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Everything You Need to Know About Cats and Milk

February 15, 2019

Your cat and milk seems like a match for the ages. Indeed, our feline friends might love lapping up a full saucer of milk if it’s given to them. You might be surprised to learn, though, that milk isn’t good for cats at all! Your Waterdown, ON veterinarian explains below.

Why Isn’t Milk Good for Cats?

Most adult cats are actually lactose-intolerant, meaning that they can’t tolerate too much lactose—milk’s primary enzyme—in their digestive systems. This is the same condition that affects many humans! Your cat might enjoy drinking milk, but the milk isn’t likely to return the favor. A cat who drinks too much milk will experience an upset stomach at the very least, and is likely to demonstrate diarrhea or vomiting if they ingest a large amount.

Don’t Kittens Require Milk?

You might be wondering about kittens, who do in fact require their mother’s milk during the early stages of life. (If the mother isn’t around, a synthetic substitute milk product can be given.) These early weeks are the only time in a cat’s life cycle, actually, during which milk is a nutritional requirement. As a kitten gets older, they start to produce less and less lactase in the gut, which is the enzyme that helps to digest lactose. Once a kitten has grown into an adult cat, it’s likely that they don’t possess nearly enough lactase to digest lactose, thereby becoming lactose-intolerant.

Can I Feed My Cat Any Dairy?

Other dairy foods, like cheese or yogurt, don’t have as much lactose in them as milk does; this means they’re less likely to cause harm to your pet. However, dairy food of any kind isn’t nutritionally necessary for your cat, and too much of any foreign food is likely to cause an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you must feed your cat dairy foods, keep the portion size extremely small.

A much better idea is a commercially available “cat milk,” which is a milk product that has had all lactose removed. This allows you to give your cat the taste she loves without any of the harmful side effects! Also, it’s important to keep in mind that your cat only needs one liquid to stay healthy: fresh water.

Do you have questions about your cat’s nutrition or dietary needs? We’re always here to help. Set up an appointment today with your Waterdown, ON veterinary clinic.

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