For the longest period of time, milk has been portrayed as the perfect food for cats, and this belief has only grown with popular movies, books, and cartoons. For example, the cartoon “Tom and Jerry” was created in 1940, and the titular character, Tom the cat, was shown drinking and enjoying milk in multiple episodes of the show.
Even today, many cat owners may be led to believe that milk, especially cow’s milk, is a safe meal option for their pets. However, milk may not be the answer to all cat hunger. If you plan to feed your feline friend some milk, read ahead.
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Can cats drink milk?
In short, yes, cats can drink milk, but it may do them more harm than good.
Seasoned cat owners may already know this, but cow’s milk, a staple in most households, may cause “gastrointestinal distress” or tummy problems for a feline companion, according to Purina.
Why are you asking? The answer is lactose intolerance – yes, cats can have it, too. Purina says that the high amount of lactose found in cow’s milk is usually too much on a cat’s digestive system and can lead to diarrhea, bloating and flatulence.
People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals says that a bowl of milk for your cat is like eating a whole 12-inch pizza by a person in addition to regular daily meals. And milk is full of fat, which leads to weight gain in cats.
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What kind of milk can cats drink?
Whether they’re whole, skimmed, or two percent, Purina says all of them still contain unhealthy amounts of fat, and the necessary nutrients can’t be found in a milk diet for your feline friends.
According to Senior Cat Wellness, goat’s milk, which has 20% to 30% less lactose than cow’s milk, may fare better for some cats. Fermented dairy products such as sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk and kefir may be easier to digest for cats, although there is no medical evidence.
While plant-based dairy such as almond, soy and oats are lactose-free, they are not suitable for cats as they offer few nutritional benefits.
Senior Cat Wellness says that the best milk to feed your cat is milk made specifically for cats that contains lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, and added nutrients that help keep your cat healthy.
Can cats drink milk?
Kittens drink milk as nature provides – from their mothers. According to Hastings Veterinary Hospital, kittens are weaned from their mother’s milk as they grow, around four to ten weeks after birth. As kittens grow into adult cats and switch their diet to solid food, there is a decrease in the production of lactase, which is used to digest the kittens’ mother’s milk. The amount of adults is not enough to digest milk.
So, yes, kittens can drink their mother’s milk, kitten milk replacer or kitten milk formula for the first four to five weeks, according to Purina.
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Why do cats like milk?
Despite all the inconveniences, cats seem to love milk. According to cathabits.net, cats are attracted to milk and dairy products because of the protein and fat content in them. Since cats are mammals, drinking milk right at birth may allow them to recognize and search for milk later as adult cats. However, what you love does not equal what is good for your health. The same applies to cats.
For cats who can tolerate lactose, milk should be viewed as a treat in moderation but not make up the entire diet, says cathabits.net.