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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.

Our Advice on Everything You Need to Know About Cats and Milk

Why isn’t milk suitable for cats?

Lactose, the primary enzyme in milk, is challenging for most adult cats to digest, just like some humans. It can lead to digestive issues such as an upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting when consumed in large quantities. While kittens require their mother’s milk during their early weeks, they also become lactose-intolerant as they grow. Other dairy foods like cheese or yogurt contain less lactose but aren’t nutritionally necessary for cats.

Do kittens require milk, and for how long?

Yes, kittens require their mother’s milk during their early weeks of life. This is the only time milk is a nutritional requirement for cats.

Can I feed my cat any dairy products?

Feeding your cat small amounts of dairy products like cheese or yogurt is possible, but they should be given sparingly. Cats don’t require dairy, and too much can lead to stomach upset. A better option is lactose-free ‘cat milk’ if you want to treat your cat. Remember, fresh water is essential for their health.

What is ‘cat milk,’ and how is it different from regular milk?

‘Cat milk’ is a lactose-free milk product specially formulated for cats. It differs from regular milk by removing all lactose, making it easier for cats to digest without causing upset stomachs or other issues associated with lactose intolerance. It provides the taste cats love without the harmful effects of lactose.

What is the primary liquid that cats need for their health?

The primary liquid that cats need for their health is fresh water. It’s essential for their well-being and hydration, unlike milk or dairy, which isn’t a necessary part of their diet.

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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