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Can Cats Drink Milk?

As kittens, cats thrive on their mother’s milk. But as they grow and are weaned from their mother, can cats continue to drink milk? Unfortunately, only some adult cats can drink milk without digestive upsets and other problems.

 

Kittens derive their daily nutrition from their mother’s milk until they are gradually weaned starting from when they’re about 4 weeks old. By the time kittens are 8-10 weeks old, they should be eating solid foods. After weaning, many cats lose the ability to digest milk. For milk to be digested properly and utilized in the body, there should be enough lactase enzymes to act on lactose which is the sugar that is found in milk. Kittens produce enough quantities of lactase so their bodies can efficiently digest and utilize their mother’s milk. With weaning, lactase production in the body slowly declines as other enzymes are needed to digest solid food. However, some cats retain the ability to produce enough lactase to digest milk sugar for life.

 

Cats and Milk Myth

It is a myth that milk is an ideal food for cats. Cream in milk is particularly appealing to cats because of its high-fat content. But cats don’t find it easy to digest milk.

 

Is Milk Healthy for Cats?

 

Milk can be healthy for cats. However, not all types of milk are good for cats. Cow’s milk, for one, isn’t healthy for most cats, especially when it’s used as a substitute for a balanced meal. It’s always been said that milk is a complete food, however, the nutrients that are present in milk are inadequate to support the nutritional needs of cats on a daily basis. In other words, cats don’t benefit anything nutritionally from milk that they don’t gain from eating a complete and balanced premium quality cat food.

 

Whole or skim cow’s milk contains considerable amounts of fat that can increase a cat’s risk of having an upset stomach and unhealthy gain in weight. Goat milk, on the other hand, contains less lactose and is also easily digestible compared to cow's milk. It also contains prebiotics and probiotics that are great at supplementing your pet's health! An important symptom of lactose intolerance in cats is loose stool. So when you see your kitty having loose stool after consuming milk or milk products, stop giving it immediately.

 

Is it Safe for Cats to Drink Milk?

Normal cat nutrition, especially in those that have been weaned, does not include milk, thus their digestive system is unable to efficiently digest milk.

 

If your cat drinks milk regularly without getting any digestive upsets, adjustments should be made to their solid food diet to prevent excessive calorie consumption. Milk can actually be fattening, so moderation is the key.

 

When a cat that’s lactose-intolerant drinks milk, lactose remains undigested. As it passes through the intestinal tract, it attracts water. Microbial flora in the color act on the undigested sugars in milk in a process called ‘fermentation’ which leads to the production of volatile fatty acids (VFAs). These events taking place in the gastrointestinal tract can eventually lead to an upset stomach, gassiness, and diarrhea. Symptoms usually manifest within 8-12 hours after consuming milk.

 

What if your Cat Loves Milk?

Your best bet would be to give lactose-free milk for cats or goat’s milk. However, always remember to give milk in moderation as it contains calories that can add up to your pet’s daily intake. Cats can easily develop obesity-related health issues.

 

What Should your Cat be Drinking Instead?

Water. Yes, cats need plenty of water for their health. Water is an important component in many physiological processes in the body and promotes optimal organ function in cats. Unfortunately, cats are known for being poor water drinkers and this can increase their risks for developing kidney problems. While milk contains a considerable amount of water, its other components are not healthy for cats. One way to help your cat’s water intake is to feed canned pet food. This will come in handy if your cat is less keen on drinking enough water each day.

 

What Milk Can I Give My Cat?

Even if your cat can tolerate milk, always think “small” and “occasionally”. Here are different types of milk and whether they can be given to cats or not.

 

Type of Milk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cow’s milk

  • Whole cow’s or cream should be avoided because they have higher fat and sugar content.
  • Organic skim milk with 1% fats can be given.
  • Lactose-free cow’s milk is a safe option. Pet safe milk like COSI or Top Life are great.
  • Stick with raw milk as much as possible because it has been associated with fewer negative effects
  • Condensed milk or evaporated milk should be avoided.

 

Soy Milk

 

  • Should be avoided as the digestive system of cats do not have enough enzymes that could metabolize carbohydrates and plant-based proteins.
  • Some cats are allergic to proteins in soy.

 

Almond Milk

 

  • Does not contain lactose but almonds can be dangerous to cats because of their high oil and fat content. Consumption may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Some cats may develop pancreatitis after eating almonds.

 

Coconut Milk

 

  • Avoid giving cats coconut milk because they contain high amount of fat and oils. Plant proteins in coconut milk cannot be efficiently digested by cats.

 

 

Goat’s Milk

 

  • If your cat is not lactose-intolerant, you can give raw goat’s milk as a small and occasional treat.