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Should cats be given milk?

Updated on July 18, 2009

Many cats love lip smacking good milk!

The image of a cat lapping up milk from a bowl is a classic, but is that milk actually OK for the cat? After all haven't people been giving milk to their cats for many years? Well, chances are most cats seem to be not react to a little slurp of milk every now and then, however give a bit too much or give it to a kitty with a particularly sensitive stomach and you may end up with a not so pleasant surprise. Hopefully, kitty will be able to get to the litter box on time!

Indeed, cats are very likely lactose intolerant, just as many humans are. It may seem odd to grasp the concept that cats may be unable to digest milk since as kittens they used to drink it in abundance from their mom with no problems. So what happens? Why can't kitty no longer tolerate milk as it did as a kitten?

The answer to this question relies on a special enzyme produced by kittens known as ''lactase''. Basically kittens produce lactase during a good part of kitten-hood. This lactase is what helps their digestive system digest the milk's sugar known as lactose. Once grown up, however, kittens will lose their ability of producing this enzyme and therefore, are no longer able to digest milk.

So what happens if a cat is fed too much milk or if he has a particularly sensitive stomach? Most likely the cat will develop bloating, flatulence, stomach upset and ultimately, diarrhea. This lactose intolerance is permanent and therefore, will be present for the cat's remaining life.

Indeed, as a cat grows it no longer needs milk. It derives all the required nutrients from a diet of raw meat derived from the prey the cat catches. Milk is really never eaten in the wild after the kitten has been weaned.

Kittens therefore take advantage of being fed milk as kittens because it provides the essential nutrients to allow the cat to grow into a healthy cat. The very first milk the mother cat produces is actually very important for kittens. It is a special milk produced in the very few hours after giving birth and it is called ''colostrum''. This milk provides very important antibodies that will strengthen the kitten's immunity.

While most cats are intolerant towards most types of milks such as pasteurized, homogenized and condensed milk, there are some dairy products that actually can be beneficial for felines. For instance, plain yogurt, kefir or fermented milk products may be helpful because they help replenish the good bacteria in the gut.

If your cat appears to enjoy milk and seems to tolerate small amount of milk or cream well, this can be a great opportunity for receiving healthy dosages of calcium, proteins and various vitamins and minerals. However, if kitty appears to get gassy or worse, develops diarrhea it is best to keep milk away an provide better alternatives such as a small dollop of plain yogurt.


Cat-Sip Real Milk
Cat-Sip Real Milk

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    • melshomecorner profile image

      Melinda Winner 

      9 years ago from Mississippi

      Wow, good hub !

      Melinda Winner

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      9 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      My old puss cat who has sadly passed on at 15 with cancer, only drank milk in the last few months of his life, strange!

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