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The Truth About Cats and Milk

January 1, 2016
For whatever reason, cats and milk seem to go together quite naturally. You’re probably already picturing a cat happily lapping up milk from a saucer! You may be surprised to learn that cats and milk don’t mix—learn more here from your Floyds Knob, IN vet.

Why Can’t Cats Have Milk?

The majority of adult cats are lactose-intolerant, just as some humans can be. This means that they don’t possess enough of the enzyme lactase in their digestive system to digest lactose, the main enzyme found in milk. In effect, the majority of cats simply can’t digest milk and other dairy products properly.

What Will Happen if a Cat Drinks Milk?

A cat who only drinks a small amount of milk or eats a tiny bit of other dairy probably won’t show any ill health effects. If they eat too much, however, you’re likely to have a mess on your hands. At the very least, an upset stomach will occur. Vomiting and diarrhea are more likely.

Don’t Kittens Drink Their Mother’s Milk?

You may be wondering about kittens, who drink their mother’s milk during the nursing period. It turns out that this is the only period in a cat’s life that milk is a nutritional necessity—young cats receive essential nutrients from their mother’s milk for proper growth. As cats grow older, though, they begin to produce less and less lactase, gradually becoming lactose-intolerant. By adulthood, milk and other dairy will most likely make your cat sick!

Is Any Dairy Acceptable?

Other forms of dairy, such as yogurt or cheese, contain less lactose than milk does. Small amounts of these foods may be safer to feed your feline friend than milk, but they’re not necessary. Your cat will much prefer a specially-formulated feline treat or her own cat food. If you must give your cat cheese, yogurt, or other dairy as a special treat, keep the portion size very small to be safe. A better option is synthetic “cat milks,” which are available in pet supply shops, some vets’ offices, and certain retail outlets. These products taste just like milk, but they have the lactose removed so that they’re safe for consumption by cats. Ask your vet for a recommendation. Do you have further questions about your cat’s diet? Would you like a recommendation on a high-quality cat food or treat brand? Contact your Floyds Knob, IN animal hospital today.

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