Cats drinking milk from a saucer is very traditional image, but did you know that, for the most part, you shouldn't give your precious kitty store-bought milk?
While your cat may love lapping up this delicious white beverage, she obviously doesn't know how hard it is on her digestive system.
Keep reading for the full scoop on how milk can affect your feline.
Why cats love milk
Felines love cream, and they tend to appreciate its high fat content. However, the milk that lines the shelves in stores contains little fat. While your cat may still love the taste, she's consuming something that's not very easy to digest.
Just like other mammal babies, kittens are born with the ability to properly digest lactose, which is a major component in milk. But over time, the weaning process takes about the enzymes that are needed to digest milk.
Once they become adults, lactose becomes much harder to process in the feline body and can cause an upset stomach and excessive diarrhea.
Should cats consume milk?
According to Dr. Heinze, an assistant professor at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, “Cats gain nothing in nutritional value from consuming milk. In fact, it should be seen by cat owners as an occasional-to-rare treat since it’s packed with calories.”
It’s recommended that cats should not consume any more than 20-30 calories from sources like commercialized treats or human food per day. If your cat eats too many calories, it can lead to obesity.
Are cats lactose intolerant?
Lactose intolerance is the lack of the ability to digest lactose. Lactose is the enzyme that is responsible for breaking down lactase in the digestive system.
Milk that we purchase from the grocery store is loaded with much more casein and lactose than the average feline stomach can properly digest. “After weaning, the number of enzymes that help with digestion wears off,” states Dr. Heinze.
“Lactose is another form of sugar that draws water from the intestine, resulting in diarrhea. It can also cause excess flatulence and bloating.”
Can your cat ever really enjoy milk?
While you should never really give your cat too many treats or too much human food, if your kitty likes drinking a saucer of milk on occasion, pick up cow's milk that is low in lactose. This type of milk is much easier on the feline digestive system and doesn’t result in upset tummies.
There are also lactose-free milk substitutes that have been developed specifically for feline digestion, such as CatSure and CatSip.
What if my cat seems fine drinking milk?
If your feline companion doesn’t have any adverse reactions to drinking milk, then her stomach can probably handle a bit of skim or whole milk. If you choose not to purchase lactose-free options, offer her a bit of milk or cream that is high in fat.
If you are not 100% sure if your cat can tolerate milk as a treat, just try giving her 1-2 tablespoons at a time. If she has no adverse symptoms, you're probably perfectly fine with giving her a bit of milk for an occasional treat.
Do keep in mind, though, that many veterinarians do not recommend it as the problems associated with milk consumption generally outweigh the benefits.
So, can cats drink milk from the store? Yes and no.
Remember to keep your feline’s best interests in mind by keeping milk consumption to a bare minimum.
Your cat should be drinking a nice fresh bowl of water instead of quenching her thirst with milk, especially if you have an aging feline.