Is Milk Good for Cats

Many pet owners feed milk to their cats, or wonder if milk is okay for kittens. The short answer is NO, now let us find out why milk is not good for your feline.

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.

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Other Reading

Should Cats be Given Water? - Original inspiration for this article.

How to Care for Orphaned Kittens

How Much Food should I Feed my Cat?

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User Comments
  1. Farzeela Fee Faisal

    On September 6, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I never knew that.. and I always prefer giving milk to cats instead of some solid food! Thanks for sharing this piece of knowledge!

  2. Prakash Vaghela

    On September 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    nice sharing

  3. Karen Gross

    On September 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Good information. Many people do give cats cow’s milk.

  4. CA Johnson

    On September 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I really did not know this. I always thought milk was good for cats. When my mother had a kitten, she gave it milk so I figured it was good for them.

  5. PR Mace

    On September 6, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Finally some information on cats I knew the correct answer to. Good article.

  6. dazzlejazz

    On September 8, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Great article Brenda and facts many wouldn’t be aware of.

  7. CHIPMUNK

    On October 26, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Not a cat lover but you have made good points for those who have the interest in cats

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