Most cats are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the name given to the sugars that are in milk. These sugars cause tummy problems in the cat that can be as mild as cramps or as severe as explosive diarrhea. What happens is that most cats do not produce lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose thus the lactose passes through their system, fermenting, and causing problems. This is the main reason why cats, and especially kittens should not be given cow’s milk. Also milk can give cats gas!
With young, kittens especially it is even more important that they are not given cow’s milk. Young kittens do have lactace, they need it to digest their mothers milk, however cows milk is very different from a mother cat’s milk. Cow’s milk does not have enough fat or protein to meet a growing kitten’s needs. The calcium – phosphorus ratio is very different in cows milk than in cats milk and diarrhea can prove deadly to a kitten.
Orphaned kittens (or kittens rejected by their mother) do need milk, but cow’s milk is not good for them. Such kittens require special milk made for kitten, often called KMR, or Kitten Milk Replacer. Many gimmick milk treat replacements are available but none of these contain the proper nutrition needed by baby kittens so it is important they be fed only KMR.
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Other Facts on Milk and Cats
- Some speculations have been made that even cats who are not lactose intolerant should not be given cow’s milk because the high calcium content may contribute to urinary tract problems.
- Goat’s milk has less lactose than cow’s milk and if an owner insists on giving their cat milk as a treat, goats milk would be a safer option, or a lactose free milk product.
- Low fat milk has more lactose than other milks, so low fat milk would not be good for most cats.
- The milk treat replacement sold by some pet stores is purely a gimmick, it has no real health value.
- KMR is sold at most veterinarians, livestock feed stores, and some pet supply stores. Kittens over 6 weeks will not require KMR. New born kittens also need colostrum.
Cats and Water
Cats need access to fresh water at all times, it is best to offer this in a stainless steel, or ceramic bowl. Cats do not like the taste of dust on their water so it should be refreshed at least twice daily.
Should Cats be Given Water? - Original inspiration for this article.
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