Is milk bad for cats?

Programmed into our brains is the idea that cats love milk. We see it in films, TV, paintings, you name it. The concept of the milk-loving cat is so ingrained that unfortunately this often means that we don’t question the authenticity or accuracy of such a statement.

So, let’s explore whether cats like milk, or more importantly: Is milk bad for cats? Petplan takes a look.

Lactose Intolerance

Many cats, like most species of mammal, are in fact lactose intolerant which means they can be quite allergic to dairy substances and it can cause them discomfort and pain after ingesting.

Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest the sugar lactose, which is the main sugar in dairy products such as milk and cheese. Now, just like humans, if your cat is unable to digest this sugar and absorb it the way a non-lactose intolerant cat or human could, then that lactose just stays in the stomach of your pet.

When lactose stays in the stomach undigested, this causes it to ferment which can produce gases, which can then lead to stomach cramps or excessive flatulence.

On top of this, because lactose is a sugar, undigested sugars draw water into the intestines, so it can also lead to diarrhoea.

Of course, not all cats are lactose intolerant, but the vast majority do not produce the enzyme required to break it down, for this reason we would recommend not giving your cat milk as the only way to tell if they’re lactose intolerant is to risk them getting sick.

The Cat that Got the Cream

While many cats are lactose intolerant they do enjoy fat, and many dairy products like cream are high in fat, but not as high in lactose. This is because as cream settles, the fatty parts float to the top, which is where the image of the cat dipping its tongue into the milk comes from.

Kittens initially drink their mother’s milk for the first four weeks of their lives, this is because the milk contains the fat and other nutrients that the kitten needs to become a fully grown healthy cat. At around four weeks’ time mothers will start to push their kittens away when trying to feed, in an attempt to wean them off of milk.

However, as humans, we look to remove a lot of the fat when we process milk in order to make it more consumable for ourselves. This kind of milk is simply not good for cats because of its high lactose content. If we look back through time to when processed milk didn’t exist, then humans and cats could have enjoyed the same dairy products more safely.

Should cats drink milk?

If your cat does enjoy milk, then you can potentially give your cat milk but be aware that milk offers cats no source of nutritional value that they can’t get from other healthier sources of food. Focusing on ensuring your adult cat has access to plenty of clean drinking water is much more important for a healthy cat.

The best diet for a cat is one that best replicates what they would eat if they were not domesticated and still free in the wild. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they require meat in their diet, for this reason it’s important that you give them plenty of rich protein.

At most, Milk should be offered to cat very rarely as a high-calorie treat, though less so in old age, as the reduced activity can easily lead to weight gain.

Visit Petplan for more cat advice and ideas on what to feed your cat.

Does your cat have a fondness for cream? Let us know in the comments below...