Surbhi and her friend Jaya are at the cat shelter. Surbhi is adopting a cat for the first time and Jaya, as an experienced cat parent, has come to help her out. Surbhi meets Coco, a sweet little calico and it’s love at first sight. As Coco comes and purrs against her legs, she pulls out a little bottle of milk she got along with her.
“Hey, stop! Is that for Coco?” asks Jaya. When Surbhi nods, Jaya continues, “Don’t give her milk. It’s bad for her!”
“But don’t cats love milk?” Surbhi is completely perplexed.
Cats drink milk, don't they? Well, not quite. As it turns out, cats can't actually drink milk because they don’t have the right enzyme to break down lactose.
Let’s take a look at how it affects them and some alternatives.
Why can’t cats drink milk?
Cats need a special enzyme called lactase to digest lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. Lactase breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose, which are the two simple sugars cats can use for energy. The only time a cat can probably digest milk safely is when they’re drinking their mother’s milk. They’re weaned off at about six weeks of age after which they eat solid foods. This weakens their ability to digest milk.
However, cats don’t know that and if given milk they drink it because they love the taste of cream.
What happens when cats drink milk?
When cats drink milk the lactose remains undigested and does not pass on to the bloodstream, which leads to gastrointestinal issues. They typically experience the following symptoms:
* Diarrhea or constipation
* Abdominal pain and discomfort
* Weight loss
If you notice any of these symptoms check in with Wagr Advice for suggestions from vets or try some of the following home remedies for quick relief.
Don’t feed your cat for the next few hours or for up to a day. Keep them hydrated with plenty of water. If they are willing to nibble on food, give them a bland diet made of boiled rice, chicken or fish.
If the symptoms increase in severity and persist it’s best to check with your vet.
What can cats drink instead of milk?
Cats only need to drink plenty of fresh water to keep them hydrated along with a high quality, balanced diet to ensure they receive all the nutrients they need. Some cats are reluctant to drink much water. In cases like these, boil some plain fish or chicken or even the bones and give them the broth to entice them.
To encourage your feline companion to take a sip frequently try placing several bowls of water around the house. You can also feed them other alternatives like tuna juice and wet food, which is high in moisture and water levels.
Can I feed cats almond milk or soy milk?
You can give lactose-free alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, etc. in very small quantities after you’ve made sure your cat’s not averse to it. If you see that your cat doesn’t show any discomfort you can occasionally let them have it. However, these options are best avoided due to their sugar and/or calorie content.
Interestingly, goat’s milk is a good alternative to feed your cat. This is because goat’s milk has a reduced amount of the components that cause gut inflammation and is very good to boost their immune system. Again, goat’s milk is high in fat and should be given in measured quantities to help your cat maintain their weight.
The bottom line is some cats are able to have milk but the number of cats who can’t far outweigh them. Give them alternatives as a treat but there’s nothing better than water for your beloved feline.