The image of the happy cat lapping up milk is an old cliché. While many feline parents may assume that their fur baby would enjoy a bowl of milk every now and then, the surprising truth is that dairy products from cows could be hazardous to her health. In fact, most cats can’t even digest dairy.
But what about lactose-free milk? Is that good for your kitty? The simple answer is yes. You can give your feline lactose-free milk. You can find it at many pet and grocery stores. However, the longer answer is more complicated.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about cats and milk.
Why is Milk Bad for My Cat?
Like some people, many cats can be lactose intolerant. This means that their bodies lack the proper enzymes needed to digest lactose.
A kind of sugar found in dairy products, called lactose, requires the action of a specific enzyme called lactase to be broken down in order to be properly digested. Most adult cats lack this enzyme, so the sugar, lactose, will sit in your cat’s stomach rather than being digested. Undigested lactose will then get fermented by the cat’s intestinal bacteria, causing a whole lot of tummy troubles for your pet, including bloating, pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
While not all cats are lactose intolerant, the majority of them are. This is why it’s important to steer clear of feeding your kitty dairy products such as cheese and milk.
Can Kittens Drink Milk?
Kittens can generally safely digest milk until they have been weaned. When they are around 8 weeks old, they’ll lose the enzymes needed to process lactose. But even as babies, dairy isn’t the best option for a kitten. This is especially true if you’re bottle-feeding a kitten that has not been weaned.
Instead, purchase a specialized kitten formula that is a feline mother’s milk replacer from your local pet store. These products have the adequate balance of nutrients, and vital vitamins your kitten needs.
Why Are Cats Attracted to Milk?
Cat enjoys milk because of its high fat and protein content. Still, that doesn’t mean that the milk is good for them.
Can My Cat Drink Lactose-Free Milk?
Lactose-free milk is a dairy product that has had the lactose completely removed by adding the enzymes needed to break down the sugar. While people with lactose intolerance can enjoy a cold glass of lactose-free milk, can your cat?
While a small saucer of lactose-free milk can be a tasty treat for your kitty every now and then, you shouldn’t regularly give it to her. As boring as it may seem, water is always best for cats.
Other Types of Milk
While lactose-free milk is safe for your cat to consume, other milk products, such as almond milk and soy milk, can have an adverse effect on your pet.
A cat’s sensitive digest system does not have the proper carbohydrate-metabolizing enzymes to effectively break down and digest the plant-based proteins found in soy. Thus, your kitty won’t be able to tolerate soy milk.
Similarly, almond milk could be dangerous for your cat. While it’s not considered toxic, the high fat and oil contents can cause gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea. Additionally, almonds can cause pancreatitis in cats. Coconut milk will have the same impact that almond milk has.
Goat milk, while similar to cow milk, has a slightly lower lactose level. Some studies have concluded that it is also more digestible than cow milk. However, avoid giving your cat goat milk if she is lactose intolerant.
While we may think that milk is a good treat, and even a good source of nutrients, for our cats, the fact is that milk is unhealthy for them. And while lactose-free milk is safe, it doesn’t provide the essential nutrients your cat needs.
By feeding your feline friend a proper diet of high-quality cat food and lots of water, she’ll be perfectly healthy and you can forgo the milk.
Featured Image: Alena Ozerova, Shutterstock