Probiotics are a huge trend in the wellness and skin-care categories — and they are also very big in the cat universe, with brands promising that doses of live microorganisms can help with everything from diarrhea and vomiting to scratching and shedding. While probiotics aren’t a silver bullet for all the things that could ail your fur baby, there’s promising research and vet approval to support that the best probiotics for cats can help out a pet’s gut and general well-being.
“The biggest reason to use them is gastrointestinal issues,” says Cailin Heinze, an assistant professor specializing in nutrition at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. If your cat is generally eating and acting normally but is suffering from soft stool or diarrhea caused by stress (think: adoption, visitors, new members of the household, moving, et cetera), probiotics can be especially helpful. “Anything more significant than that — losing weight, vomiting… talk to a vet,” Dr. Heinze recommends.
Some pet parents give feline probiotics as a preventative measure, too, and they can be safely used longer term with most animals. “If the product is safe, the biggest issue is for your wallet,” Dr. Heinze notes. She suggests supplements over cat foods with probiotics mixed in, since supplements are more stable and easier to control.
However, different formulas of probiotics can vary wildly when it comes to effect, so it’s important to choose wisely. For a bottle that’s strong enough to make a real impact, look for formulas with at least 100 million CFUs (colony forming units).
Dr. Heinze points out that studies show serious quality control issues with probiotics. One 2011 assessment said that only about a quarter of the products tested with “specific claims of viable organisms met or exceeded their label claim.” So, it’s important to do your research and not just pick up the cheapest bottle expecting it to do the job.