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Is Milk Bad for Cats? The Truth in 2021

Milk is a nutritious drink for humans but is milk bad for cats? In this article, I am going to find out the truth.

Adult cats can drink very small quantities of milk without experiencing digestive upset.

A cat can tolerate as much as 85ml of dairy milk per day without discomfort. If your cat drinks more milk they may get diarrhea.

As a cat gets older the levels of lactase (needed to digest the lactose in milk) reduce. This lowers the amount of milk that cats tolerate. If you want to give your cat milk, limit the saucer of milk to less than 85ml.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance involve stomach cramps, flatulence, and diarrhea.

My name is Derrick.  I write for Simply Cat Care, which is a site dedicated to helpful guides to understanding your cat.  I researched this topic to help you make informed choices about feeding your cat.

If you need more information on anything discussed in this article, seek the assistance of a veterinarian.

Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

Let’s get into the post.


Can cats drink milk?

Cats can digest small quantities of milk.

Milk digestion requires lactase enzymes. An enzyme breaks apart molecules for absorption.

Milk contains lactose, a disaccharide molecule comprised of glucose and galactose. Lactase breaks the bond of this molecule allowed the cat to absorb the simple sugars.

is milk bad for cats

Are cats lactose intolerant?

Cats are able to tolerate up to 6g of lactose sugar in milk [1].

This amount of lactose sugar is equivalent to an 85ml serve of milk [1].

Your feline will be able to tolerate small serves of milk under 85ml. However, cats experience digestive upset when consuming too much milk.

This leads to diarrhea and flatulence.

Cats lack sufficient amounts of the lactase enzyme to tolerate large amounts of dairy.


What happens if cats drink milk?

Cats will experience digestive upset is consuming too much milk. This includes flatulence and diarrhea.

Most cats can tolerate a small amount of milk in their diet.

Cats won’t experience any health problems from consuming small amounts of cow’s milk.


Do cats have allergies to milk?

It is unlikely your cat is allergic to milk.

The risk of allergy is only 0.05% [1].

An allergic reaction to milk will include skin-related issues (e.g. scratching excessively) and digestive upset (e.g. vomiting) [1].


Can cats eat cheese?

Cheese-making involves removing the curds from the whey [2]. This eliminates the bulk of the lactose sugar (and whey protein) from cheese.

Many people with lactose intolerance tolerate cheese because of the minimal lactose in cheese products. It is reasonable to assume cats tolerate cheese instead of milk, however, it is unknown how much cheese a cat can have.

Cheese is higher in calories than milk due to being more calorically dense. An excess of cheese may contribute to weight gain and is best used as a treat only.

Check out my article on how much to feed a cat for more information.


Why do cats love milk?

Milk has many essential nutrients that cats benefit from.

The reason cats enjoy milk is unknown but they may enjoy the fat content of unhomogenized milk and protein.

Milk provides cats a source of Vitamin A (which is a vitamin cats cannot obtain from plant-based foods), calcium, essential amino acids, and B vitamins.

Drinking milk also provides kittens and adults a source of water that supports healthy kidney function.


Do kittens need a saucer of milk?

Cats are mammals.

Mammalian species all have mammary glands which provide young a source of nutrition from suckling [3]. Kittens suckle for up to 25-28 days and without a teat may try to chew on littermates [4].

It seems logical then that if a kitten does not have access to its mother’s milk, dairy could replace it. A cat’s milk is nutritious containing all the essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and micronutrients needed for growth [5].

In the ideal world, all kittens would suckle for the first month to ensure they get the proper nutrition for development. If this isn’t available then lactose-free milk designed for kittens may be a suitable alternative.

Seek veterinary advice in this situation.


Is milk bad for cats?

Milk allergy is extremely rare and only occurs in 0.05% of the cat population.

The main problem with milk is the lactose sugar which is ferments bacteria if undigested. Cats have a limited amount of lactase, which digests lactose sugar (breaks it down into simple sugar molecules).

Most adult cats tolerate up to 85ml of cow’s milk a day. This varies from cat to cat, so make sure to be mindful of any digestive symptoms (e.g. diarrhea).

Many cats are able to drink the occasional small saucer of cow’s milk as part of a balanced nutrition plan.

Seek out veterinary advice for more help regarding the use of milk and other dairy products in the diet of your cat.


What kind of milk is good for cats?

Lactose-free milk may be a suitable alternative to milk in small amounts. This milk does not contain lactose due to the addition of lactase.

Cats don’t benefit from plant-based milk such as soy milk and almond milk. These products have less essential amino acids such as taurine, that cats require in their diet for health. These products also contain added sugar which may not benefit your cat.


Conclusion: Is Milk Bad For Cats? (Final Thoughts)

In this article, I’ve discussed whether milk is ok for your cat to drink.

Here are my final thoughts about the question ‘Is milk bad for cats?’:

  • Cow’s milk contains lactose (a two-sugar molecule)
  • Lactose needs lactase (enzyme) to break down and digest
  • Adult cats have low amounts of lactase in their body
  • If cats consume more lactose (from milk) then digestible, they have digestive issues
  • Cats can tolerate up to 85ml of milk (about 1/4 of a cup) without digestive issues
  • Cheese has little to no lactose, as the cheese making process removes the lactose sugar
  • Cats may tolerate small amounts of cheese, but cheese contains a lot of calories
  • Too much cheese may lead to weight gain
  • Cat allergies to milk are rare, but can happen
  • If your cat is sick or has digestive symptoms (e.g. diarrhea) seek a vet for advice

Consult a veterinarian if you want to feed your cat dairy foods.


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