Can Cats Drink Milk?

Can Cats Drink Milk?

Feb 2, 2024

Can Cats Drink Milk?
Can Cats Drink Milk?

Cats and milk have been a classic pairing in media and movies, showcasing how much the cat enjoys its milk whether it's from a bowl or a bottle. It’s a charming and pleasing thing to see right on screen. Whether it’s Garfield’s lasagna or Tom straight up chugging a bottle, the reality of it is far from what we see on our TV screens. 



Can Cats Drink Milk

To keep it simple, cats can not drink milk. A cat’s digestive system cannot handle the lactose content in milk. Generally, milk does not bring any significant benefit to cats. To understand why this is the case, we must first understand a cat’s biological characteristics and their digestive system.


Cats are obligate carnivores, which tells us that their diet consists of meat and other sources of protein. Their diet should contain at least 26% of protein in order to stay healthy and happy. A cat’s digestive system is adept at breaking down proteins and fats from animal tissues and is more suited to a diet that consists of meat. This means that their digestive system has a limited ability to process other types of food, which in this case, is dairy. 



Lactose Intolerance in Cats

Milk and other dairy products have lactose, which is also called milk sugar. Most adult cats are essentially lactose intolerant. This means that they have a difficult time breaking down lactose due to the absence of an enzyme called lactase. Lactase is essential for breaking down lactose into smaller and simpler sugars to help the body absorb it. 


While kittens, unlike adult cats, can produce lactase, it is mainly due to the fact that their diet consists mostly of their mother’s milk. Since they are nursing, they require lactase to break down the sugars in their milk but after they are weaned, they slowly lose the ability to produce lactase.



Do Cats Like Milk

Cats love milk even though their digestive system cannot handle the milk well. The taste is pleasing to them due to the high amounts of fat present in the drink. Even if they experience pain afterward, they still love the taste of milk. It also serves as a reminder of their nursing days and helps them feel happy which is a bonus. But no matter how much your cat loves milk, it is recommended to avoid feeding it with milk and replace it with a nutritious substitute.



What Happens When Cats Drink Milk

What Happens When Cats Drink Milk


A cat’s digestive system can’t process the lactose consumed. Lactose present in milk will continue down the digestive tract without getting broken down, which results in a buildup in the large intestine. Once this happens, milk harbors the growth of bacteria and causes several complications for your cat. Some might even be life-threatening.


Cats can get a multitude of complications from drinking milk. Symptoms and diseases usually arise around the abdominal area where the digestive system resides. These symptoms can appear within a few hours after drinking milk and can cause extreme distress and discomfort for your cat.


Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a serious symptom caused by bacteria. Due to the buildup of lactose in the cat’s large intestine, several cultures of bacteria may grow and cause your cat to have diarrhea. Diarrhea leads to loose and almost fluid stools which is due to the reduced absorption of water in the large intestine. Diarrhea in itself is not a deadly disease but a symptom of something much more serious.


Vomiting and Stomach Cramps

Vomiting is an act of forcefully ejecting the substances present in the intestines. Cats who are not able to process lactose tend to vomit the milk. Since their digestive tracts cannot produce lactase to break down the sugars, the body tends to forcefully get it out of its system. The act itself is painful for cats and can be a big factor in inducing stress in them.


Stomach cramps and vomiting go hand-in-hand. Stomach cramps can be manifested when there are outlying issues in the intestines. Once the fermented milk attracts the growth of bacteria, activity within the intestines is increased which leads to cramps and pain. Cats experiencing stomach cramps may appear weak and distressed when moving or carried.


Bloating and Gas

Bloating is caused by a buildup of excess gas in the intestines and abdomen. When cats drink milk, the unprocessed lactose in the intestines can ferment and produce gasses. Bloating from drinking milk can also be attributed to overeating and overdrinking. Milk is very saturated in fats and an extravagant amount of it can lead to bloating. Coupled with the fact that your cat also eats solid food, the combination results in a cat suffering from excessive bloating. 


Gas is on a similar note. When cats consume food or drinks that disagree with their bodies, such as milk, they can get an upset stomach and have an abundance of gas. Flatulence is the result of this excessive amount of gas. While it is the result, flatulence can also indicate other outlying conditions such as bacterial infection. Since unprocessed milk gives space for bacteria to grow in their bodies, keeping milk away from your cat may solve this problem.



Unsafe Milk For Cats

Several types of milk can be harmful to your cat's health. Understanding which types to avoid is crucial to ensure your cat's health and well-being. Consuming these harmful milk varieties can cause numerous health issues, potentially leading to severe complications. By being aware of which milk varieties are unsafe for cats, you prevent any unnecessary problems.

Cow Milk

Cow milk is the standard type of milk we all consume. This type of milk is unsafe for cats due to its high fat and lactose content. Adult cats are unable to process lactose which leads to complications in its body. The high amounts of fat mainly disrupt the diet and lead to bloating. It’s advisable to avoid giving your cat cow milk as it does not provide any nutritional benefits.

Goat Milk

Goat milk shares similarities with cow milk but has less fat and lactose content. This in itself makes it easier for cats to digest. However, it still has a high amount of calories that can cause your cat to be overweight and bloated. With that said, goat milk still has enough lactose to cause potential health risks to your cat. 

Plant-Based Milk

Plant-based milk offers a whole set of options for your cat. These consist of oats, almonds, coconut, soybeans, and rice, depending on the type of milk you have chosen. While these are not generally recommended for cats, the advantage of these types of milk primarily comes in the absence of lactose. They also have a significantly lower amount of fat and calories compared to regular cow’s milk.


While the absence of lactose may seem enticing, plant-based milk does not give your cat any significant health benefits. Some may even cause negative effects on your cat. A cat’s digestive system has a limited ability to process carbohydrates, which means milk alternatives such as soy and oat milk are not viable options.



Milk Alternatives Safe For Cats

Milk Alternatives Safe For Cats


Cats do not generally require milk in their diets. However, since cats love the taste of milk, it is good to keep a handful of alternatives ready. Incorporating a balance of liquid and solids in your cat’s diet is essential to keeping it healthy. Milk alternatives present a variety of options for your cat without giving it an upset stomach.

Water

Water is the best drink for cats. Cats always need a fresh supply of water to get them through the day since they are usually dehydrated from all the activities they do. Water is essential for regulating all the functions of the organs of the cat. Unlike milk, water does not interfere with your cat’s diet as it contains no fat or calories. This means that you can focus on your cat’s food without having to worry about bloating from its liquid requirements. While they might be picky about the water they drink, clean water is a good alternative for milk in cats.

Lactose-Free Milk

This type of milk is just cow’s milk but with lactose removed. While it is safer in the sense that it does not contain any lactose that could potentially harbor the growth of bacteria, it still is high in fat which makes it a risk for bloating in cats. Providing lactose-free milk as a treat for cats is recommended as long as it is in small and appropriate amounts. A cat’s nutrients should still come from its food to secure its health.



Conclusion

The short and definite answer is no. Adult cats should not drink milk. While kittens can process milk due to their need for its nutrients during nursing, adult cats need a strict meat-based diet. Providing cow’s milk and plant-based alternatives can lead to serious problems for your cat. But occasional treats are always welcome as long as they are in close moderation. Lactose-free milk offers the best milk alternative if you want to give your cat the experience of enjoying milk. However, it is very important to focus more on your cat’s diet than on what it drinks. Clean and fresh water does the perfect job already.

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© 2024 Noble Veterinary Clinic | Website by ARENA

Unique care for your best friends,

because they’re family.

Pay Now

© 2024 Noble Veterinary Clinic | Website by ARENA

Unique care for your best friends,

because they’re family.

Pay Now

Website by ARENA

© 2024 Noble Veterinary Clinic