What is it with cats and milk? When the talk is about special treats, it would appear that cats naturally crave milk, just in the same way that the dogs love to crunch away at bones, and mice love to chase cheese. But, while a cat’s addiction to milk is well established, many pet parents are unaware that many cats are not always able to digest the white stuff. So, can cats drink milk? and is giving cats milk the right thing to do? and what are the likely disadvantages of feeding cats with milk? Continue reading to find the answers to these questions and more.
Why Do Cats Love Milk?
Cats have a natural liking for cream as they benefit from the high-fat content; thus, they are particularly attracted to milk, especially when it comes directly from cows. The reason is that fresh milk from a cow will eventually have the cream rising to the top, and this is what interests most cats. However, the supermarket-bought milk doesn’t come with much fat, and while some felines still crave milk for its taste, many kitties find digesting milk very difficult.
Even after they are weaned from their mother’s milk as early as four weeks, some adult cats still love milk. The reason behind this behavior is that cats are similar to humans, as they are known to associate certain scents and flavors with memories, especially the positive ones. Thus, these cats tend to view the white substance as comfort food. Though it is not recommended that you feed your kitty with milk as a main meal, your kitty’s cravings can still be satisfied with some certain foods that have milk as part of its ingredients.
Are Cats Lactose Intolerant?
Cat lactose intolerance has always raised a lot of questions from pet parents. When cats feature in popular culture, we usually see them being fed with milk. However, many cat adopters seem not to know that their furry friends lack the natural ability to digest the white substance. Giving cats milk may result in some plain unpleasantness, especially in the litter box. In severe cases, it can give rise to health issues. So, what is the best course of action if your kitty begs for some milk? It just might be best to simply say ‘no’.
Can Kittens Drink Milk?
Another pressing question that needs to be addressed is ‘’can kittens drink milk?’’ In explanation, kittens are able to ingest the white stuff because of the presence of lactase in their digestive system. Lactase is an enzyme that allows newborn cats to digest or break down the sugar content of milk known as lactose. But, this doesn’t mean that it will be safe to suffuse your kitten’s diet with too much cow milk, but it is an established fact that they can break down the milk sugar, unlike adult cats. Once young cats are weaned, they will naturally lose that ability to digest milk. At this stage, the growing kitten’s system has already started shutting down the production of the sugar digesting enzyme – this usually commences at a very young age, normally from four weeks of age.
Even after they have completed the process of shutting down enzyme production, many cats still manage to retain their milk-drinking ability – but these are rare cases. Giving milk to an adult cat may result in lactose intolerance, and there are no good stories to tell about a lactose intolerant kitty that lapped up the milk bowl. Most common among the symptoms of lactose intolerance is stomach upset, which can manifest in the form of diarrhea – a condition that is far from pleasant when you share your home with a critter that does its business indoors. Other symptoms may include stomach pain and vomiting.
Why Can Some Cats Drink Milk And Others Can’t?
While the majority of the feline population is known to be lactose intolerant, there are still those that are able to keep the white stuff down. These cats are always handy to rub against you immediately you drag the milk carton from the refrigerator; they may even demand some of your cereal milk.
However, even when you observe that your feline friend has the ability to tolerate milk without displaying any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is still not recommended that you feed it with milk. Cow milk is equipped with a higher concentration of lactose compared to milk from other sources. What’s more, even when the milk comes from other sources (like a goat) with less lactose content, the cat will still not benefit from it, since none of the nutritional content is necessary for your four-legged friend.
Besides, milk is known to be calorie-dense and feeding cats with too much milk may engender excessive weight gain while providing very little in terms of essential nutrients; though it can be quite delicious. While you may have your kitty constantly begging you for the white stuff, it would best to make it an occasional treat as opposed to a daily staple.
Milk Alternatives For Lactose-Intolerant Cats
As established, most cats are lactose intolerant, and if your kitty falls into this category, you can check our other alternatives to the normal milk that is replete with the dreaded lactose.
Some pet stores and supermarkets now offer special lactose-free milk designed exclusively for felines. But even at that, you need to watch out for the calories and keep it as minimal as possible. The reason is that calories can speedily turn your kitty to a couch potato, and this can engender severe health problems.
Alternatively, instead of going for the lactose-free milk for your cat, you can divert its attention with better treats such as tuna or several other known animal-derived proteins, which the cat will benefit from. The feline’s digestive tract is designed to better handle certain protein based diets than milk. Whichever may be the case, you should always discuss your cat’s dietary needs with the vet to rule out the possibility of unknowingly feeding the kitty with stuff that can result in discomfort or sickness. The veterinarian is the best person to recommend the best food for your feline companion.
- Bambi Turner, Is it OK For Cats To Drink Milk?, HowStuffWorks
- Wendy C. Fries, Cats and Dairy: Get the Facts, WebMD
- Sarah Wooten, DVM, Can Kittens Drink Milk?, PetMD
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