Your Cat, Milk, and Dairy 101

Have you ever seen a cat drink milk? Perhaps you’ve even given milk to your feline friend yourself. You might be surprised to learn that cats and dairy don’t mix! Here, your Mt. Airy, MD veterinarian tells you more.

Why is Milk Bad for Cats?

It turns out that the majority of adult cats are lactose-intolerant. This is the same condition that many humans suffer from, and it means that the cat doesn’t possess enough lactase in the gut to digest lactose, the main enzyme of milk. When a cat drinks too much milk, they’ll most likely experience vomiting or diarrhea, or an upset stomach at the very least.

Doesn’t a Kitten Need Milk?

You might be thinking about kittens, who receive their mother’s milk at birth. This is true—kittens need their mother’s milk or a synthetic substitute if the mother isn’t around, as it’s important for proper growth and development in the early stages of life. As a cat ages, though, they start to produce less and less lactase in the digestive system, making them gradually lose their tolerance to lactose. Most of the time, cats will be lactose-intolerant by the time they’re fully grown!

What About Other Dairy Foods?

Other dairy foods such as yogurt or cheese don’t contain as high of a concentration of lactose as milk does. This means that they’re less likely to cause a problem in your cat. Still, they’re not necessary in the least. Keep in mind: too much of any foreign food that your cat isn’t used to will probably cause vomiting or diarrhea. As milk and other dairy isn’t nutritionally necessary at all, it’s simply not worth the trouble to give your cat these foods.

What Liquids Does My Cat Require?

Your cat only needs one liquid to stay perfectly healthy: fresh water. Provide her with a large dish of water to drink from as she pleases, and check the bowl periodically to see if it needs refreshed or refilled.

If you would like to give your cat the taste of milk without the harmful side effects, try purchasing a commercially available “cat milk” from your local pet supply store. These products are similar to regular milk, but they have had all lactose removed—that means they’re perfectly safe for your cat to try!

For more information on your cat’s diet and nutrition, call your Mt. Airy, MD animal hospital.

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