Cat drinking milk.

The imagery of a cat enjoying a bowl of milk is a classic one. But is it actually safe and healthy for them to do so? It is important to consider if cats can actually drink milk before serving the cool and creamy beverage to them. The team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is here to determine fact from fiction on cats and milk.

Can Cats Drink Milk? 

The most important part of the question, “can cats drink milk?” should be what kind of milk. It is a fact that kittens, like most mammals, rely on their mother’s milk for nutrients and food when they are born. At a young age, kittens are able to digest lactose because they are exposed to it regularly from their diet of milk from their mother. 

Kittens produce an enzyme called lactase through their kittenhood and younger stages of life. This enzyme is responsible for digesting the lactose found in milk, also known as milk sugar. When a baby kitten consumes it’s mother’s milk, the lactase enzyme helps break down the milk sugar, so it will absorb into the bloodstream as glucose and galactose. However, as cats begin to wean from their mothers and eat solid foods, their ability to digest lactose starts to decrease. 

So, Is Milk Safe for Cats? 

Since adult cats become more lactose intolerant as they age, a bowl of milk or cream could potentially cause symptoms such as an upset stomach or stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea. So the image of a cat enjoying milk is not entirely fiction, but the fact remains that it could cause them digestive discomfort and leave you with a mess to clean up. 

What Milk Can I Give My Cat? 

Typically, most people think of dairy milk and dairy cream products as an acceptable treat to serve their cats. Cats may enjoy drinking milk because it reminds them of their mother’s milk when they were a baby. Since milk is not the healthiest option for cats, it’s best to only give it in small amounts and only as an occasional treat. 

Lactose-free milk may be a better option for your cat, and result in fewer side effects. Some companies have even come out with lactose-free milk substitutes geared specifically towards cats. However, it is always best to consult your Oakhurst Veterinarians first before serving your cat any dairy or other milk products. 

The team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is here to help guide your cat from kittenhood to adulthood, and is ready to offer nutritional and medical advice when you need it. Give us a call at (732) 531-1212 to discuss your cat’s individual dietary needs.