You have barely opened the refrigerator’s door and your cat circles around your leg. It is as if he instinctively knows that you are going to get the milk carton out. The idea that cats love milk has been perpetuated by other cat owners and pop culture since time immemorial. And there is truth in that idea. Cats do not just like milk, they love it.
Why do cat like milk?
Milk contains proteins and fats that cats crave. Even adult cats do not outgrow their love for milk. It may come as a surprise, but cats have long memories. And they crave milk because they associate it with their time with their mothers as kittens.
Unfortunately, what your cat loves may not be necessarily good for him.
Adult cats do not need milk
Like many mammals, kittens get all the nutrients they need from the milk their mothers produce, at least for the first weeks of their lives. During this point, kittens have the ability to digest milk because their bodies have the enzyme known as lactase.
Once a kitten is weaned or stops drinking milk, lactase disappears from his digestive system. The same thing happens to most mammals. And when lactase vanishes from his body, your cat can no longer digest the lactose in milk.
Lactose intolerance is common in both cats and people. When lactose intolerant people and cats drink milk, their stomachs become upset and they can vomit. This occurs because the body passes the lactose out of its system while at the same time drawing water. The undigested sugars from the milk are then fermented by the bacteria in the colon. Once the lactose has been eliminated from your cat’s body, he should return to normal.
It should be noted that not all cats become lactose intolerant. Some cats can drink milk without suffering from the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.
If you want to know if your cat is lactose intolerant, give him one to two tablespoons of milk. Afterward, observe your pet if he will show the usual signs of lactose intolerance. If your cat seems to be fine, you can give him milk.
On the other hand, if your cat is indeed lactose intolerant, you might want to try other dairy products like butter, yogurt, cheese, and even ice cream. These foods have varying lactose content, usually lower than milk. Furthermore, dairy products like yogurt and ice cream have diluted milk content.
Your cat is not allergic to milk
Lactose intolerance is not a type of food allergy. Food allergy is different. The condition is caused by the body’s reaction to allergens when the immune system comes into contact with any of these.
With a food allergy, your cat may still exhibit symptoms even after the allergen has been eliminated. With lactose intolerance, the symptoms disappear immediately once the lactose has been eliminated.
Can you give a kitten cow’s milk?
You have found a kitten abandoned by his mother. Can you give him cow’s milk?
Although a kitten may still have lactase in his system, it is best to avoid giving him cow’s milk. The composition of cow’s milk is vastly different from cat’s milk. Specifically, the proportion of whey and casein are vastly different.
If you need to feed a kitten, the better option would be a milk replacer which is specially-formulated for kittens. Although milk replacers are formulated using cow’s milk, the ratio of casein and whey have been adjusted. Furthermore, milk replacers contain less lactose.
Offer milk as treats
If your cat is not lactose intolerant, you can give him milk and dairy products but only as treats. Do not use milk as a supplement. If you choose the right type of food, your cat should get his nutritional needs from his diet. Also, be aware that milk is loaded with calories. These extra calories can cause excess weight gain. As such, give your cat dairy products sparingly.
Instead of milk, your cat should drink plenty of water. Water is vital for vital bodily functions, including digestion, temperature regulation, and elimination of waste.
Can cats drink almond or soy milk?
Cow’s milk substitutes have become more prevalent as people pay more attention to their health. But can your cat drink almond or soy milk?
If your cat is not lactose intolerant, you can give him almond milk, but in moderation and as a treat. Almond milk is generally safe for cats.
Soy is a controversial product because it is used in the manufacture of some types of cat foods. However, it is a known allergen in cats. Furthermore, plant-based proteins are not good for cats who are obligate carnivores.
And just like cow’s milk, your biggest concern with these cow’s milk substitutes is that these can contribute to unnecessary weight gain, especially if you allow your cat to drink any of these products on a daily basis.
Your cat no longer needs milk
Although it is tempting to cater to all your cat’s whims and demands, including milk, you should not cave in. Simply put, adult cats no longer need milk. Whether your pet is lactose intolerant or not, err on the side of caution and avoid giving him milk.
Instead, coax him to drink more water which is vital for his overall health. If your cat is not lactose intolerant, you can give him milk and other dairy products as an occasional treat.
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