Is Milk Bad for Cats?

Many people think of cats and milk as quite a natural pairing—perhaps you’re already picturing a cat lapping up milk from a saucer on the kitchen floor. Did you know that dairy and cats don’t mix? Here, your Cameron Park, CA veterinarian tells you everything you need to know.

Why Can’t Cats Have Milk?

The vast majority of adult cats are lactose-intolerant, just like many humans are. This means that the cat doesn’t possess enough lactase in their gut to digest lactose, the main enzyme found in milk and dairy foods. Essentially, your adult cat can’t digest milk very well!

What Happens If My Cat Drinks Milk?

A small amount of milk probably won’t do much harm to most cats. Too much, however, and you’re likely to have a mess on your hands. A cat who drinks a lot of milk will experience an upset stomach at the very least, and more likely vomiting or diarrhea.

Don’t Kittens Need Milk?

Yes, kittens are the exception to the milk rule. They’ll require their mother’s milk—or a substitute product if the mother isn’t available to provide milk—in order to grow and develop properly in the early stages of life. However, most cats begin producing less and less lactase as they grow, gradually becoming lactose-intolerant. By the time they’re fully grown, most of our adult cats don’t agree with milk and dairy at all!

Is Other Dairy Safe?

You might be wondering about other dairy foods, like yogurt or cheese. These foods contain some lactose, but not as much as pure milk—that means that they’re less likely to upset your cat’s stomach, but they’re still not nutritionally necessary. There’s really no reason to give your cat these foods; if you must, keep the portion size extremely small.

If you would like to offer your cat the taste of milk that she loves without the negative side effects, try a “cat milk.” These products are available in pet supply shops and in some retail stores, and are essentially milk with the lactose removed. This makes it perfectly safe for your cat!

Remember: the only liquid that your cat truly needs to stay healthy is fresh water. Make sure she has plenty of cool water to drink from at all times—it’s especially important during the hottest months of the year!

Contact your Cameron Park, CA animal hospital to learn more.

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