Are you a cat parent? If you are, you have probably tried offering your feline friend a bowl of warm milk at some point.
But the question is – do cats like milk or water?
Like humans, cats require adequate hydration to stay healthy and active, and the type of liquid they consume can have an impact on their overall health and well-being. However, cats do not necessarily have the same taste buds that allow us to appreciate the sweetness of milk or even apple juice!
Hence, it is important to understand your cat’s liquid preferences so you can ensure your beloved pet stays healthy and happy.
Why are cats stereotyped as milk drinkers?
We have all seen cartoons of cats enjoying a bowl of warm, creamy milk. But do cats really like milk?
The truth is that most cats enjoy milk due to its fat content, not because they like the taste or that they naturally consume it.
Cats actually do not need milk in their diet. The only exception is kittens – those below four weeks of age do need their mother cat’s milk (not cow’s milk) for proper nutrition. But, after they are weaned, their dietary needs change and they no longer need to consume milk.
Most importantly, milk does not offer any health benefits for your feline friend. In fact, most cats are reported to suffer from diarrhea after drinking full-cream milk. In other words, cats are lactose intolerant. So, those cute kitties you have seen in cartoons lapping up milk do not necessarily exist in real life!
Do cats like milk or water?
The answer is – it depends!
Most cats will enjoy drinking a small saucer of milk if they are only given it occasionally, but larger amounts of milk can cause problems for most cats. Some people have reported that their cats are allergic to dairy products (that is, lactose intolerant) and must avoid them entirely; others found that their cats’ health improved when they eliminated dairy from the diet.
On the other hand, cats generally love drinking water. Plus, it is good for them, too!
Hydration is extremely important for all cats, and they can only get it through drinking water or consuming food with a liquid content. As with all living animals, drinking water has a lot of health benefits for your cat, including keeping their body temperature stable so they do not get too cold or too hot.
Is it okay to give milk to cats?
Occasionally offering your furry friend a small amount of warm milk will not harm their health. However, milk does not offer any significant benefits for your feline, and might do more harm than good. It is best to avoid milk for the following reasons:
1. Cats are lactose intolerant
Lactose intolerance is common in cats, so it is definitely not a good idea to give them cow’s milk. Milk contains lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products like milk. Cats do not have the enzyme needed to digest this sugar, which is why they can get diarrhea and other digestive problems if they consume it.
2. Cats are carnivores
Because cats are carnivores, their typical diet should consist of protein found in meat. Knowing this helps us determine what might be good for them to drink, too. If a liquid is in line with a cat’s carnivorous predisposition, then it would be a good option. This is why bone broth and tuna juice are great substitutes for water.
Any liquid that contains carbohydrates, as well as sweets, fruits, or vegetables, generally do not constitute part of a cat’s natural diet, and thus may not be the healthiest choice.
3. Cats cannot taste sweetness
Did you know that cats do not have the capacity to perceive sweetness in the same way humans do?
According to experts, cats do not have the taste receptors required to taste sweetness, meaning they do not enjoy sugary carbohydrates like we do, and will not appreciate the sweetness in milk (or fruit) that we find so satisfying.
So, while it might seem that a bowl of milk would make a nice treat for your kitty, it is better to avoid feeding them these extra sugar and calories that they will struggle to digest.
Recommendations from the vet
If you are worried about your kitty getting bored of her bowl of water, there are some vet-approved options you can offer to ensure your feline stays happy and well-hydrated.
1. Bone broth
Bone broth is made of animal bones and ligaments that have been cooked for a long time over a low heat. You can make bone broth using any animal-based protein source and include not just bones, but also inedible animal parts like gristle, feet, and ligaments.
So, instead of discarding your meat leftovers, save them to make a delicious broth for your feline later on. It is essentially the same as stock and is frequently seen in soups and sauces. Your cat will surely love it!
2. Goat’s milk
Goat’s milk is generally safer for cats than cow’s milk, since it is lower in lactose. It is high in fat and protein, which can be beneficial for cats. IHowever, it should only be given in moderation, and only as an occasional treat, as it still contains lactose. Make sure the milk is pasteurized and free of bacteria, as raw goat milk can contain bacteria that are harmful to cats.
Additionally, if your cat has any dietary restrictions, make sure to discuss any changes with your vet before introducing goat milk. All in all, goat’s milk can be a nutritious snack for cats, but you must make sure it is safe and suitable for them!
3. Tuna juice
Cats absolutely love tuna juice – many get excited whenever they hear a can open!
So, if your furry friend gets tired of bone broth or plain water, you can spice up their diet by adding tuna juice. However, do avoid tuna in oil. Use tuna in brine or water instead, as too much oil can really upset a cat’s stomach.
Additionally, be mindful of the salt content – a can of tuna can contain a lot of sodium, which can be harmful to your cat’s health.
4. Kitten formula
If you have just welcomed a new kitten into your home, remember not to feed it with milk intended for humans!
Instead, you should give it milk specially formulated for kittens. Kitten formula contains all the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your little one will need for healthy growth and development. It is important to give kittens the right milk during their first few weeks of life, as this is what helps them develop strong bones and muscles, as well as a healthy immune system. And always be sure to use a high-quality kitten formula – ask your vet for recommendations. With the right nutrition, your kitten will be on the path to a long, healthy life.
If you have an adult cat, it is best to avoid giving it any kind of milk, including kitten formula. Consider giving them bone broth or tuna juice instead – your cat will enjoy these options more!
Most cats will usually lap up any liquid that is served to them – but that does not always mean it is good for them. It should go without saying that water is the best liquid to keep your cat hydrated. Bone broth, goat’s milk, and tuna juice can be great alternatives, too, to ensure your cat drinks enough fluid.
Although they might enjoy the yummy fat content in milk, most cats are lactose intolerant and thus incapable of digesting dairy products. This is why cow’s milk should be avoided, and goat’s milk given only as a rare treat. Moreover, milk does not offer any health benefits to cats, so it is best to save your box of full-cream milk for your own consumption!
Image: istockphoto.com / flyparade