While you think of what to feed a stray dog with, biscuits are the first thing that crosses your mind and similarly, when you think of feeding a cat, it's milk. But have you ever stopped and wondered if cats can drink milk? The age-old myth that milk and cats go hand-in-hand has officially been debunked by veterinarians and cat experts. Regardless of how tasty milk may be to your cat, this is bad news for their stomach and digestive system. As it turns out, most cats are lactose intolerant.
Milk contains a carbohydrate called lactose that provides infants with a great source of energy (humans and mammals alike).
To digest, the carbohydrate mammals produce an enzyme called lactase. When cats are in their kittenhood days, their bodies produce this enzyme in large quantities. However, as they grow older, their bodies produce less and less of the enzyme. This means that their bodies are not as efficient in digesting lactose as they get older. In some instances, where their bodies do not produce enough lactase, the lactose cannot get digested and is left in the digestive system for bacteria to ferment. The fermented bacteria cause discomfort and produces the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
Although these symptoms are generally not life-threatening, it is very uncomfortable to bear with. The simplest solution for treatment is the removal of lactose-containing products from their diet.
The only time in a cat’s life when its body actually has enough of the enzyme lactase to properly digest lactose is during the first 12 weeks of birth and during its early years of life. This is so the cat can feed off of its mother’s milk. After that, less and less lactase is produced, resulting in potentially increased digestive restrictions.
You must be wondering about what is it that they can drink instead of milk? It's water. All animals need plenty of water, including your cat.
Since cats don’t always drink enough water, they may get dehydrated. Typically, cats need between 100-200 ml of water per 2.5 kg of body weight per day. If your cat weighs 5 kgs, they should be consuming between 200-300 ml of water, or about half an average bottle of water. If that’s the case with your cat, adding a portion of cat wet food to their diet can contribute to their daily total water intake. Some cats prefer moving water rather than drinking from a cat bowl, so using a cat fountain may encourage your cat to drink more.
Moderation is the key
If you are still keen on satisfying your cats' taste buds with milk and it's products, you could include foods that contain a touch of milk to satisfy your cat’s cravings without causing digestive upset. This allows your cat to enjoy the creamy flavors while getting complete and balanced nutrition.