A common question new cat parents have is if cats and kittens can be given baby formula. It is completely reasonable that they consider feeding their cat baby formula. Because we give it to human babies, who are extremely fragile, many people think it must be okay to give it to cats.
The simple answer is that it depends on the cat’s age. There are reasons that justify giving your kitten baby formula if that is the only option you currently have, but there are also reasons why baby formula should not be given to your adult cat.
If you are eager to learn why baby formula is a controversial choice to feed your cat and want to learn if there are better alternatives, keep on reading.
Can kittens drink baby formula?
Before anything, it should be pointed out that no other alternative can ever be better than a kitten’s mother’s milk. The same way breastmilk is the best option for human babies, a cat’s milk will be the best option for kittens. This is because it contains everything the baby is ever going to need, from a stronger immune system to much-needed nutritional value. If the kitten’s mother is around, encourage breastfeeding as much as possible.
Let us discuss the components of baby formula. Baby formula is normally made from skimmed cow’s milk and is produced specifically to provide a human baby with the nutrients that it needs for that specific point in the child’s life. It contains lactose which babies will have no problem breaking down because as young children, their bodies still produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose.
Kittens, specifically the ones younger than 5 weeks old, can also digest lactose just fine. As they are weaned off of milk and taught to eat solid food, their bodies lose the ability to break down lactose.
If finding kitten milk formula is going to take some time because the store is far away, the kitten no longer has a mother, or if the mother no longer produces any milk, then it is completely justifiable to feed the kitten baby formula. But do try to get kitten formula as soon as you can.
If you are preparing baby formula for your cat, you may give twice as much as indicated for human babies.
If your kitten is weak, sickly, or fragile, taking them to the vet should be the first thing you do before feeding them baby formula. Their vet will then instruct you on what your next steps should be.
Can adult cats drink baby formula?
After the weaning stage, at around five or six weeks, the kitten should be eating mostly solid food. Starting at this age they are going to be less and less tolerant of milk that contains lactose.
Do not give baby formula to cats older than five or six because the lactose in the milk can cause stomach upset and possible diarrhea. This can be very harmful for your cat because this can lead to dehydration, which if severe enough, can be fatal.
Since cats who are eating solid food do not need to drink milk, refrain from including it in their diet.
What can I feed my cat if baby formula is not advised?
Nothing can ever beat the advantages of a mother’s milk. Aside from the fact that it is free, it covers all the kitten’s specific nutritional and health needs. It is advisable to keep the kitten with its mother before it is weaned and only consider the other options if mother’s milk is unavailable for some reason.
Goat’s milk-based formula
Goat’s milk is easier to digest for kittens compared to cow’s milk. If you have that around, use it instead of baby formula.
For cats over 5 weeks old, teach them to eat solid food so they won’t have to go looking for milk of any kind. By this time, they should have a fully developed immune system. If they are 100% healthy, you can give them dry cat food which they should have no problem with. If they are not feeding well, you can try giving the cat chicken with rice. The addition of meat can encourage even cats who feel under the weather to eat.
Canned cat food
The options for canned cat food are endless. Nowadays, they come in a multitude of flavors and are designed to not cause any digestive problems. Despite this, as a cat owner, you should still do your research and choose the brand that is the safest and most nutritious for your cat. That option may not always be the cheapest, but the moment you decide to take a cat in, you should learn to prioritize what is best for it.
Wet cat food contains a lot of protein and fewer carbohydrates than dry cat food, which is a plus. Wet cat food also ups your cat’s water intake, which promotes hydration.
They also come in various flavors, so surely some of these flavors will work for your cat.
Yes, you can give your kitten baby formula if, and only if, there is no other choice. Only give it as a substitute while you are waiting to buy kitten formula, which is the best option after mother’s milk. Mother’s milk provides the kitten with the nutrients and immune system boosters it will need to lead a healthy life. If you have goat milk-based formula around, that is a better option than baby formula.
Never give a cat older than 5 weeks old baby formula, because their bodies can no longer break down lactose. If consumed, it may lead to stomach upset and diarrhea. Instead, teach your cat to eat solid food. If you have the means, incorporate canned wet cat food into their diet for protein-rich meals.
Image: istockphoto.com / Maria Moroz