Can Cats Drink Milk? Here's What Your Vet Might Advise You
It's a common belief that cats need milk in order to thrive. We're working with our veterinarians to disprove this and determine the best alternative for your cat.
We've seen cats slurping milk from a plate for years on television and other media. It's a common misconception among pet parents that cats require milk to stay healthy. This is not true, and we can tell you right now that your cat does not need milk (especially cows' milk) to be healthy!
For your cat's health, milk may actually be harmful. Cats may appear to enjoy the taste of milk, but we recommend that you avoid giving it to them at all costs.
As long as your cat is getting a well-balanced, age-appropriate complete diet, there is no need to give them milk. Kittens require mother's milk, but they should be weaned when they're just a few months old and start eating cat food and drinking water.
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Cats don't actually need milk unless they're being hand-reared (and only then should you use kitten milk, as other types won't provide the nutrients a kitten needs). Same as any other kitten, they'll need to be weaned off of it before they can survive on a diet of only food and water as an adult.
When do kittens stop needing their mother's milk?
As early as four weeks old, kittens begin to wean themselves from their mother's milk. By the time kittens are 8 to 10 weeks old, they usually eat solid foods. After weaning, many cats can no longer process their mother's milk the same way they were when they were kittens. In general, a cat's ability to digest milk sugar is gone after they start eating solid food. Solid foods provide them with everything they need. However, some cats may retain their milk sugar digesting ability well into adulthood, if not for the rest of their lives.
Is milk bad for cats?
In a nutshell, yes, cats should avoid drinking cow's milk. Most cats are indeed lactose intolerant because they don't have the enzyme lactase that enables them to digest lactose. Sugar found in milk is called lactose. The most common lactose intolerance symptoms are
- Stomach cramps
Cat lactose intolerance is very similar to the same condition in humans. Even if your cat doesn't get sick, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Cows' milk contains loads of fat, which is why cats enjoy it so much! It's like giving your cat a whole 12-inch pizza compactly packed in a tiny bowl. On its own, that doesn't sound all that bad but imagine eating it in addition to your usual diet. That certainly makes a difference!
Giving your cat milk can have a negative impact on their diet, causing them to gain weight and become unhealthy.
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Can cats consume milk made specifically for cats?
You may have noticed that there's special cat milk available in stores and specialty pet shops. For the most part, these contain less or no lactose. They might not make your cat sick, but that milk's fat percentage is often the same as other milk types, so it's still not good for its health!
While it is alright to give your cat a treat like this every now and again, it's important to keep in mind the additional calories when calculating their daily calorie intake. If you decide to substitute a complete meal with milk, your cat may not be getting all of the nutrients they need because milk is not a complete meal.
What are good milk alternatives?
Water is all our cats need to drink. As long as you provide safe drinking water to your cat, they'll be healthy and content. If you're concerned that your cat isn't getting enough water, consider placing several bowls around the house that you can clean and replenish as needed. Keep in mind that many cats prefer not to have their water and food bowls in the same location. Loads of cats prefer having a running water source, so you may want to consider a water fountain for your feline friend.
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Provide your cat with a commercially balanced diet that is high quality and complete for their age and stage of life. By doing this, they can maintain their health and prevent weight gain, provided they are physically active, of course.
Your cat deserves a little something extra from you, so think about what kind of treats your cat prefers before you start sifting through the cat food or milk. For example, you could buy them a new toy or schedule a few extra minutes of playtime instead of giving them something that is not that healthy. Consider playing a game with them, such as hiding their toys in places they like.
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World Cat Finder Team