Why Cats and Milk Don’t Mix

Most of us can easily picture a cat lapping up milk from a saucer. Did you know that cats and milk are not the perfect match that they may seem? You’ll be surprised to learn that cats and dairy do not mix! Learn more here from your vet in North Suffolk, VA.

Why Can’t Cats Drink Milk?

Adult cats are often lactose-intolerant, just like many humans are. This means that there is not enough of the lactase enzyme in the gut to properly digest lactose, milk’s main sugar. So, drinking milk means that your adult cat is likely drinking something that they can’t digest—ingesting too much will likely result in an upset stomach, diarrhea, or even vomiting.

Don’t Kittens Require the Mother’s Milk?

Yes, kittens do require the mother’s milk (or a synthetic substitute if the mother’s milk isn’t available) for proper growth in the first weeks of life. Kittens are born with lactase in the gut in order to digest this milk. However, as a kitten grows, the system starts to produce less and less lactase. This means that by the time your kitten has grown into an adult, their digestive system is no longer set up to digest milk properly.

Some adult cats will be able to tolerate milk without showing any adverse symptoms. Still, it’s not recommended that you give your cat more than a small amount of milk. Milk simply is not nutritionally necessary!

Is Any Dairy Safe?

Other types of dairy foods, like yogurt, cheese, or even ice cream, are safer for a cat to ingest. That’s because these foods either have lower lactose levels than milk, or they’ve been cultured, which means that microorganisms have already digested much of the lactose. Giving your cat a small nip of cheese or a dab of ice cream probably won’t cause any harm; still, it’s important not to overdo it.

A relatively new product allows your cat to drink milk without experiencing any of the undesirable side-effects: cat milk, a special type of milk that has had the lactose removed. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

What Liquids Does a Cat Need?

Your cat only needs one type of liquid: water. Fresh water helps keep all body systems healthy, so provide your feline friend with a bowl at all times.

For more information on your cat’s dietary needs, call your North Suffolk, VA veterinary clinic today.