The Truth About Dairy and Your Cat

Somehow, cats and dairy just seem to fit together—you’re probably picturing a cat happily lapping up milk from a saucer on the kitchen floor. You may be surprised to learn that cats and dairy, in fact, don’t mix! Learn more here from your Greenwood, IN veterinarian.

Why Can’t Cats Have Milk?

The vast majority of adult cats are lactose-intolerant, meaning that they don’t possess enough of the proper enzyme (lactase) in the gut to digest lactose, the main enzyme in milk. This is the same condition that can affect humans! Thanks to cats’ lactose-intolerance, milk isn’t healthy or nutritionally necessary for our feline friends.

What Happens If a Cat Drinks Milk?

At the very least, an upset stomach will occur. With a high enough quantity of milk or other dairy products, vomiting and diarrhea are likely to follow. There’s no nutritional reason to feed adult cats milk or dairy at all—they should be getting all the necessary nutrients from a well-balanced, age-appropriate feline diet.

How About Other Dairy Products?

Milk is a no-no, but what about other dairy products? Certain items, like cheese or yogurt, are better choices because they contain lower amounts of lactose. However, too much of any substance containing lactose is a bad idea. If you must give your cat dairy, limit it to a tiny nip of cheese or a dab of yogurt, and only give your cat these very occasionally. Overdo it, and you’re sure to have a mess to clean up!

A better idea for our feline friends is a relatively new product called cat milk. This is a synthetic product that is made to taste like milk, but doesn’t contain the lactase that can upset a cat’s stomach. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on these products, and find them at your local pet store, vet’s office, or retail outlets.

What About Kittens?

Kittens are the notable exception to the no-milk rule, as they receive their mother’s milk while nursing. At this stage in life, kittens require the mother’s milk to receive essential nutrients and antibodies. As a kitten grows older, though, they begin producing less lactase, eventually becoming lactose-intolerant. Don’t feed your kitten milk made for humans.

Do you have further questions about your cat’s diet and nutritional requirements? Need a recommendation on a high-quality cat food? Schedule an appointment at your Greenwood, IN animal hospital. We’re here for you!

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