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Is Drinking Milk Safe For Cats

two cats drinking milk out of bowl in grassCats love milk. That much is true. The sad reality is that cats and milk don’t go so well together. And many times, it is not safe for a cat to drink milk. The myth exists that cats and milk go together like peanut butter and jelly, but that’s not true – not exactly anyway!

Can cats drink milk? Sure, they CAN, but the better question to ask is “SHOULD cats drink milk?

Cats can drink milk, but they shouldn’t.

In reality, it’s not safe for most cats to drink milk. Most cats are lactose intolerant. What does that mean for a cat? It simply means the same thing that it means for humans. If a person or animal is lactose intolerant it means that they lack the enzymes needed to digest the lactose in the milk.

Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk. Lactose that is ingested, but not broken via digestion sits in the intestines, resulting in fermentation due to the presence of bacteria in the intestines. A cat that is lactose intolerant will begin to show signs of suffering about 8 hours or so after drinking the milk. The cat may have cramps, diarrhea and tummy pain. A cat that is not intolerant of lactose can drink milk because the lactose travels to the bloodstream. The sad reality is that you don’t know whether or not your cat is lactose intolerant or not.

Kittens are an exception to the rule.

kitten licking lips after drinking milk from bowlKittens are an exception to this rule, sort of, anyway. A kitten can drink milk up until about eight weeks old. Why? Kittens actually have the enzyme to digest or break down milk up until the time they become weaned from their Mother. Kittens that for one reason or another have been removed from their mom and need milk, will be given formula milk and not cow’s milk. The formula meets all of the cat’s nutritional needs without causing an upset tummy.

Cats and Milk – Where the Myth Started

The myth of cats drinking milk began long before milk was ever sold in a grocery store. Although, it wasn’t a myth back then. Many moons ago when most families got their milk directly from cows, cats lapped up milk. The foamy, fatty creamy milk that rose to the surface of the milk pan after the cow was milked was actually good for cats. Cats need fat and that’s really the draw to milk. It tastes good, but the fat in milk has always been a necessary part of a cat’s diet. The problem is that the milk that is now found in stores, lacks the fat, hence making it a not so good choice for your cat to drink. The problem is that pop culture – television, movies, and even books, continue to popularize the myth of cats drinking milk so people think it’s ok when it’s really not.

So, simply put, cats can drink milk, but shouldn’t. Cats should drink water. In fact, it’s really imperative to their health. Cats don’t get as much water in their diet as they probably should anyway so anything you can do to encourage your cat to drink water should be done. It will promote overall good health in your cat.

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