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Can cats drink milk?

April 28, 2022


Although many people believe that milk is good for cats, the reality is that it is a myth. Unfortunately, milk is not the healthiest drink for felines. In fact, it can cause a number of ailments, including an upset stomach, cramps, and severe diarrhea. A vast majority of cats are lactose intolerant and become dehydrated when fed cow's milk.


At birth, the only food for kittens is their mother's milk. They drink it until she weans them at four weeks of age. It is the only source of food they have and need, since the proteins contained in their mother's milk are vital for their development. Although kittens can drink their mother's milk, many cats lose the ability to process it after weaning.


Cow's milk contains lactose, which requires a certain enzyme (lactase) to break it down properly. While humans have this, cats lack it and therefore lactose passes through their system intact. In addition, milk contains more fat than cats are recommended to have in their diet, and the sugar content of lactose means they will consume a large number of calories.


However, not all cats develop this intolerance; in fact, there are others who can drink milk from time to time and enjoy a dish that will be extremely delicious for them. But, in any case, even if your cat does not have this intolerance, it is not recommended that you give it milk too frequently because lactose is difficult to digest and can cause a heavy stomach or overweight.


What about lactose-free milk?


The answer is yes, your cat can drink lactose-free milk, since it is easier to digest and less likely to cause digestive problems. For this reason, if you want to give your cat milk, I suggest that you give it some lactose-free milk, to see if it can drink it from time to time or if it has to be completely eradicated from its diet.


Lactose-free milk options


Lacking the lactose found in cow's milk, almond milk is a viable option for someone who wants to feed their cat milk. Although cats are carnivores and therefore would never eat an almond if it was placed in front of them, almond milk is a suitable choice as it contains a high level of protein. Protein levels cannot compete with a cat's needs, of course, and will still need to be supplemented by a balanced diet. Take in consideration that many brands of almond milk contain preservatives, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other flavorings that are not good for their health (or yours).


Another alternative for people who are lactose intolerant is rice milk. Rice milk is something that many cat owners give their cats on a regular basis. As a product of brown rice, it contains a large amount of sugar that can really affect your cat's health. Since cats cannot taste sweetness, this is an unnecessary reward. If it has to be given, it should be given as a treat and in moderation.


A little less conventional option is coconut milk (and, oddly enough, coconut oil), which are sometimes given to cats as a treat. However, keep in mind that, like the other milks on this list, coconut milk should not be given in anything other than moderation. It contains an incredibly high amount of fat, which may be fine for human consumption, but should cause concern in cats.


A lactose-free milk that we should avoid giving to our cat is processed soy milk. Soy milk contains many other ingredients and hormones that can have unpleasant side effects. For example, protoestrogen, which can cause conditions like hyperthyroidism. Hormones and chemicals like this can cause long-term problems even in humans, so they should definitely be avoided in cats.

For more information, talk to one of our Pet Experts and get customized advice by submitting a request in our Mavyn app or Mavyn Pet page.