Most people are familiar with the idea of a happy cat positioned in front of a bowl of milk, lapping it up greedily. Despite this idea’s popularity, it’s one that is quite dangerous to cats around the world, because cats and milk are not a good combination.
Although popular belief suggests that milk makes a safe and tasty treat for our feline friends, the reality is that milk isn’t the ideal beverage for cats at all. In fact, drinking milk can make your furry friend feel quite sick! Here’s what you should know.
Most cats can’t have milk
The only time cats should drink milk exclusively is in the short period after their birth. During these initial few weeks of life, kittens nurse from their mothers to gain sustenance until they grow teeth and can begin to eat solid food. If a very young kitten has been separated from their mother, they may need to be fed a specially formulated kitten milk from a bottle until they can be “weaned.”
After this point, however, milk and cats should not mix. As most cats age, they actually become lactose intolerant. This means they lose the enzyme that helps to break down milk sugars in the digestive system. Without this enzyme, the milk cannot be digested properly and might ferment in the colon, leading to digestive upset.
Although cow’s milk is not technically “toxic” to cats, it can cause some undesirable side effects that neither your cat nor you will enjoy. Once the milk reaches the colon, your cat might experience bloating, excessive flatulence, vomiting and/or diarrhea. If your cat has not been drinking water, these things might also lead your kitty to become dehydrated, which can be quite dangerous for their health.
Skip milk in favor of another tasty treat
Cats might gravitate toward milk despite its potentially harmful effects because they quite like the taste! Cow’s milk is rich in fat, making it appealing to young and old cats alike. Unfortunately, cats don’t often understand that this tempting treat can result in discomfort later.
On the other hand, some cats retain their ability to break down milk sugars well into their adult lives. For these cats, drinking milk may not come with any side effects at all. However, even if you discover your cat can drink milk safely without any negative consequences for their gut, be wary about feeding your feline friend a bowl.
Milk still contains excess fat that can be unhealthy for cats, especially if it’s added on top of their daily diet. Frequent milky treats can contribute to excessive weight gain and other health problems. Even when the milk is calculated into your pet’s caloric intake for the day, milk lacks many of the nutrients present in traditional cat food, making it an unworthy substitute for the balanced meals your cat deserves.
Regardless of whether your cat has the ability to digest milk or you find low-lactose milk products that are easier on your pet’s tummy, it’s a good idea to pass over milk as a treat for your feline friend entirely. The truth is that cats just don’t need milk, and there are plenty of other treat choices that are safer for them to digest and that provide more nutritional value.
Keep your cat hydrated in other ways
The fact of the matter is, the only liquid your cat should lap up happily every day is water. Our feline friends tend not to drink as much water as they should, so it’s very important that you take steps to keep your cat hydrated by making water the most prominent and appetizing drink available.
Water fountains may make drinking more appealing to your cat, since many pets are attracted to moving water, rather than stagnant water. It also helps to make sure your cat’s water bowl is clean and replenished with fresh, cool water each day.
If your cat just won’t drink, you might need to add a little tuna juice to draw their attention. Wet food can also supplement your cat’s hydration.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to giving your cat tasty treats is to check with your vet to make sure the food is safe and that your kitty is getting all the nutrients they need. In the case of dairy, they’ll likely recommend that you swap that saucer of milk or cream for a bowl of water for your cat’s own good.