We often see cats drinking milk in movies and storybooks, so you might wonder if is it suitable and safe for cats. So can cats drink milk? Although the answer is yes, they can, but that doesn’t mean they should.
Can cats drink milk?
Newly born kittens drink their mother’s milk and, after about four weeks of life, their mother begins to wean them. The weaning process ends when the kittens are 8-10 weeks old, which is when most kittens start eating solid food.
Kittens can digest their mother’s milk because of an enzyme they are born with, which allows them to break down lactose. However, as they grow, they lose this enzyme and the ability to digest milk properly.
Is milk bad for cats?
Your cat may be attracted to a saucer of milk, usually because of its high-fat content. In nature, foods high in fat are considered rare and precious, especially if it was a cat living in the wild. However, since yours should already have a balanced diet, excess fat in milk is not necessary for her health. Also, too much fat can lead to weight gain and cause stomach upset and diharrea.
Some pet stores may sell special milk for cats with reduced lactose content. In this case, it can be a good treat for her.
Can drinking of milk harm your cat?
Like humans, cats can associate certain flavours and smells with positive memories. So milk can be comfort food for her and a memory of her mother. However, this can have several effects on her health.
Most cats suffer from lactose intolerance, which affects the digestive system. When they drink milk, they experience stomach pain, nausea, stomach cramps and dangerous diarrhea. Without the lactase enzymes capable of digesting it, the intestine tends to retain milk, which produces bacteria that irritates the intestinal walls by causing gas and other unpleasant consequences.
Some cats are allergic to lactose which affects the immune system. Symptoms can include intense itching, difficulty breathing, coughing, hives and pain accompanied by sudden meowing. Read more about cat food allergies here.
Hydration of kittens
Very young kittens only need their mother’s milk for food because it contains everything they need to grow. If for whatever reason, a kitten didn’t get breast milk from her mother, then a special kitten formula may be given to her. The milk formula suitable for newly born kittens isn’t regular cow’s milk as it lacks essential nutrients necessary for her immunity and development.
Between 4 and 8 weeks of life, kittens can gradually start eating solid food, in addition to their mother’s milk. Kittens at this age should also have access to fresh, clean water.
Hydration of adults cats
Adult cats drink water as part of their healthy and balanced diet. The amount of water they drink depends on whether they eat dry or wet food. Dry kibble has less water, so cats that eat only this type of food, drink more water. Similarly, the cat’s age, size and other factors influence the amount of water the cat drinks. What to do if your cat won’t eat or drink? Read more here.
If you decide to give your pet special cat milk, then make sure it is only a treat and not a substitute for anything in her diet.