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Are Cats Lactose Intolerant?

Pet Diet & Nutrition 2 min read
Brown tabby cat drinking milk out of a glass saucer outside in a yard with another cat in the background. Are cats lactose intolerant?

It is very cute to see a kitten getting its whiskers dirty in a bowl of milk, right? Even though this mental image is heartwarming, you may be wondering, “are cats lactose intolerant?”

It is not recommended to give milk to cats and below I have explained why.

It is not recommended to give milk to cats.

When cats are very young up to 45 days old, they may consume milk because at this stage of their lives they produce an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme is responsible for digesting the lactose present in milk and dairy. However, as they grow, they lose the ability to produce this enzyme, and can’t metabolize lactose. For this reason, cats can be intolerant to lactose.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose is a sugar found in milk and its products, lactose intolerance is when the pet’s body can’t break down or digest lactose.

Chemical structure of lactose

What Causes Lactose Intolerance?

When cats are weaned, their body reduces lactase production, thus decreasing their ability to digest lactose. Therefore, they can develop an intolerance to lactose.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Is Lactose Intolerant?

Although some cats have more tolerance to lactose than others, in general, the symptoms of inappropriate milk intake for pets are related to the digestive tract such as abdominal discomfort, gases, vomiting, and diarrhea.

While lactose intolerance affects the digestive system, allergies affect the immune system. If your little one has allergies to milk and dairy, they can have the following symptoms:

  • Itching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach discomfort
Two small, orange kittens drinking milk out of a green glass saucer while sitting on hay.

Why Do People Think That Cats Should Be Given Milk?

How many times have you seen cats enjoying a cup of milk on television or in the movies? It’s like looking at a bone and remembering a dog. Milk is commonly associated with cats event though it can be dangerous for them.

How Much Dairy Is Okay For Cats?

Pets that do not show symptoms of lactose intolerance can have a little bit of dairy, however, I would not recommend it since it does not add nutritional value for them. If you’re determined to give your kitty milk, use a lactose-free product made just for cats, and always make sure to give your cats plenty of water.

What Are Some Healthy Alternatives To Dairy?

Cats are carnivore animals, and their diet is different in comparison to a human diet. So, it is important to give a diet that is specific for them. You can add NHV supplements to their diet like NHV Multi Essentials and Petomega 3 that will help them to have a long and healthy life.

Dr. Amanda Nascimento DVM, MVSc, PhD

Dr. Amanda Nascimento DVM, MVSc, PhD

Dr. Amanda completed her undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine in 2010 and graduate studies in veterinary pathology (MVSc. 2012 and PhD 2016) at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo. She completed her post-doctoral training at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine – University of Saskatchewan in 2018. Dr. Nascimento will be hosting her own blog series and sharing her knowledge with our extended NHV family.

Published: October 27, 2021

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