosen the best probiotic for your cat, remember that creating a healthy microbiome takes more than supplementation alone. Instead, take a holistic approach by feeding your cat a diet that promotes good bacteria growth and discourages the growth of bad bacteria.
- Avoid excessive antibiotic therapy. If antibiotics are prescribed, ensure that they’re appropriate for the given condition.
- Feed a diverse diet of varied whole foods. Multiple sources of animal protein can help to encourage a varied gut flora.
- Play with your cat and encourage them to exercise. Some studies have shown that physical activity may alter gut bacteria and improve gut health in humans.
- Avoid cat food that contains added sugars. Sugar isn’t only unnecessary in your cat’s food— a 2012 study suggested that it can promote unhealthy gut bacteria growth.
About the author
Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.