Almost every cartoon cat has been seen drinking milk — at least a few times! Cats lapping up milk from a dish has been a popular image in our culture for decades. It’s often seen as being okay to give our cats some milk as a treat. But you may want to stop that tradition completely — and stat!
So can cats drink milk? The short and definite answer is no. Let’s take a look at why cats and milk don’t mix in real life and why that should be left to the on-screen cartoon kitties.
Can Cats Drink Milk?
While there’s no denying that your cat would willingly drink some milk if you placed it in front of them, we’re not here to discuss if cats enjoy cow’s milk. We’re here to tell you that cats should not drink cow’s milk. Since your cat can’t choose its own diet, it’s up to you to provide them with healthy treats and avoid unhealthy ingredients. That means it’s up to you to keep milk away from them!
Milk does not contain essential nutrients that cats require to grow properly. So right away, milk is not a beneficial choice even in small amounts. But too much milk can actually harm cats, making them too full to eat their proper diet and even causing nutritionally-deficient diseases. The biggest problem with milk is that adult cats cannot digest it — we’ll talk about that in a bit.
What Type of Milk Can Cats Drink?
It’s probably not the best idea to see if your cat can handle milk or not, since there’s such a big risk if the milk doesn’t agree with them. But if your cat tries milk and they don’t have diarrhea or any other negative reactions, there are some types of milk cats can drink. You can give your cat whole, skim, or lactose-free milk in very small amounts. You might want to try cream as an alternative since it has less lactose.
But keep in mind: It’s much safer for your cat to avoid milk altogether!
Are Cats Lactose Intolerant?
Okay, so why can’t cats digest milk? They’re lactose intolerant! That means cats don’t have the enzyme necessary for digesting lactose. Being lactose intolerant is perfectly normal for cats — and humans. Around 65% of humans are lactose intolerant and they won’t drink a glass of milk — or consume ice cream, cheese, or other dairies — because it simply makes them feel unwell.
What Happens if Cats Drink Milk?
When a cat drinks milk the undigested lactose will stay inside their intestines instead of passing through the system. The milk will end up fermenting, making the high amount of fat found in most milk to be even more damaging to a cat’s diet and health.
The other complications that could potentially happen from drinking milk include:
- Extreme bloating
- Feeling unwell and lethargic
- Pain and discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Increase in destructive behavior like scratching
- Gastrointestinal diseases and complications
Alternatives for Your Cat
There are lactose-free milk substitutes for cats! One is CatSip, specifically developed to lessen the risk of a cat having digestive problems. CatSure is a balanced liquid nutritional meal. It’s great for adult and senior cats because of its high-quality protein and amino acids. These are great alternatives for your cat! Just keep in mind cat milk is often a bit fattening and still not a necessary part of your cat’s diet.
The best alternative for a cat is water. Cats are notoriously known to become dehydrated. A lot of cats aren’t big water drinkers and can be picky about the water source. If you are worried your cat isn’t drinking enough liquids, try a water fountain. Cats are naturally drawn to running water, which is why you’ll often see them playing with the faucet or drinking out of the toilet.
If your cat still isn’t drinking enough water, try switching to a wet food diet — or half dry food and half wet food. Wet food has around 78% water, helping hydrate a more stubborn kitty.
Final Thoughts – Can Cats Drink Milk?
So, can a cat drink milk? The short answer is: No, cats can’t.
Kitties are lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t digest lactose. This can lead to a lot of complications from an upset tummy all the way to life-altering diseases. While there are some cat milk alternatives, the best thing to do is to provide your cat with healthy treats and plenty of water.