Is Milk Safe for Cats?

Is Milk Safe for Cats?

Cats and milk seem to go together like America and apple pie. In your mind’s eye, you might already be picturing a cat lapping up milk from a saucer. However, milk and our feline friends aren’t actually a very good pairing! Learn more here from your Teller County, CO veterinarian.

Why Can’t Cats Drink Milk?

You’ll be surprised to learn that most adult cats are actually lactose-intolerant (just like many humans!). This means that the cat doesn’t possess enough lactase in the gut to digest lactose, the primary enzyme of milk. Most likely, if an adult cat drinks an abundance of milk, they’ll experience an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. This leaves you with a mess to clean up and one unhappy cat, so it’s best not to give your cat milk at all.

Don’t Kittens Need Milk?

We know what you’re thinking—don’t kittens need their mother’s milk during the early stages of life in order to grow healthy and strong?

Yes, kittens do need the mother’s milk, or a synthetic milk if the mother isn’t around, for proper growth. This is the only time in your cat’s life cycle, though, that milk is necessary. As your kitten starts to grow older, less lactase gets produced in the gut. This means that over time, your cat becomes more and more lactose-intolerant! By the time your cat is fully grown, it’s likely that she won’t tolerate milk very well at all.

Can I Feed My Cat Any Dairy?

You might be wondering if it’s safe to feed your cat any dairy foods. Since other dairy foods also contain lactose, overdoing it isn’t a good idea. However, dairy foods like cheese and yogurt don’t contain as much lactose as pure milk, so they might be a bit safer for your cat (if she even chooses to eat them). With that being said, dairy of any kind isn’t a nutritional necessity for your cat. If you must give your cat these foods, keep the portion size extremely small.

If you’d like to give your cat the enjoyment of milk without the side effects, you’re in luck. There are “cat milks” available in pet stores and certain retail outlets that have had all lactose removed, making them safe for your cat!

Would you like to learn more about your cat’s nutritional needs? We’re here to help. Call your Teller County, CO vet clinic.

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