In pop culture, cats and milk have always been depicted together. But should cats really be drinking milk? Do they even like milk? Let’s break it down.
Why Do People Think Cats Love Milk?
This is a great question! It likely goes back to the days when domestic cats were mostly farm animals. At that time they were, in fact, drawn to cream, specifically the “top cream” from the milk pail filled from dairy cows. Why? Because of all the fat, of course. Cats (and most animals) will always choose the highest-fat option first because they’re biologically inclined.
Is it Healthy for Cats to Drink Milk?
This is a complicated question. One thing we know for sure is that, just like humans, a lot of cats are actually lactose intolerant. This means that the kind of milk found in supermarkets – brimming with lactose! – won’t usually sit too well with their stomachs. In fact, a lot of cats suffer from GI discomfort or even diarrhea after drinking a significant amount of milk.
Kittens (just like human babies) are born readily able to digest lactose, but that ability wanes over time. As they get older their bodies are simply less adept at processing dairy since it’s unlikely to make up a significant portion of their diet.
What If My Cat Loves Milk?
Ever met a lactose intolerant human who can’t stay away from ice cream? Of course you have! If you know your cat to be lactose intolerant but still begging for dairy, do the right thing and keep it away. If, however, you don’t believe your cat actually has any sensitivity to milk it’s okay to give a small bit of full-fat milk (or better yet, cream) to your cat as a treat every once in a while.
That being said, remember that milk, cream, and any other dairy product has calories, and a lot of them! Obesity in cats is very dangerous so be sure to keep these fattening treats to a minimum. If your cat doesn’t care either way, you’re probably better off with a small bit of salmon, chicken, or other fatty animal-derived protein instead.
Questions about your cat’s diet?