Putting down a saucer of milk for a cat is a familiar image; however, many felines are lactose-intolerant. Although cats can drink lactose-free milk or Lactaid, it may not be the best healthy choice for them.
Can Cats Drink Milk?
According to PetMD, while some cats can tolerate milk, more often than not, they are lactose intolerant. Young kittens can drink milk produced by their mothers, as this is specially formulated for their nutritional needs and digestive system. However, as cats grow older, they lose their tolerance for milk; this is similar to humans as they age. This is because with maturity after weaning, they no longer produce an enzyme called lactase, which aids in the digestion of milk sugars.
Symptoms to Watch For
If your cat drinks milk, you may see symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, constipation, and general discomfort due to how their stomach feels. Again to provide an analogy, it's just how humans with lactose intolerance feel when they consume dairy products. Adult cats have no nutritional need for milk, so veterinarians advise against giving it to your cat, even if your cat appears to consume it without digestive upset. Even kittens that are bottle-fed and can tolerate lactose are given a formula they can digest rather than whole milk. Milk is also high in fat and calories, so cats who drink it are at risk for weight gain.
Alternatives to Milk for Cats
Cats need water more than they need milk. In fact, many cats do not get as much water as they need, so providing more of it is good for their health. However, there are lactose-free milk products specially made for cats, such as:
These products are free of lactose and even contain taurine, an amino acid cats require, as well as other vitamins and minerals, though they should remain a treat and not a significant part of your cat's diet. However, these are far better choices for cats than cows milks marketed for humans, such as Lactaid.
Avoid Human Milk Substitutes
There are other types of milk sold for humans, such as soy milk and almond milk, and while these are good for lactose-intolerant people, they are not appropriate for a cat's digestive system because of their sugar content.
Can Cats Drink Lactaid?
While it's a common belief that cats can drink milk, don't believe the myth. Milk can upset your cat's stomach and even lactose-free milks like Lactaid can put them at risk for obesity. If you're determined to give your kitty milk, use a lactose-free product made just for cats, and always make sure your cats get plenty of water.