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Can Cats Drink Milk? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

bowl with milk


Is it safe for cats to drink milk? Will it have detrimental effects on their health? Can it be good for their diet to have some extra nutrients? While this is a popular sight in movies and paintings, these questions often go unanswered before someone pours a small bowl of cow’s milk and puts it out on the back porch for a stray cat. While the hospitality may be appreciated by the cat, will their digestive system thank you? The short answer is some cats can drink milk, but it depends on the cat. Generally, cats shouldn’t drink cow’s milk and they certainly shouldn’t be drinking milk on a regular basis.

Let’s take a closer look to see how drinking cow’s milk can affect your feline friend.

Why Do Cats Love Milk?

Cats love milk because it is high in fat content. Cats are obligatory carnivores. This means that they need meat and animal protein to survive. Since milk is packed with animal protein and fat, cats naturally gravitate toward it. If it’s savory and sweet to the taste for humans, cats love it too. But for most cats, it can result in indigestion. You’ll be able to tell if they get fussy. The issue is the primary sugar in cow’s milk, lactose.

Is it OK to Give Milk to Cats?

It depends on how frequently you are going to give your cat milk. This is no meal replacement, and it should only be given infrequently. Frequent consumption of milk by cats can lead to digestive issues. Ideally, you would give milk to kittens. The reason for this is that kittens who still consume cat’s milk produce an enzyme called lactase which helps them to digest milk properly. However, when kittens are weaned from cat’s milk, many of them stop producing this enzyme. As a result, they can no longer digest milk properly. But some cats still end up producing lactase. This is similar to what happens in humans. Some develop lactose intolerance but some handle milk just fine. So, it mainly depends on the cat, although most cats end up developing this lactose intolerance. You will have to try giving milk to them in small quantities to see if they can handle it.

pouring milk in a glass
Image Credit: Pezibear, Pixabay

What Kind of Milk Can Cats Drink?

The answer is that cats can drink a small amount of cow’s milk or goat’s milk without any severe consequences. But you should keep an eye on them to see how they are doing. Most cats are lactose intolerant. We don’t recommend giving cats any milk as this can cause indigestion. There is no real nutritional reason to give a cat milk even if it is high in animal protein and fats. Cats can be fully nourished from standard cat food that you can buy in a pet store. Try finding other tasty treats that will be more agreeable to their stomach.

What Happens If You Give a Cat Milk?

If you give a cat milk, they will likely get an upset stomach. Since they lack the proper enzyme to digest the milk, the milk will sit in their stomach and ferment. They may act out and cry due to the discomfort. Sometimes cats can have diarrhea which is related to dehydration. Other symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, and excessive scratching. If you give your cat too much milk it can be fatal. They can die from dehydration. So, stick to water and give other treats instead!

What Can Cats Drink Besides Water?

If your original intention was to make sure that your cat stays hydrated, you’ve learned by now that milk is not a good choice. But what if your cat won’t drink water? There are other things that you can do. First of all, ensure that you are giving your cat fresh water at least every couple of days. The water can stagnate and not taste as good to your cat. But if they still aren’t taking water try this: You can boil lean chicken breast or white fish without salt. Then take the liquid from the pot, let it cool, and give it to your cat to drink. Cats love the taste of chicken and fish so this may be more attractive to them.


Aside from getting a cute picture of your little furball with messy whiskers, there is nothing to be gained from giving a cat milk besides a stomachache. Any nutritional value in milk can be gained from other sources that are safer for your cat.

Milk isn’t the only thing your cat might snag from the counter! They may also grab some bread to go with it, but should you be worried?

Featured Image Credit: Viktor1, Shutterstock

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