Can Kittens & Cats Drink Milk?

Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
By Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
Updated: 5/13/20242-4 minutes
Can cats drink milk

Kittens drink their mother’s milk, but as they grow older, the question becomes, “Can cats drink milk as adults?” Even though they’re drawn to the creamy liquid, only some cats can drink and digest milk.

What may seem like a harmless treat can cause gastrointestinal distress for your feline companion. Our experts answer the question, “Can you give cats milk?”, explain why cats crave milk, and show how to safely feed milk to cats to avoid digestive upset.

Can Kittens Drink Milk?

Kittens drink their mother’s milk until the mother gradually weans them as early as four weeks old. Typically, kittens are eating solid foods by 8 to 10 weeks old. Although kittens can drink their mother’s milk, many cats lose the ability to process it after being weaned.

According to Purina nutritionist, Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS, “As cats mature, they generally lose their ability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk, due to consuming  solid foods. Some cats, however, can digest lactose into adulthood and potentially for life.”

Is Milk Healthy for Cats?

When you think of giving cats milk, you’re probably thinking of cow’s milk. Should cats drink milk from cows? No. This type of milk isn’t healthy for most cats, especially if it’s taking the place of a balanced meal. “It is unadvised to consume cow’s milk alone, as it does not provide the essential nutrition your cat needs,” Purina nutritionist, Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS says.

Whole, two percent and skim cow’s milk can also add unhealthy amounts of fat to your cat’s diet. According to Purina nutritionist, Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS, “Fats in milk can promote weight gain and cause an upset stomach. Loose stool could indicate a lactose intolerance in your cat.”

What Can Cats Drink Instead of Milk?

All animals need water, including your cat. Since cats don’t always drink enough water, they may get dehydrated. If that’s the case with your cat, adding a wet food to their diet can contribute to her daily total water intake. Some cats prefer moving water rather than drinking from a bowl, so using a cat fountain may encourage them to drink more.

Why Do Adult Cats Crave Milk?

Even though your cat is grown, they may still crave milk. Like people, cats associate certain flavors and scents with positive memories, so milk is like comfort food for them. Although your cat shouldn’t drink milk for a meal, you can satisfy their cravings with foods prepared with it in small quantities.

Can I Pour Milk on My Cat’s Favorite Food?

No. It may seem like a good idea, but “milk can cause GI upset, and adding it to your cat’s food can cause them to fill up on milk alone and not consume enough food to meet their nutrient needs,” says Purina nutritionist, Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS.

How Can I Give My Cat Milk Safely?

Our experts recommend foods like Fancy Feast Creamy Delights, which contains a touch of milk to satisfy your cat’s cravings without causing digestive upset. This allows your cat to enjoy the creamy flavors while getting complete and balanced nutrition.

Get more advice, info and tips for cat owners from our experts on our Pet Expertise page.

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