Everyone has seen footage of cats lapping up cow milk from a saucer. They clearly love it! Milk seems like the quintessential feline treat, but the truth is most cats are lactose intolerant and can’t properly digest it. If you’re looking for something your cat will enjoy without resulting in an upset tummy, it’s best to steer clear of cow’s milk.
Why Cats Shouldn’t Drink Milk
- No nutritional benefit: Cats gain no value from drinking milk that isn’t already found in food manufactured just for them. Veterinarians generally recommend feeding cats no more than 20 to 30 calories per day from unbalanced sources, such as human food or rich treats. Too much milk—which ranges from 83 calories per cup for skim to 150 calories per cup for whole—can dilute essential nutrients from your cat’s diet and contribute to obesity.
- Lactose intolerance: Most cats lack the lactase enzymes necessary to digest lactose. In other words, they are lactose intolerant, a condition that prevents many humans from eating dairy as well. When cats drink cow’s milk, undigested lactose remains in the intestines rather than passing into the bloodstream as it should. This causes cats to experience painful stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and gas from fermenting bacteria in their gut.
Why Does the Myth that Milk Is Good for Cats Stick Around?
The misconception is that mammals will only eat food that is good for them, but this is simply not true. After all, humans enjoy cake, candy, and deep-fried food, but this doesn’t mean these things are good for us.
The same is true for cats. They love fatty cream and milk. Cats on dairy farms are known to seek out the cream that rises to the top of milk canisters. They might enjoy the snack while they can, but the majority with lactose intolerance must deal with upset stomachs afterward.
Feeding Kittens Milk
If you’re raising a kitten that lost her mother, you’re correct to assume that she needs milk early in life. After all, mammals drink milk when they are babies, and cats are no exception. However, at around eight weeks old when their mothers wean them, kittens lose their lactase enzymes.
But even before they turn eight weeks old, cow’s milk isn’t the greatest option to feed kittens. Instead, look for mother’s milk replacer or kitten formula at your local pet food store. These products have the nutrients your kitten needs to grow into a healthy adult cat.
Nutritious Milk Alternatives for Cats
Some cats can tolerate milk without incident, but it’s still not nutritionally beneficial. That’s why it’s better to offer safe, feline-friendly food for an equally tasty treat. Here’s what we recommend:
- Bite-sized bits of cooked chicken or fish
- Commercial cat treats
- Lactose-free milk
- Water (served in a miniature fountain to make it more fun)
Seek Nutritional Advice for Your Cat at Germantown Vet
If you have any questions about what your cat should or shouldn’t eat, visit Germantown Vet Clinic in Montgomery County for a cat diet and nutrition consultation. We’ll offer advice on ways to fulfill your pet’s nutritional requirements through cat food and occasional treats.
To schedule your cat’s next visit to Germantown Vet, please contact us online or call us at 240-252-7467 today.