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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. 

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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.”  

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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. 
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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.