Cats love milk — but do their bodies? Dairy products have various effects on different cats. In fact, some felines can drink milk, eat cheese and enjoy ice cream without any complications. So why do most veterinarians recommend against feeding dairy products to cats?
1. Most Cats Are Lactose Intolerant
Like humans, a newborn kitten produces an enzyme called lactase that helps it digest its mother’s milk. Cow’s milk contains higher levels of lactose than feline milk and is not as easy for a cat to digest. As a cat gets older, lactase production often slows down, according to WebMD. This increases the chance of dairy-related complications such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Most cats are lactose intolerant, but not all of them. If you desperately want to see if your cat can safely enjoy dairy treats, offer your cat a small amount of milk, no more than 1/8 of a cup, and monitor the animal at least 24 hours for any adverse reactions.
2. Dairy Products Are High in Calories and Fat
Even if your cat can tolerate dairy, it should not be a major dietary staple because of the quantity of fat it can contain. Treats including cheese, ice cream, and other low-lactose dairy products may be okay treats for a cat that is not sensitive to lactose, but only in small amounts to prevent excess weight gain, suggests Can Cats.
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3. Cats Need a Balanced Diet With Plenty of Water
Limiting dairy products to occasional treats not only keeps your cat’s weight in check, it also encourages adequate nutrition. At least 90 percent of your cat’s daily calorie intake should come from a quality cat food with the right vitamins and minerals for your pet, and your cat needs plenty of water to help digest it. Instead of offering milk, give your cat clean, fresh water throughout the day. Many cats appreciate it if the water is moving – you may consider a kitty fountain if your cat tends to lurk by the sink.
Most cats enjoy the rich flavor of milk, cheese and other dairy products, but these products can create upset stomachs and cause digestion problems in many felines. Cheese-flavored treats and cat foods made with alternatives to dairy are one healthier option. But the best option of all is a carnivore-friendly, protein-rich diet of healthy and nutritionally balanced cat food. And you know what? Your cat will go crazy for that, too!
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