You may be surprised to learn that milk is bad for your cat. Sure, we’ve all seen the photos and videos of cats happily lapping up milk. But the truth is, most cats can’t digest milk at all.
Most cats are lactose intolerant, like many humans. This means that they don’t have the enzymes needed to digest the lactose in milk. Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk. When cats drink cow’s milk, they can end up with painful stomach cramps and diarrhea. This is because undigested lactose will stay in their intestines, rather than passing into the bloodstream, and end up fermenting because of bacteria. This leads to a whole array of stomach problems that often appear within 8 to 12 hours of drinking the milk.
Not all cats are lactose intolerant, but most are. And there’s no way to tell if your cat’s intolerant or not without giving her milk and risking her getting sick. So to be on the safe side, stay away from milk.
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Cats love cream. When milk was gotten straight from the cow at home, the fattier cream rose to the top. Cats absolutely loved it. Now, most milk doesn’t have that much fat for cats to enjoy anyway. But even cats that lap up fatty cream still have to deal with upset stomachs afterward. It’s best to keep cats away from cow milk in general.
Kittens can typically digest milk until they’ve been weaned. Around eight weeks of age, kittens lose the lactase enzyme that digests lactose in milk. But even before that, cow’s milk isn’t a great option for a kitten. This is especially true if you’re raising a kitten that hasn’t been weaned yet! Instead of using milk, purchase a mother’s milk replacer or kitten formula from your pet store, which has all the nutrients a kitten needs.
As “boring” as it may sound, water is really the best alternative to milk. Cats typically don’t get enough water in their diet anyway, since they don’t always get thirsty when they should. If you want to make the water a little more “fun,” consider buying a drinking fountain for your cat. These miniature fountains are simple to set up – you typically just plug them in. Then they provide moving water for your cat to drink, which she may actually prefer.
If you really want to provide a liquid treat, you can buy lactose-free milk at the pet store or even your local grocery store. This milk has the lactose removed by adding lactase enzymes that break the sugar down. This means that lactose-free milk is safe for lactose-intolerant cats and humans to drink.