Putting down a saucer of milk for a cat is a familiar image. However, cat owners should consider if milk is actually food for cats, and if it is, is a lactose-free version ok for cats?
Can Cats Drink Milk?
According to PetMD, while some cats can tolerate milk, more often than not they are lactose intolerant. Young kittens can drink milk produced by their mothers, as this is specially formulated for their nutritional needs and digestive system. As cats grow older, they lose their tolerance for milk; this is similar to humans as they age. This reason is due to a sugar in milk called lactase, which becomes harder for your body, and a cat's system, to process with age.
Symptoms to Watch For
If your cat drinks milk, you may see symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and general discomfort due to how their stomach feels. Again to provide an analogy, it's just how humans with lactose intolerance feel when they consume dairy products. There's actually no nutritional need for milk by adult cats, so veterinarians advise against giving it to your cat, even if your cat appears to consume it without digestive upset.
Alternatives to Milk for Cats
Cats need water more than they need milk. In fact, many cats do not get as much water as they need, so providing more of it is good for their health. However, there are lactose-free milk products specially made for cats such as Cat-Sip Milk and Whiska's Cat Milk. Even kittens that are bottle-fed are given a formula that they can digest rather than whole milk.
Avoid Human Milk Substitutes
There are other types of milk sold for humans, such as soy milk and almond milk, and while these are good for lactose-intolerant people, they are not appropriate for a cat's digestive system because of their sugar content.
Your Cats and Milk
While it's a common belief that cats can drink milk, don't believe the myth! If you're determined to give your kitty milk, use a lactose-free product made just for cats, and always make sure your cats get plenty of water.