Cats and milk

If you've ever seen cartoons or children's books featuring cats, you're likely to have seen cats drinking milk from a saucer. But, can cats drink cow milk? Is regular milk bad for cats? 

What's the story with cats & milk?

Cats can be drawn to milk because it's creamy and tasty, but can a cat drink milk? According to most cats (like some people) are lactose intolerant, which causes digestive problems when they drink milk. If a cat is lactose intolerant, that means they can't digest the lactose in milk, so it will stay undigested as it travels through their digestive system. This brings water with it into the intestines, which causes diarrhea. The undigested milk sugar can also start to ferment in the intestines which can also cause gas, bloating and vomiting. So, if your cat is lactose intolerant, giving them cow's milk can make them feel sick and could also lead to you having a mess to clean up! 

So what about lactose free milk? Or what if your cat is one of those that can tolerate lactose? 

Even if your cat is not lactose intolerant, catster goes on to say that the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) says one saucer of milk would be the equivalent of fat and calories of an entire 12 inch pizza, and petmd says adding fats and sugars from milk can cause your cat to pack on weight, so it's not recommended to give a cat milk even if they don't get sick from the lactose. Cats and cow milk aren't a good mix! 

 So, what about kittens, don't they drink milk? 

Kittens are born with the ability to drink their mother's milk. says kittens rely solely on mother's milk for around the first 4 weeks of their life, but that is different from cow's milk! The only milk kittens should drink is cats milk! Giving cow's milk to a kitten can be dangerous for kittens! Like in adult cats, it can lead to diarrhea and vomiting and since kittens are so small, that puts a lot of strain on them. says giving a kitten cow's milk can even lead to dehydration, which impedes your kittens normal bodily functions. If you think your kitten is dehydrated, it's time to take them to the vet or emergency clinic! Orphaned kittens should never be given cow's milk! If an unweaned kitten has lost it's mother, they can drink formula, but they'll need a formula specifically for kittens. Catster recommends either PetAg KMR Powder Milk Supplement for Kittens or Hartz Powdered Milk Replacer Formula for Kittens.

So, as we have seen, the answer to "can cats have milk" is a no! It's better for cats to drink water and have different kinds of treats than to have milk that can make them sick. All that said, one of my adult cats won't eat any other treats, so we do allow him a few licks of lactose free milk a few times a week without dire consequences. So, while cow's milk is a big no-no for tiny kittens, I don't think you need to worry too much if your adult cat gets a few licks out of your cereal bowl now and then, and shows no symptoms afterwards!

Cover Photo by Jacob Sam on Unsplash

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