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Cats Can Drink Milk—But Should They?

Cats Can Drink Milk—But Should They?

The simple answer to cats drinking milk

Cats CAN drink milk, but SHOULD they?

Some should and some shouldn’t and there are reasons for this.

Milk and milk products are high in fat and fat converts to energy for cats. Especially whole milk, creams, and cheeses can be good for cats, even ice cream although cats do not necessarily taste sweets. Cats should also be fed a natural diet and milk is a natural food source for them. 

Which cats should drink milk? 

Younger ones and kittens. Their energy needs are quite high. In this case, the energy depletion is almost constant, except when sleeping which is about 8 to 16 hours per day. Kittens sleep closer to only 8 while older cats 16 hours. Older cats do not necessarily need as much energy as younger ones and milk can fill a cat up and prevent eating. Older cats should have milk sparingly. 

Which cats should not drink milk?

Some cats have allergies to milk and you will know if your cat has one as diarrhea and vomiting usually occur as well as abdominal pain and gas. Obese cats should never be given milk nor should diabetic ones. Milk contains fats and sugars which are prohibited in obese cats and diabetic cats

Lactose intolerant cats—the down low on this

This is the technical term for cats who have a milk or dairy allergy. Even withholding dairy products might not be enough as some cat foods can contain eggs, cheese, and dairy by-products so reading labels carefully is necessary. 

A myth about lactose intolerance

This is seen many times online that cats should not drink homogenized milk meant for humans. We could not find any proof of this as many cats enjoy a daily bowl or a lick or two of butter. 

Lactase enzymes need to be in place 

We addressed this in lactose intolerance. Lactase enzymes can determine whether your cat can digest milk. Blood work by a vet can determine this. If lactase enzymes are present give your kitty limited enjoyment of dairy products. 

Cats can smell milk and are drawn to it

Some cats could care less but most cats would kill for milk, cream, cheese, and other dairy products. Although milk might not have a strong aroma to us, cats smell the fat in milk. 

The cream will have cats doing cartwheels

No matter what has cream in it, whenever you use it if your cat can smell milk they will practically do cartwheels to get some. Most cats can smell cream even better than milk because of the high-fat content. And the same goes for butter. That will have your cat doing backflips.  

Milk drinking in cats brings back memories

Yes, it does. It is subliminal messaging that brings cats back to being nurtured by their mother cat. Like human babies, milk is the first food and cat’s milk is full of fat and nutrients. Especially when anxious, cats can crave milk even more. When milk improves the mood of your cat and eliminates anxiety it can be a blessing if it is tolerated. 

Milk is a nature versus nurture instinct

Cats love the feeling of the cream or milk on their whiskers. This occurred after nursing each time and they are reliving their cherished infant moments. Milk and cream also stick onto the inside of their mouths and this also brings them back into kittenhood. 

Cats are not drinkers and can only want milk

This is better than no fluids at all but no substitute for water. A wet food which will have water should be given daily also. As stated before cats can lose their appetite for food if given too much milk daily. Television shows always show cats drinking milk but a vet should be your source of advice, not the “boob tube.”  

Cats drink milk out of boredom

Yes we know this sounds strange but it is an intriguing process for cats. The solution is to provide more stimulating things besides eating and drinking for cats to relieve boredom. Milk is soothing whether for anxiety or boredom and a cat parent must use judgment when giving milk. 

A plus of feeding milk—protein

Just like for humans, milk and dairy are jam-packed with proteins and build strong bones and teeth which for all cats can be good. Younger cats will grow up with strong bones and teeth and milk and dairy can prevent osteoporosis in older cats and alleviate arthritis. 

Will skim milk be better for my cat? 

Just like humans, yes of course it will but good luck with that as it is the fact that cats crave dairy products. Low-fat anything will not give off the smell or the texture and taste that your cat is craving. Try serving your milk lover low fat and you will get a stare that insinuates that you have lost your mind!  

Do cats get worms from milk? 

This seems to be an old wive’s tale and we found no real reputable research on this. Do cats get worms? Certainly but more from stepping on a worm egg, and then ingesting them while grooming. Outdoor cats can also pick up worms when walking in bushes as squirrels and other wildlife have them and spread them. 

Cats even get deadly heartworm 

But usually from other cats, animals, or mosquito bites. If you do not get worms from your supply of dairy products why would your cat or cats? We do find some confusion on this one. We would need to see studies on this tall tale to believe it as one of our cats loves butter and cream and never had worms.  

cat drinking milk

Is cow’s milk the same as a mother cat’s milk? 

  1. This is why the lactase enzyme and lactose intolerance come into play. A mother cat’s milk is different than cow or goat milk. And good luck trying to feed the “non-milk” milk products out there such as soy and coconut milk. Either withhold milk altogether or feed sparingly. Your cat is smart and will “spite pee” or get back at you in other ways if you try to trick he/she. Your cat is intelligent and programmed to know the difference between “real” and fake food. 

Each month milk consumption should be watched

While we do not believe that no cat should ever have milk is true we do know that as cats age, just like people, lactose intolerance increases. Elderly cats can develop this, as well as diabetes and arthritis and the older a cat becomes the more your cat needs watching when consuming milk and other dairy products. In addition, like humans, weight gain occurs with age and the added fat will soon lead to the fat cat look!  

Fatalities can occur if lactose intolerant in older cats

While younger cats will exhibit stomach problems, older cats of course will, but can dehydrate more easily and can become delirious, experience seizures, or even die suddenly. If an older cat drinks milk and becomes ill off to the vet you go once again as dehydration occurs quickly in older cats. 

Vets generally recommend soy milk for cats

This can be questioned also as we explained above as some children and adults have soy allergies and these also can be present in cats. Cats who are used to real milk will probably not like this change and until some bad occurrence happens as a cat owner you will not know if your cat, especially an older one has developed a soy allergy. 

If you do need to stop milk-drinking, try other treats

Cats by nature are stubborn so stopping milk drinking is not easy if they are used to it. Find out what treats are safe or try a raw food treat diet of organ meats in particular. These usually go over well and cats can learn to crave raw food once they adjust to it. If raw treats do not work try store-bought organic treats but read the bag and do not overdo this either. These can be laden with calories also and older cats are sedentary. 

Cats and milk drinking are habitual behaviors

Cats do like routine. If your cat always enjoyed dairy products it can be weeks, months, or even years before they can learn to live without milk. You know the agony you go through even trying to get your cat to the vet as they dislike change. So imagine taking away their milk! Yes, you have the picture now. Your cat will probably paw, scratch, meow, and even yowl for quite some time if denied the milk it is used to having.  

Conclusion on cats and milk drinking

You and only you know your cat the best. While vets are well-meaning we had a diabetic cat that we were told to put down because of the severity. A change of diet allowed that cat to live to be 18 years old. So use your judgment with the milk. You are the cat parent and your instincts are generally correct. 

How Can I Tell if My Cat Has Diabetes?

How Can I Tell if My Cat Has Diabetes?

Most cat owners are for the most part unaware that diabetes can occur in cats, especially in older ones…so you’re likely wondering, how can I tell if my cat has diabetes?

We all know about fleas, ticks, feline leukemia, and of course, all those digestive and personality issues generally. But until a cat is diagnosed with diabetes, it usually comes as a shock that our ‘purrfect’ feline is diabetic.

Diabetes in any mammal is technically known as Diabetes Mellitus and does have three significant levels. Type I is caused by a non-insulin-producing pancreas, while Type II is a pancreas that does not produce enough insulin to convert sugars in the body, and Type III is the mildest form.

All are related to the non-conversion of sugars by the pancreas due to a lack of beta cells. That is about all the in-depth information we will get into as we know you want to know the signs and symptoms!

Diabetes in Cats is Not Rare

It is the second most common type of chronic condition in felines. It is more common in middle-aged to older seniors, and most common in males. The common signs to look for are a loss of weight, unrequited thirst, and frequent urination.

How Can I Tell if My Cat Has Diabetes?

Top Symptoms

  • Drinking more than usual.
  • Urinating more than usual.
  • Eating more than usual.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Loss of interest and appetite.
  • Change of gait.

Since most cats do not drink much but get their fluids from wet foods, thirstiness is not necessarily noticed by owners. An outside cat can also not exhibit excessive urination as they will urinate more times outside. Since diabetes in cats goes undetected in cats quite a lot the first thing pet parents notice is that their cat is becoming lethargic.

As diabetes goes untreated, cats develop ketoacidosis, which signifies a shutdown of their kidneys and dehydration. Once this happens, it is imperative to see a vet ASAP, as coma and even death can occur. If an otherwise healthy cat, no matter what the age, starts sleeping more and playing less, diabetes is suspected, especially in an overweight cat. As with humans, being overweight increases the chances of developing diabetes.

So How Is Feline Diabetes Diagnosed?

Veterinarians must diagnose diabetes via a blood test and urine analysis. If your cat has stopped eating and drinking altogether, then hospitalization might be needed to rehydrate them.

Even if your cat has had its annual physical chances are that if even an additional three pounds is gained in a cat, in a matter of months, it does increase their chances of having diabetes. A severely diabetic cat is very ill, and a vet will move rapidly to rehydrate them and establish whether any internal organ damage such as the kidneys have been impacted.

IV insulin is generally given also to regulate the glucose immediately, and urinary tract infections are prominent in diabetic cats, so urine analysis screening also is used to rule out complications.

What are Treatment Options for Diabetic Cats?

If your ‘pussface’ is overweight, then any good vet will immediately recommend a diet low in carbohydrates with moderate portions. We know your cat will not take well to a reduction in food, but diabetes is easier to control with a weight reduction.

Depending upon the severity of diabetes, either Type I, Type II, or Type III, a vet will recommend regular insulin injections throughout the day with blood test monitoring, a combination of insulin and diet changes, or simply diet changes. Now we all know that giving insulin to cats via injection is almost impossible. The insulin injections should occur at least twice a day until the glucose curve is adjusted.

However, the blood monitoring is done via the vet’s lab, so this is quite costly, and cats do not enjoy any of it. Insulin injections are to be given after a cat has eaten, so self-feeding is out, and this makes for a cranky cat even before you attempt to inject them!

Can I Control the Diabetes by Diet Alone?

diabetes in cats

An adult large ginger tabby cat eats food from its bowl in a room with a natural wood floor and light-colored furniture. Horizontal orientation, selective focus.

We do not like to give medical advice, but we have encountered individuals that had severely diabetic cats, who were hospitalized, and when the injections could not be given at home, they were advised to humanely euthanize their precious furball.

One named Colin was a feral whose owner discovered that he was diabetic shortly after adopting him. A rather large and somewhat onerous cat personality, he would have nothing to do with the injections although he had severe Type I diabetes. Since he was a feral, diabetes can also be created by chemical changes to the pancreas, and he possibly had poor nutrition and eaten varied substances while being feral.

Giving Colin injections only resulted in his pet parent stabbing herself most of the time and being clawed and bitten to boot after chasing him around for hours each day. She took it upon herself to research after her vet advised that he should be euthanized as she could not give up.

What is the Best Type of Diet to Try?

Colin’s owner did spend lots of time researching and buying all types of foods to try and remedy his diabetes to the point where it was not life-threatening. Diabetes is not curable, no matter what the type, Carbohydrate’s cause blood sugar spikes, so a low carb or no carb diet is what Colin’s owner sought.

There are veterinary-approved diabetic cat foods in both wet and dry varieties which have little to no carbs. These are expensive, however, and anyone that owns a diabetic cat must be committed to the costs involved in feeding properly also. Cats are also picky, so the very best diabetic foods approved by vets were not always to Colin’s liking, and this owner shopped around for a good dry low carb food, but then supplemented it with a raw food diet, to provide the moisture.

Being a feral previously, Colin loved the raw diet, and it proved cheaper than buying prepared low-carb vet-approved wet diabetic foods. Raw is pure protein so there is nothing left to chance. Also, to prevent dehydration, Colin’s owner did have his drink three times a day via a syringe she used. He was not that happy with that either, but it was much easier than the insulin injections!

Some Research on Keto Diets Exists

Keto, of course, is low in carbs so some success would be expected. However, the different brands that are chosen if using the Keto approach to regulation of blood glucose through a certain brand need to be investigated thoroughly. While there are a ton of ads online and offline for processed brands of Keto diet foods for cats, the claims that it can absolutely control glucose in a cat with severe diabetes is to be taken worth a grain of salt perhaps.

A Keto diet is high fat, medium protein, and low carb. Not no carb, but low carb, and only medium protein. Since cats who have diabetes are generally overweight, there is a propensity also to heart disease so is high-fat good? That is a question worth pondering, and again, other processed foods do exist, and there is always the option of feeding a raw diet and having total control.

In a cat with diabetes, especially extreme diabetes that needs close monitoring, just picking a Keto brand of food and expecting a miracle might not be the wisest choice.

What Is the Takeaway Here on Feline Diabetes?

Although you should always try and follow a veterinarians’ advice, with cats it sometimes is not practical, especially in extreme cases of Type I diabetes. Colin, the cat mentioned above here, was not old by any means, only three when he developed diabetes.

Although the vet predicted he would not live to be four years old, by taking matters into her own hands, the owner, with diet, a bit of sternness, (Colin no longer got table scraps or could feed at will), Colin lived to be 15 years old at which time his heart failed and he passed quietly in his sleep. But his owner was dedicated for over a decade to feeding him what she thought was best and being diligent about everything, including not leaving food scraps out on the table, as he was also a notorious counter surfer. She not only had to retrain Colin but herself and her whole family.

However, the happy ending did occur, so sometimes cat ‘moms’ do know best and if you find yourself with a diabetic cat, it is good to look into all the options of treatment. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the telltale signs of eating and drinking too much, and lethargy, and do not delay taking any cat with these symptoms to a vet immediately.