Lactose intolerance in cats

Time to read: 4 mins

It’s a popular conception in our culture that cats love drinking milk. And whilst they may enjoy doing so, is it really healthy for them?

Unfortunately, things are never as they seem to be…


So, is milk bad for cats?

Many cats, like most of the mammals, are lactose intolerant.

Lactose intolerant animals don’t have an ability to digest the sugar lactose in their food. Milk and other dairy products contain this sugar in abundance.

What happens is these animals are allergic to the dairy substances and it causes them discomfort and pain after ingestion.

They can’t digest the sugar lactose in the milk or cheese. What happens is that since Lactose is unabsorbed it stays in the stomach of your pet. (This happens in humans as well).

The lactose ferments while staying in the stomach and this produces gases. These gases then cause stomach cramps or excessive flatulence.

Since lactose is a sugar it also draws water into the intestines which may then cause diarrhoea.

This isn’t true for all species for cats but most of the species of cats don’t produce the enzyme required to break lactose down, that’s why giving milk to your feline friends is not recommended.

If you give your cat milk you will get to know if your cat is lactose intolerant or not but it may cause the cat to get really sick.


What about cream?

Cream is high in fat, and not as high in lactose. The cream is the part that settles to the bottom causing the fatty parts of the milk to float to the top.

This is where the image of the cat drinking milk from a saucer comes from.

But, what about the milk that the kittens drink from their mother? As it turns out this milk contains the fat and other nutrients that a kitty needs to grow and become a healthy cat.

Cats start pushing their kittens away at four weeks of age in order to wean them off of milk


Can humans and cats drink the same milk?

Unfortunately, no. A few centuries ago, maybe …

Since the milk we drink nowadays is heavily processed and it is made sure to remove all of the fat contents it is not be advisable to give that milk to cats.

This milk contains high lactose content and lactose can lead to your cat getting sick. If we go back in time where processed milk didn’t exist then maybe humans and cats would have had the same milk.


Should I give my cat some milk?

Be aware that milk offers cats no source of nutritional value that they can’t find from other healthier sources of food but if your cat enjoys milk, then you can give it some in small amounts.

A healthy diet for a cat will mean that these cats are eating food that they would have gotten in the wild if they were not domesticated. This includes meat since meat contains a lot of rich protein.

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