Milk has long been considered a staple food for felines. We all know the stereotype of a cat enjoying a saucer of milk and the cartoons on Tom lapping a bowl of milk before he darts after Jerry.
But do our feline friends actually enjoy the taste of milk, or is it merely a popular myth? And more importantly, is milk good for them, or can it cause unwanted health issues?
In this article, we look at whether cats really do like milk or not and whether it is a nutritious option that cat owners can trust.
Do Cats Like Milk?
On the whole, it seems clear that cats really do enjoy the taste of milk – and by milk, we mean cow’s milk like that which we pour over our cereal in the mornings.
However, rather than enjoying it for its essential nutrients, cats seem to like it for its fat content. We can see this through the way that cats tend to prefer full-fat milk and cream to skimmed milk. Guess they aren’t watching their waistlines like we have to!
These days there is not as much fat in milk as there once was, and we tend to have low-fat milk in our fridges rather than rich whole milk.
Offering your cat some of this low-fat milk is a much healthier option than allowing them to indulge in the fatty whole milk that they crave.
Do Cats Prefer Milk Or Water?
When given a choice between a water bowl and a bowl of milk, the majority of cats will opt for the milk. Cats actually drink water rather infrequently and certainly drink less water than dogs do.
They tend to prefer tap water to bottled water, and this may be due to the fact that unfiltered water contains more minerals than bottled water.
If you see your cat drinking a lot of water, it could be a sign that they are unwell.
Having the occasional sip is perfectly normal and prevents dehydration, but frequent lapping is sometimes the sign of a stomach upset or other underlying health problems. If you notice this, you should contact your vet.
Is Milk Good For Cats?
Although cats love milk, there are some downsides to feeding your cat dairy products. In particular, if you feed your cat milk, you will increase his risk of developing kidney stones.
The reason why is because calcium levels in milk are higher than those found in other foods. Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth, but too much calcium can lead to excess deposits forming in the kidneys.
These deposits can become hard and painful, causing your cat pain and discomfort.
There is no doubt that milk is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. It provides many of the same nutrients as meat, plus additional ones such as vitamin D, iron, and phosphorus.
However, when compared with other sources of these nutrients, milk does contain a lot of saturated fat. This means that milk could pose problems for your cat’s heart and arteries.
The sugar in milk is also not good for cats and can cause them stomach pain because they cannot digest it properly.
Bacteria in the colon will ferment the undigested sugars resulting in volatile fatty acids that are painful and dangerous to cats.
Are Cats Lactose Intolerant?
It is important to remember that cats cannot digest lactose (milk sugar) because their bodies do not produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose. This is very similar to lactose-intolerant people.
If your adult cat consumes lots of milk despite not having enough of the lactase enzyme, then she won’t be able to properly break down the lactose into glucose and galactose, both of which are needed for energy.
As a result, the undigested lactose will cause her blood sugar level to rise, leading to hyperglycemia, and she will get a bad upset stomach.
Are Kittens Lactose Intolerant?
Kittens do not have lactose intolerance. In fact, a cat’s body will produce the enzyme lactase from birth up until eight weeks old. This is so that kittens can digest the cat’s milk that their mothers feed them.
Cat milk is calorie-rich and enables little kittens to get all the fat and nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. In the first eight weeks of their life, you can feed kittens milk without any risk to their health.
Kittens grow rapidly and need a high-calorie intake to support their rapid growth. As they get older, however, they require fewer calories and so can survive on lower intakes.
Can Cats Drink Other Types Of Milk?
So, now that we know that cats shouldn’t drink rich, fatty cow’s milk, what about all the other types of milk available these days? Are they suitable treats to offer your furry friend?
Can Cats Drink Soy Milk?
Soya milk contains stachyose and raffinose which cannot be digested by the enzymes produced by cats. Cats fed soya milk will usually experience flatulence and digestive upset as a result.
What About Almond Milk?
Unfortunately, almond milk isn’t too healthy for cats. However, it does contain some benefits when consumed every now and then.
Lactose-free almond milk is a good alternative for cats who have trouble digesting enzymes found in milk. Almond milk is rich in vitamin E, which is great for keeping your cat’s fur and skin healthy.
Can Cats Drink Goat Milk?
There is less lactose in goats’ milk than in cows’ milk, but it is still present and may still cause your cat to get sick.
Because goats produce less lactose than cows, goat’s milk represents a good alternative for those felines who can tolerate lactose.
Can Cats Drink Sheep Milk?
Lactose is present in sheep’s milk at a higher concentration than in cow’s milk, so it may not be suitable for cats who are lactose intolerant or allergic to casein.
Lactose is almost completely removed from sheep’s milk when it is fermented into cheese or yogurt.
Can Cats Drink Condensed Milk?
Condensed milk and evaporated milk both contain a lot of sugar and are not recommended at all. Cats are not usually fond of sweets, but even if your cat has a sweet tooth, it’s best not to give it any.
Some cats may develop diarrhea when they drink condensed milk.
Can Cats Have Other Dairy Products?
Cats can eat most dairy products, including butter, cream, ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, kefir, sour cream, and cheeses such as cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, feta, gouda, blue cheese, and Parmesan.
These foods are safe for cats as long as they don’t have a sensitivity to casein.
Can Cats Eat Eggs?
Eggs are high in protein and low in cholesterol and are therefore considered a healthy food choice for cats.
You should avoid feeding eggs to your cat if she has been diagnosed with an egg allergy because there is no way to guarantee that the eggs are free of allergens.
In order to ensure that your lovely kitty stays fit, healthy, and happy, it is best to avoid letting them have full-fat milk.
Offering them a little bit of milk as an occasional treat won’t harm them, but too much milk will be bad for them.
Instead, be sure to give your feline friend nutritious cat food and clean water on a regular basis, and encourage them to get lots of exercise and fresh air.