Do cats drink milk?

Yes. Cats are commonly depicted as milk drinking animals. Cats would be seen in TV show commercials, in children’s books and in magazines lapping bowls of milk.

Should cats drink milk?

A: Generally, cats are lactose intolerant. Cats should not drink cow’s milk but if milk is really needed, they should drink lactose free milk specially formulated for cats.

Cats are often depicted as milk-drinking animals. Even Tom of the Tom and Jerry fame would always be chasing Jerry, the mouse because of its tendency to drink from the cat’s bowl of milk. However, vets and cat experts would advise cat owners not to give the pet milk. Cow’s milk is one of the human foods that must not be given to cats. This means that the fresh milk cat owners have with their cookies cannot be shared with the pet. Cats do not have the enzyme necessary to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk.

The mother cat’s milk is the only source of nutrition for the kittens. Before the litter is weaned, the kittens must have milk in order to survive. The idea that milk must not be given to cats is rather surprising. However, feline digestive system has to have the enzyme lactase to properly digest the sugar found in milk. Humans have this enzyme at birth but some humans would produce less lactase as they grow up. This enzyme is produced by nursing kittens. But once the kittens are weaned, they stop producing this enzyme thereby making them incapable of digesting lactose. Once weaned, kittens should not consume milk anymore. Kittens can drink cat milk but not milk produced by other animals. As with humans, mother’s milk would be the best milk for the kittens. What happens now to orphaned kittens? Cats cannot tolerate cow’s milk. Owners must provide the orphaned litter with replacer milk…a lactose free formula specially formulated for kittens.

Consumption of milk other than the milk produced by the mother cat would be dangerous for the kittens. The digestive system of cats would not tolerate milk. Drinking milk can cause vomiting and dehydration. These conditions can result to life threatening dehydration. Another serious health concern associated with milk consumption is retinal degeneration. Milk prevents the absorption of nutrients vital to the health of cat’s eyes. Milk is highly nutritious. It is even considered as complete food. However, milk is not for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores. The main diet of cats consists of meat and fish. Cats would not really benefit from the nutrients found in milk.

Not all cats are lactose intolerant. Some cat owners have found out that consumption of milk does not have dangerous effects on the pet. But for lactose intolerant pets, milk can be given to the pet as an occasional treat. Consumption of large amounts of milk can have dangerous effects on the pet. But if the cat does not show any adverse reaction to small amount of milk then it would be okay to indulge the pet. Cats would certainly enjoy lapping a spoonful of milk every now and then.

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