Can Cats Drink Milk?
Can cats drink milk? If you have never looked into this before, you will be surprised to hear that cats should not drink milk.
This goes against everything we see in the movies, or in the Tom and Jerry cartoons from our youth, (I distinctly remember young Thomas getting a saucer of milk from the maid every now and then). If a cat needs looking after, a little milk is usually offered.
Well the fact is this is wrong. Cats should not drink milk.
Why Can’t Cats Drink Milk?
Once cats are weaned they can longer drink milk as most felines are in fact lactose intolerant. They are not able to produce enough of the right kind of enzyme (lactase) in order to efficiently digest the milk.
So what happens if you give a cat milk? Well in effect, their inability to produce enough lactase to digest the milk means they are unable to break it down into simple sugars. Normally the milk is processed into the blood stream after it has been turned into these sugars.
Instead, the milk lingers in the stomach where harmful bacteria is given the chance to ferment and multiply. It is this process that leads to upset stomach, wind, diarrhea and other tummy upsets. None of which are enjoyable for either cat or owner.
Conversely, young kittens have to drink milk in order to live. The mother will produce the milk that her kittens rely on completely, (much like our own babies).
The weaning process for kittens to come off the milk begins at around 4 weeks old, however up until that point the source of nutrition has to come from milk.
If the mother is not around to supply this milk, it is very important that you don’t intervene and think you are helping by giving a kitten cows milk. This can be very harmful, if a young kitten has severe stomach problems from the wrong milk, it can be fatal.
The best milk is obviously from the mother, however in the absence of this, you would need to buy kitten formula that can be obtained by your local vets.
What about lactose tolerant cats?
Not all cats react so badly to milk (or other dairy products for that matter). If your cat is lactose tolerant, their stomachs will produce enough lactose to safely digest the milk.
However, the only way to discover your cat’s ability to breakdown lactose is by feeding them the milk, cheese etc. If you begin with only a small amount, and your cat is okay, it may be safe to feed them dairy products, (in moderation) as an occasional treat.
Can Cats Drink Other Kinds of Milk?
If you are set on giving your cat some milk, there is always the aforementioned special formulas that you can buy. These are basically lactose free milks. Do not think you can go out and buy lactose free milk that is meant for humans though. Stick to the stuff especially designed for felines.
Kitten Milk Replacer
If you are in a situation where you have a kitten yet the mother is not around to provide milk, you are best placed to opt for one of the commercial products available.
One that we highly recommended is Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) Powder for Kittens and Cat.
Cats and Cows Milk – The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the best kind of liquid you can give your cat is good old fresh water. You should ensure that they have a fresh bowl of water every day. This will rehydrate them completely, and a balanced diet will take care of the nutrition that they need.
Not only is it harmful for most cats to drink cows milk, those that can get very little benefit from it anyway. Overall, it is best avoided.