There is an old stereotype about cats loving milk and cream. It has been featured in cartoons, movies, and TV shows for decades, but is it accurate? Is milk even healthy for your cat to drink on a regular basis?
Why Do Cats Love Milk?
The truth of the matter is many cats love the taste of milk. Much like humans, cats are drawn to the sweetness and fat content. During their initial weeks of life, kittens require milk to survive. It is how they get nutrients, proteins, and fats into their systems. It also prepares their bodies for growth with calcium and their immune systems with their mother’s natural antibodies.
This is not to say that you should replace a mother cat’s milk with cow’s milk from the grocery store. Much like human infants, a kitten’s digestive system is sensitive, and cow’s milk won’t carry all the nutrients a kitten needs. Instead, if momma cat isn’t able to provide milk to her offspring, you’ll need to supply kitten formula by hand or bottle. Talk to your vet before you make this switch and allow them to give momma and her kittens a physical and advise on the best course of action and the best formula to buy.
Is Milk Good for Cats?
The trouble for cats lies in the lactose contained in milk. During kittenhood, cats produce an enzyme called lactase which allows them to break down and digest lactose. As cats age and become weaned from their mother, they stop developing lactase and can no longer break down those lactose sugars. This causes gastric distress in the cat, leading to diarrhea, gas, or even vomiting.
Not every cat will have an adverse reaction to milk, so if your cat can process it, you may be able to give them small doses as a treat. Just make sure you speak to your vet about it first. Other unseen problems may arise if your cat drinks too much milk. For example, some cats lose their appetite for their protein-based foods and end up not getting the nutrition they need because milk simply can’t provide it.
What If Milk Is All My Cat Will Consume?
There may be many reasons your cat is not eating, so don’t automatically assume it’s because they will only consume milk. If your cat is ill, a loss in appetite may be a symptom of their illness. But, because your cat loves milk and views it as a treat, they may be more willing to drink the milk than their normal food.
Elderly cats may have trouble chewing their food, so the occasional treat of milk is comfortable and tasty. Switching brands or over to soft canned food may ease the pressure on an older cat’s teeth. If you notice a lack of appetite in your cat or a refusal to ingest anything other than milk, make an appointment to discuss the issue with your vet. It could be as simple as getting a new brand of food, or there could be something more serious going on and you’ll need to start treating your cat.
Despite what popular culture says, giving cats milk and dairy products is not good for them. There are other ways to treat your cat to make them happy without causing stomach issues. The best course of action when it comes to your cat’s nutrition is to speak to your vet to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.
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