Can cats drink milk?
Have you ever wondered if milk or milk products are OK to give your cat? How much can they have? How often can you give your cat milk? What kind of milk is safe for your cat? Well, you’re definitely not alone! Many cat owners have the very same questions. Read on to learn more about cats and dairy products.
Book a video consultation with an experienced veterinarian within minutes.
- Professional vet advice online
- Low-cost video vet consultations
- Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
Cats and Lactose Intolerance
The enzyme “lactase” is required to break down and digest lactose, which is one of the carbohydrates or sugars in milk. When kittens are weaned from their mother, they begin to produce less lactase. Some will continue to produce more lactase than others and this is why some cats can ingest milk whereas others cannot without regret.
Since cats have varying degrees of lactose intolerance. The obvious way to determine if they are intolerant to milk is by the presence of any sort of gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, gas, or just an upset stomach/generalized discomfort after consuming dairy products. The symptoms may be severe, or they may just be mild. For example, slightly loose stools may occur within 12 hours of eating the dairy product.
Cats and Dairy Allergies
Not only can cats be lactose intolerant, but they can also have an allergy to milk or dairy products. Milk allergies can cause similar gastrointestinal symptoms as lactose intolerance. They can also cause issues such as itchy, red skin, skin infections, or even ear infections.
When is it OK to give dairy products to a cat?
If your cat doesn’t seem to have any adverse side effects to milk or dairy products then one of the most convenient ways to get a probiotic (specifically, Lactobacillus acidophilus) into your cat is by offering them yogurt. For yogurt to be effective, however, it needs to say somewhere on the label, “live and active cultures” so be sure to look for that. Greek yogurt is an excellent option for probiotic use in cats and may help to resolve loose stools or diarrhea.
As far as amount, ¼ teaspoon per feeding for a small cat and up to ½ teaspoon per feeding in a large cat should be about right. However, if this is the first time your cat has had any sort of dairy product, it’s best to start on the lower end and work them up to the recommended amount.
Offering milk or dairy products in small amounts can be an acceptable treat on occasion if your cat doesn’t suffer from any of the potential side effects. There are even veterinary-specific lactose-free milk alternative treats, frozen or refrigerated. If you do offer regular milk or dairy products, it’s important to make sure that they’re low or reduced-fat to help prevent weight gain or worse yet, pancreatitis which is brought on by eating too much fat at one time.
Is milk safe for cats?
So, can cats drink milk? Well, the answer isn’t a cut-and-dry yes or no. In moderation, some cats can but it’s best to only offer a small amount initially and to discuss with your vet what would be the best dairy choice for your cat.
If you’re worried about your cat after he/she ingested some sort of milk or dairy product or just have further questions about a particular product, you can book a video call with us at FirstVet to discuss products, get an initial assessment of your pet, and to help determine what to do should symptoms arise.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding cat's drinking milk or another condition?
Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.