Can & Should Cats Drink Milk?

Can Cats Drink Milk?

Yes, adult cats can technically drink milk. Just because cats can drink milk doesn’t mean they should, though.  

Cats should only get milk as a rare treat as opposed to an everyday item. Adult cats are drawn to the creamy allure of milk, but only some can drink and digest it. 

What may seem like a harmless treat can cause gastrointestinal distress for your feline companion. Our experts explain why cats crave milk and how to safely feed it to them to avoid digestive upset. 

Can You Give Kittens Milk?

Yes. Kittens drink their mother’s milk, a kitten milk replacer or kitten milk formula for their first four to five weeks.  

How long does a kitten need milk? Their mother can begin to wean them off as early as four weeks. Note that other kinds of milk, like cow milk, soy milk, almond milk and goat milk are unsuitable for kittens and may give them diarrhea or cause dehydration.  

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, “When cats are weaned, they most likely lose their ability to digest lactose, the main sugar found in milk, due to eating solid foods. However, some cats can digest lactose and other sugars found in milk into adulthood and potentially for life.” 

Is Milk Good for Cats?

Not really. When you think of giving cats milk, you’re probably thinking of cow’s milk. This type of milk isn’t healthy for most cats, especially if it’s taking the place of a balanced meal. “Cow’s milk does not supply all the essential nutrients needed to support your cat’s health,” says Carbo-Johnson. 

Whole, two percent and skim cow’s milk can also add unhealthy amounts of fat to your cat’s diet. According to Carbo-Johnson, “Added fats can cause unnecessary weight gain and cause an upset stomach.” 

Plus, the high amount of lactose found in cow’s milk is usually too much for a cat’s system to tolerate and can lead to diarrhea, bloating and flatulence. Purina nutritionist Lori Mintle adds, “Loose stool can indicate lactose intolerance in your cat.”   

What Do 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 wet cat food to their diet can contribute to their 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 if your cat is an adult, 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 milk as an ingredient. 

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

No. It may seem like a good idea, but this may cause GI problems. “Pouring milk on your cat’s food may not only cause GI upset,” Carbo-Johnson says, “but may also encourage them to fill up on milk and not consume enough complete and balanced food to meet their nutritional needs.” 

How Can I Give My Cat Milk Safely?

Our experts recommend foods that contain 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. 

By following our experts’ advice, you can keep your cat happy and healthy. Explore our complete list of cat food and cat treats to find the ideal products for your cat.  

For more expert advice, tips and answers to all your pressing feline-related questions, visit our Pet Expertise page. 

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