Julia Ogden

Written by Julia Ogden

Updated: November 20, 2023

Is it OK for my cat to drink milk?

Updated: November 20, 2023

You might have seen images of cats drinking large saucers of milk in popular cartoons such as Tom and Jerry or The Simpsons, or even in children’s books. But the truth is — cats do not need cow’s milk — this is a myth. And we are here to debunk it.

Kittens drink their mother’s milk almost as soon as they are born and it’s essential for them to develop and thrive. However… 

A nursing cat’s milk is not the same as cow’s milk 

This is the crucial bit of information when trying to understand whether to give your cat milk to drink. 

Is cow’s milk bad for cats?

Cow’s milk is a totally different ball game and contains a huge amount of fat. It is roughly equivalent to a human eating a full 12 inch pizza — on top of their 3 meals a day! If served regularly, this could not only promote weight gain but could also cause an upset stomach. 

Is milk bad for cats?

Adult cats often lose the ability to process milk when they are weaned onto solid foods as a kitten, so they become lactose intolerant. Their intestines lack the enzyme needed to digest the sugar in milk (lactose) which means milk will most likely cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting in most cats.

So although your cat may be showing interest in milk, you should refrain from giving it to them, even on top of normal cat food. Cats may crave, or even like the taste, of milk but this is more of a comfort factor as they associate the flavor and smell with positive kitten memories.  

Key things to remember:

  • We do not advise giving your cat milk to drink
  • Cats do not need milk as part of their diet
  • Most cats are lactose intolerant and drinking milk will make them unwell
  • Cow’s milk is not the same as a cat’s milk

Can I give my cat milk which is formulated for cats?

Although specialized cat milk can be found in pet and grocery stores or online, and it contains less lactose than regular cow’s milk or zero, it is still high in calories. Cat milk should only be given this in small doses as a treat, not as a replacement for a balanced and complete diet. It can still cause unnecessary weight gain and allergic reactions, depending on your cat’s tolerance to lactose.  

What should I give my cat instead of milk?

Water! One of the most neglected nutrients in a cat’s diet is water. Follow our advice for how much water to give your cat to keep your cat hydrated.

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