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Healthy or not: Can cats drink cow's milk?


Can cats drink cow's milk? Many of us would answer this question with a general yes. We are wrong: cow's milk is not healthy for the cuddly pets. Many children's books, in which kittens are depicted sipping their milk, are guilty of the misconception. Image: Shutterstock / Alena Ozerova

Cats drink milk as babies and "unlearn" it again

The picture with the kittens who drink milk is not quite as wrong, because: Young cats are still able to digest milk. Your body still produces the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for the breakdown of lactose. Lactose is a form of carbohydrate, namely milk sugar. Young cats need this nutrient as a source of energy so that they can grow tall and strong. But when the kittens become independent and start hunting, their bodies produce less and less lactase - Mother Nature practically weans them from milk because other nutrients (especially proteins from the meat of the prey) become more important.

This process of getting used to begins at around four weeks; If you have such young kittens at home, you have to carefully introduce the small Schnufelschnuten to the cat food. You can find the necessary tips in our guide "From breast milk to cat food: converting kittens to solid food". By the way: young cats are still growing and need a different nutrient composition than their adult counterparts. It is therefore recommended to give the mini kitty special kitten food. You can find out more in the guide "Healthy nutrition for young cats".

Unhealthy: milk causes digestive problems

Weaned cats usually can no longer tolerate milk. If you do eat them, it often leads to digestive problems such as flatulence, which can be accompanied by severe pain. It is also best if cats do not drink milk that is diluted with water - even then the lactose content is usually too high. In principle, adult cats are naturally lactose intolerant. This form of food intolerance is also quite widespread among humans, with different levels of lactose intolerance. Some tolerate more, some less and some no milk sugar at all.

There can also be exceptions for our fur noses; some cats drink cow's milk regularly and have no problems because of it. The normal case, however, is that salon lions neither need nor can digest milk well. It does not matter whether you want to give the milk of another animal instead of cow's milk: goat's milk and sheep's milk also contain lactose and are intolerable to most kitties.

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Cat-friendly milk without lactose?

The only exceptions are lactose-free milk from the supermarket and special "cat milk" from specialist pet shops, which is also lactose-reduced. However, these treats contain many calories and few nutrients that your cat needs. So that your fur does not gradually accumulate excess weight, you should subtract the calories from such delicacies from your feed ration. However, if this happens regularly, there is a risk of an insufficient supply of vital nutrients and your sniffle will get sick. Cats drink water best - it refreshes, provides them with liquid and contains no additional calories. How much water the fur noses need depends on whether they get wet food or dry food. Many cat experts advise against eating dry food only because the need for fluids is very high and cats are not instinctively used to drinking so much water.

However, you can motivate your velvet paw to drink more if you deposit several water bowls in the apartment and refill them several times a day. Flowing water, for example from a drinking fountain or from a tap, is often preferred by the puschel noses. You can find more suggestions on this topic in our guide "Drinking lazy cats: encouraging house tigers to slurp water".