Can Cats Get Sick from Drinking Milk? The Surprising Truth Revealed

Cats can get sick from drinking milk due to lactose intolerance. Lactose in milk can cause digestive upset in cats.

Cats are known for their love of dairy products, particularly milk. We often picture a little kitten lapping up a saucer of milk with a contented purr. However, what many cat owners are unaware of is that cats can actually get sick from drinking milk.

This is due to a condition called lactose intolerance. Like some humans, cats lack the enzyme needed to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk. As a result, consuming milk can lead to digestive upset and discomfort for our feline friends. It is important for cat owners to be aware of this issue and avoid giving their cats milk to prevent any health problems. We will discuss in more detail why cats can get sick from drinking milk and provide alternatives for them to enjoy.

The Myth Of Cats And Milk

Milk has long been associated with cats, with many people believing that a saucer of milk is a treat that cats relish. However, this is a common misconception that needs to be debunked. Contrary to popular belief, cats and milk do not mix well.

While it may seem innocent to offer your feline friend a taste of milk, it can actually lead to stomach upset and digestive issues. Cats lack a certain enzyme called lactase, which is necessary to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk. As a result, cats can experience symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and upset stomachs when they consume milk.

It’s important to note that not all cats will react the same way to milk. Some cats may be more tolerant to lactose than others. However, the potential risks outweigh any possible benefits, and it’s best to avoid giving your cat milk altogether.

In conclusion, while cats and milk may seem like a perfect pairing, it’s crucial to understand the potential harm it can cause to your feline companion. Instead of milk, provide your cat with fresh water and a well-balanced diet specifically formulated for their nutritional needs. By doing so, you can ensure your cat’s health and well-being.

Lactose Intolerance In Cats

In cats, lactose intolerance occurs when they lack the digestive enzyme called lactase, which helps break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Without enough lactase, cats are unable to properly digest lactose, leading to various symptoms.

  1. Cats do not naturally produce much lactase beyond the nursing stage, making them intolerant to lactose as adults.
  2. When lactose reaches the cat’s intestines undigested, it can ferment, causing gastrointestinal upset.

The primary reason for lactose intolerance in cats stems from their evolutionary biology. As obligate carnivores, cats’ digestive systems have adapted to efficiently break down animal proteins. Consequently, their bodies stop producing the enzyme lactase after weaning, making it difficult for them to digest lactose.

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Excessive gas

If your cat experiences any of these symptoms after consuming milk or dairy products, it’s best to avoid giving them lactose-containing foods and provide alternative options that are safe and suitable for their digestive system.

Potential Risks Of Milk Consumption For Cats

Drinking milk has long been associated with cats in popular culture, but it is important to understand the potential risks involved. Digestive issues are a common problem that can arise from milk consumption in cats. Cats lack the necessary enzymes to properly digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. This can lead to upset stomachs, diarrhea, and bloating. In addition to digestive problems, excessive milk intake can also have long-term effects on a cat’s overall health and well-being. Consuming too much milk can lead to nutritional imbalances as well as weight gain in cats, which can increase the risk of other health issues such as diabetes and joint problems.

Safe Alternatives For Cats To Enjoy

Can cats get sick from drinking milk? As it turns out, many cats are lactose intolerant, which means their bodies have difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk. If your cat exhibits signs of upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting after consuming milk, it’s a good idea to consider cat-friendly milk substitutes and alternatives.

Specialized cat milk products, available at pet stores, are formulated to be lactose-free and can be a suitable option for your furry friend. These products provide the same creamy texture and taste that cats love without causing digestive issues.

Additionally, it’s important to ensure a balanced diet for your cat without relying on milk alone. Cats require a variety of nutrients, such as proteins and vitamins, which can be obtained from a high-quality cat food diet. Consult with your veterinarian for expert advice on selecting the best milk alternatives and ensuring your cat’s nutritional needs are met.

Special Considerations For Kittens

When it comes to kittens, their dietary needs are unique and require special attention. Kittens have a developing digestive system, and milk is an important part of their early diet. However, it is important to note that not all forms of milk are suitable for kittens. Cows’ milk, for example, can cause digestive upset. It is always best to consult with a veterinarian for guidance on the proper nutrition for kittens.

Unique Dietary Needs Of Kittens

Kittens have different nutritional requirements compared to adult cats. They need a diet that is high in protein and fat to support their growth and development. Commercial kitten formulas are designed to meet these specific needs and often come in the form of a milk substitute. These formulas provide the necessary nutrients for kittens to thrive. Additionally, kittens should not be fed solid foods until they are around four weeks old.

Introducing Solid Foods To Kittens

As kittens grow, they can gradually be introduced to solid foods. This process is known as weaning. Weaning should be done slowly and gradually, starting with soft foods that are easy for kittens to chew and digest. Wet kitten food or kitten formula mixed with a small amount of water can be offered. Over time, the ratio of solid food to milk should be increased until kittens are solely eating solid food. It is important to monitor kittens’ weight and overall health during this transition.

Best Practices For Weaning Kittens Off Milk

When weaning kittens off milk, it is important to follow some best practices. Feed kittens in a quiet and comfortable environment to minimize distractions and stress. Provide fresh water alongside the solid food to ensure kittens stay hydrated. Avoid forcing kittens to eat or overfeeding them. Each kitten may have its own pace and preferences when it comes to transitioning to solid food. Monitoring their progress and consulting with a veterinarian if any concerns arise is crucial to ensuring a smooth and healthy transition from milk to solid food.

Milk As An Occasional Treat

Offering milk to cats can be a delightful treat, but it’s important to remember that not all felines can digest it properly. While many kittens can tolerate milk due to the enzyme lactase, adult cats often lack this enzyme, leading to digestive upset and diarrhea. However, if your cat can tolerate milk, moderation is key.

When offering milk, opt for specialized cat milk available at pet stores. These products are low in lactose, making them easier for cats to digest. Alternatively, you can offer lactose-free milk or milk alternatives specifically formulated for cats. Remember to gradually introduce milk into your cat’s diet and monitor their reaction to ensure they don’t experience any digestive issues.

Be mindful of portion sizes as well. Small amounts of milk as an occasional treat should suffice. Avoid making milk a part of their regular diet as it may lead to nutritional imbalances. Remember, a varied and nutritionally balanced cat food is crucial for their overall health.

Tips For Maintaining A Healthy Feline Diet

Cats have a notorious reputation for their love of milk, but can it make them sick? While kittens may seem to tolerate it well, many adult cats are lactose intolerant. Consuming milk can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and upset stomach. In order to maintain a healthy feline diet, it is important to provide a balanced and appropriate food. High-quality cat food is specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of cats and promotes better digestion. Look for products with real meat as the main ingredient, avoiding fillers and artificial additives.

Additionally, incorporating specialized cat supplements can enhance their overall health. These supplements are designed to provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that may be lacking in their diet. When it comes to milk, it’s best to avoid giving it to your cat as it can lead to unnecessary health problems. By focusing on a balanced diet and providing proper nutrition, you can help ensure your cat stays healthy and happy.


It is important to note that while cats may enjoy the taste of milk, it can often lead to digestive issues and discomfort. It is best to avoid giving them milk as it can cause upset stomachs, diarrhea, and even allergies.

Instead, provide them with plenty of fresh water and a balanced diet specifically designed for their needs. Keeping your feline friend’s health in mind is crucial for their overall well-being.

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Dr Harunur Rashid (Harun) is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who has five years of experience in large pet animal medicine. He worked as a livestock officer for two years in an NGO, and since then he has been practicing pet animals medicine privately. He holds an MS in Pharmacology from Bangladesh Agricultural University and a DVM from the same institution.