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Your Cat and Milk

May 15, 2018

Somehow, cats and dairy just seem to go together—maybe you’re already picturing a cat happily lapping up milk from a saucer in the kitchen! You may be surprised to learn that cats and dairy, in fact, don’t mix. Learn more below from your Glen Ellyn, IL veterinarian.

Why Can’t Cats Have Milk?

The vast majority of adult cats are lactose intolerant, meaning that they don’t possess enough of the proper enzyme—lactase—in the gut to digest lactose, the primary enzyme in milk. This is the same condition that can affect humans! Thanks to cats’ lactose-intolerance, milk isn’t healthy or nutritionally necessary.

What Will Happen if a Cat Drinks Milk?

At the very least, an upset stomach will occur. With a high enough quantity of milk or other dairy products, vomiting and diarrhea are likely to follow. There’s no nutritional reason to feed adult cats milk or dairy at all—they should be getting all the necessary nutrients from a well-balanced, age-appropriate diet.

How About Other Dairy Foods?

Milk is a no-no, but what about other dairy products? Certain items, like cheese or yogurt, are better choices because they contain lower levels of lactose. However, too much of any substance containing lactose is a bad idea. If you must give your cat dairy, limit it to the very small nip of cheese or a tiny dab of yogurt, and only give your cat these very occasionally. Overdo it, and you’re sure to have a mess on your hands!

A better idea for our feline friends is a relatively new product called cat milk. This is a synthetic product that is made to taste like milk, but doesn’t have the lactase to upset a cat’s stomach. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on these products, and find them at your local pet store, vet’s office, or retail outlets.

What About Kittens?

Kittens are the one exception to the milk rule, as they receive their mother’s milk while nursing. At this stage in life, kittens require the mother’s milk to receive the proper nutrients and antibodies. As a kitten grows older, though, they produce less lactase, eventually becoming lactose-intolerant.

Do you have further questions about your cat’s dietary needs and nutritional requirements? Want a recommendation on a high-quality cat food? Schedule an appointment here at your Glen Ellyn, IL animal hospital to get your cat top-notch, helpful, and compassionate veterinary care.