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Can Cats Drink Chocolate Milk? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Vet approved

	Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

DVM MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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There have been images and videos of cats drinking milk for decades. As such, the habit perpetuates, and most owners believe that it is acceptable to give their cat milk. However, the truth is that milk is bad for cats. The vast majority of adult cats are lactose intolerant, and vets agree that they should not be given any flavored milk, including chocolate milk.

Unfortunately, the milk contains a lot of fat and sugar, which is what actually attracts them, and it is high in calories. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that won’t leave you having to clear up after a lactose-intolerant cat that has drunk too much milk.

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Is Milk Safe For Cats?

During the first two months of their lives, cats consume all of their nutrients through their mother’s milk. Once this change occurs, they can no longer process the sugar in milk. Their bodies do not produce the enzyme that is required, because they no longer need it. This is what causes lactose intolerance, and basically, every cat suffers from it after a few months of age.

Hungry cat near empty bowl
Image Credit: Crazy nook, Shutterstock

If your cat does drink milk, they may suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Your cat may be able to stomach a few mouthfuls of milk, but they will not process it properly.

Milk is also packed with calories. While your cat will likely recover after drinking a few sips, as a one-off, the regular feeding of chocolate milk can lead to obesity, while chocolate is actually poisonous for cats. Chocolate milk does not contain much actual cocoa (depending on the product, anywhere from 1 to 25%), and it can certainly increase the risk of toxicity in cats if they drink enough of it. 

Regular fatty and sugary food can lead to obesity, which is as dangerous in cats as it is in people.

Obesity in cats can increase the risk of your cat developing:
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bladder stones

Cats are not attracted to the chocolate flavor of chocolate milk. They don’t have a sweet tooth like dogs. They are attracted to the fat in the milk. They are attracted to fat in the same way that dogs are attracted to…anything. This is also why they love ice-cream and cream and other treats. However, lactose intolerance is the reason that they shouldn’t eat any of these things.

Other Ways to Add Calcium to Your Cat’s Diet

People are encouraged to drink milk because it is a great source of calcium. It is also an essential nutrient for cats, which means that they need to get this mineral in the food they eat.

Calcium and phosphorus levels in the body are maintained at a fine balance, by the parathyroid hormone. However, there are other great sources of calcium that your cat can benefit from. Other sources include a complete commercial diet formulated based on AAFCO guidelines, rich in animal protein. Healthy cats will not have a need for additional calcium, and supplementation may lead to adverse effects, so always consult with your vet before giving your cat any food supplements.

Alternatives To Milk

If the goal of feeding milk to a cat is to provide hydration, they only need water, and they may be getting a lot of their water requirements from wet food. Whatever your cat eats, ensure that they have a supply of fresh water available to prevent the negative effects of feline dehydration. Plant alternatives to cow milk also risk giving your cat an upset stomach, so always consult with your vet before considering any type of milk for your cat.

  • Almond milk is used as an alternative to cow’s milk by people that are lactose intolerant, and it is considered suitable for cats. However, cats are carnivores. They would not eat nuts in the wild and would likely turn their noses up at almonds. Almond milk contains no lactose, is high in protein, but your cat may not like it. Either way, it should not be a regular part of their diet.
  • Rice milk is another alternative consumed by people. It is naturally sweet, having been made from brown rice that contains a lot of natural sugar. Your cat does not benefit from the sweetness, because they cannot taste it. This means that you are giving your cat a lot of calories and they are not really getting the benefit. The high caloric and sugar content means that rice milk should be fed occasionally and sparingly, if at all.
  • Coconut milk is another alternative milk that does not contain lactose. It is another milk that is high in fats, though, so it should ideally be avoided, or only offered occasionally as a special treat.
  • Cat milk is made by several brands and it is essentially lactose-reduced milk. It does still contain some lactose, and if your cat is especially sensitive to this, they may still suffer gastrointestinal distress after drinking just a small amount. It also has a very high-calorie level. It should be fed in moderation but can be used to supplement the diet of an undernourished, underweight cat or for feeding orphaned kittens.

Flavored milk contains ingredients other than just milk. Some of these ingredients may be toxic, which means that they could cause a lot more harm than causing lactose intolerance signs. Again, consulting with your vet and doing a detailed check of the ingredient list is crucial before considering even the tiniest amount of milk for your cat. The only safe option is to stick to water, as your cat does not need milk in any form.

Homemade almond chocolate milk in a bottle
Image Credit: Elena Veselova, Shutterstock

yarn ball divider Is Chocolate Milk Safe For Cats?

Chocolate milk is not considered safe for cats. It contains lactose, and cats are lactose intolerant after the age of about two months. As such, they will suffer an upset stomach and vomiting, in the short term. In the long term, the high fat and calorie levels of chocolate milk can also lead to obesity, which is a killer in cats and can cause long-term and debilitating illnesses. And let’s not forget chocolate, although present in a very small amount, it is still toxic to cats. Never feed your cat anything that has a toxic ingredient, even if it’s in very small amounts.

Although milk is high in bioavailable calcium, cats can get a lot of this essential mineral from their daily diet. There is no good reason to give milk to a cat, especially because they do not have a sweet tooth. It is the fat in the milk that they crave, and it is this alongside the sugar and calories that is bad for them. Some milk alternatives, including coconut milk and almond milk, might be suitable but should be fed very sparingly. Even cat milk, available from most pet shops, should be fed only occasionally and in limited volume. Water is the best alternative: ensure that your cat has a bowl of freshwater available to them at all times.

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Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock