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The Truth About Cats Having Milk
November 1, 2014

As soon as someone says “cats and milk,” you’re probably picturing a cat happily lapping up milk from a saucer on the floor. For whatever reason, this iconic imagery is quite prevalent in our mind’s eye. The trouble is, cats and milk don’t go together at all! Learn the truth below from your Ceres veterinarian.

Why Can’t Cats Have Milk?

The vast majority of cats are lactose intolerant, just like some humans are. This means they don’t possess enough of the enzyme lactase in their bodies, which would allow them to digest lactose, the sugar in milk. If too much milk is consumed by a cat, there’s a good chance they’ll have diarrhea or vomiting.

There is the occasional cat who doesn’t appear to be lactose intolerant, and can in fact drink milk safely. Of course, milk isn’t required at all in an adult cat’s diet, so the risk of finding out whether or not your cat is lactose intolerant isn’t really worth it. Reserve only the tiniest sip of milk as the occasional treat.

Don’t Cats Drink Their Mother’s Milk as Kittens?

Cats do drink their mother’s milk when they’re very young, from birth until about four weeks of age. The large amounts of protein the mother’s milk provides a young kitten is essential for the rapid growth they’re experiencing. This is, however, the only time in a cat’s life that milk is necessary. After weaning, most cats develop lactose intolerance and can’t handle milk any longer.

Is Any Dairy Okay for My Cat?

Certain other dairy products will probably be a bit easier for a cat to digest than milk. Try giving your feline friend a small slice of cheese or a dab of yogurt. These products are often diluted with water or already cultured, which makes them much softer on your cat’s stomach. Remember, though: too much of any food can easily upset your cat’s stomach, so limit these treats to very small sizes very occasionally.

Ask your Ceres veterinarian for more information on the reality of cats drinking milk, as well as any other questions you may have about your cat’s diet and well-being!

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