Can cats drink milk? All you need to know

Table of contents

  1. Should I give my cat milk or water?
  2. What is the best milk to choose for kittens weaning?
  3. Is milk bad for my cat?
  4. Why does my cat like milk so much?
  5. Can cats be lactose intolerant?
  6. What is the best milk to give my cat as a treat?
  7. Why is there a myth that cats should be given milk?
  8. Can cats drink almond, soy, and oat milks?

Many cat owners continue to give their cats milk well into adulthood, learning if you can give cats milk and how much is critical to them living long, healthy lives.

Should I give my adult cat milk or water?

Cats will usually start slowly weaning their kittens as early as 4 weeks, ideally, they will be eating solid food by 8-10 weeks.  If you have a kitten younger than 6 weeks you can feed a milk replacement, kitten milk replacer, like the ones listed below.  If they are 6 weeks or older you can begin weaning them and giving either soft food with some milk replacement (until 8 weeks) or dry food.  If the dry food is too hard for them to eat, you can add a little water.   While milk does have a water content, cats should have water at all times as consuming milk alone won’t supply them with all the essential nutrients they need.

What is the best milk to choose for kittens weaning?

Refrain from feeding cow’s milk or any other milk besides kitten replacement which is specially formulated for kittens, it includes the right amount of crude protein, fat, and colostrum.

Typical weaning times are as follows

  • 4-5 weeks: give wet or moistened dry food, mixed with formula to form a slush. 
  • 5-6 weeks:  the kittens should be able to eat kibble mixed with a little water
  • 6-7 weeks: kittens should be almost weaned and eating small, bite-sized kibble
  • 8 weeks: kittens should be fully weaned and do not need milk

Can cats drink milk? Is milk bad for my cat? Do cats need milk? Is milk healthy for cats?

Milk is not bad for some cats per se, but they do not need it post-weaning. It can be bad for cats that have diseases like IBS or those that are lactose intolerant

Whole milk can add unnecessary unhealthy fat to your cat’s diet.  There are over-the-counter diets that have milk in them and won’t cause stomach upset.

Cats like many other animals can have irritable bowel and giving them milk can exacerbate the issue greatly

Why does my cat like milk so much?

Cats really enjoy milk because it has a high-fat content.  If you want to give some to your cat as a treat, feel free to give them a small amount, but they should still always have access to fresh, clean water.  You can also add a small amount of milk to their food as it is easy to mix into wet food.  Refrain from simply pouring milk over their dry food as it is not easily blended and your cat will most likely lap up the milk and leave the kibble.  

Can cats be lactose intolerant?

Yes, cats can be lactose intolerant.  Many cats, like most mammals, no longer have the enzyme to break down lactose into digestible single sugars after weaning and can no longer drink milk without some stomach upset.  Sore stomach, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and in severe cased vomiting.

What is the best milk to give my cat as a treat?

If you must give your cat milk as a treat first research the lactose concentration of the milk as the higher the concentration the more likely it is to upset your kitty’s stomach.

For example, human milk contains 7% lactose, cow milk contains about 5% lactose, and goat milk contains approximately 4%. If you are going to add milk to your cat’s meals, try a small amount of goat milk or lactose-free milk from the pet store.

Why is there a myth that cats should be given milk?

Most people think they should only give their cats milk and not water because of older cartoons and the fact that cat’s really do enjoy milk.

Can cats drink almond milk? Can cats drink soy milk? Can cats drink oat milk?

  • A couple sips of plain almond, oat, or soy milk, preferably made at home, will not be bad for your kitten. However there are some things to keep in mind:
  • Cats can have allergies to almond and soy so if you find that your cat begins to scratch or show signs of a food allergy after giving them either of the milks refrain from doing so in the future
  • Almond, soy, and oat milks usually come with empty and unecessary calories. If you decide to feed your cats either milk do so in moderation, a couple of licks is fine. A cup of soy or almond milk contains around 100 calories and an average ten-pound cat only needs about 200 calories a day (Pets Best)
  • Some nut milks and oat milks are sweetened with added sugars or worse xylitol which can be toxic

If you decide to give your cat any type of milk, cows, oat or almond, moderation is key!

Know someone with a new kitten? Consider sharing this article with them!