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The Truth About Cats and Milk

September 1, 2018

For whatever reason, cats and milk just seem to pair well together. Although your feline friend may happily drink milk if it’s offered to her, you may be surprised to learn that cats and milk don’t mix! Your Brampton, ON veterinarian fills you in on the details below.

Why Can’t Cats Drink Milk?

It turns out that the vast majority of adult cats are lactose-intolerant. This is the same condition that many humans deal with; it means that your cat doesn’t possess enough lactase in the gut to digest lactose, the main enzyme found in milk. Essentially, your cat’s digestive system isn’t built to handle milk very well.

If a cat ingests too much milk, they will likely experience an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. While an overdose of milk won’t have long-lasting health effects, it’s just not worth the pleasantries for your cat. It’s definitely not worth the mess you’ll have to clean up!

Don’t Kittens Require Milk?

You may wonder about kittens, who drink their mother’s milk (or a synthetic milk substitute when the mother isn’t available) at a young age to receive essential nutrients for growth. It’s true—kittens do need this milk to start life out on the right foot. However, kittenhood is the only time in a cat’s life that milk is a necessity in the diet. Typically, cats start to produce less and less lactase as they age, gradually becoming lactose-intolerant over time. By the time a cat is grown, they are most likely entirely lactose-intolerant!

Would you like more information about the nutritional needs of kittens? Contact your veterinarian’s office to learn more.

What About Other Forms of Dairy?

Since other forms of dairy, like cheese or yogurt, contain lower amounts of lactose than pure milk, they’re generally safer to feed to cats. Remember, though—no dairy is a nutritional necessity for your feline friend, and even small amounts of dairy could affect their digestive health in a negative way. If you must give your cat dairy, make it a tiny nip of cheese or a small dab of yogurt.

All that your cat needs for a healthy, balanced diet is her normal wet or dry food and clean, fresh water. For further information on your cat’s dietary needs, as well as advice on how to make sure your beloved pet is receiving the proper nutrients, call your Brampton, ON animal hospital today.