Can cats drink milk? Why you should never let your cat get the cream
Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
1st Jun 2022
7 mins read
Cats drinking milk is as stereotypical as dogs eating bones. However, most adult cats are lactose intolerant and can't digest milk without causing vomiting, diarrhoea, flatulence, and stomach pain. Milk also has little nutritional value, and the sugars and fat in it can lead to weight gain and obesity if your cat drinks it regularly. Instead of a saucer of milk, offer your cat some fresh water to drink and keep their hydration up.
You might think cats love milk, so much so that we even have a saying about “the cat that got the cream”. However, it turns out you actually shouldn’t let your feline feast on milk or cream.
In this guide we’ll not only answer “can cats drink milk?” and why milk is bad for cats, but we’ll also take a deep dive into all the other milk and dairy alternatives out there and whether or not your cat can drink them.
Can cats drink milk from cows?
No, your cat shouldn’t drink any cow milk regardless of whether it’s skimmed, half-fat, or whole milk. Although cats seem to enjoy the taste, it generally isn’t good for them and could make your furry friend sick.
Milk should never be used as a meal, even for kittens, because it doesn’t have all the essential nutrients your cat needs to stay healthy. If you have a kitten that can’t drink milk from its mother, you must buy a special kitten formula.
Can cats drink whole milk?
Cats can not drink whole milk. Firstly, the lactose in milk will cause illnesses like vomiting and diarrhoea.
Secondly, whole milk is very high in fat and a single saucer of milk will provide more calories and fat than your cat should eat in an entire day. In fact, thePDSA compared
a saucer of milk to a person eating a whole 12” pizza to themselves!
The high fat makes milk seem tasty to cats but it will contribute to overfeeding and lead to weight gain andobesity
Can cats drink skimmed milk?
Although fat is one of the biggest problems milk poses to cats, skimmed milk is no better for them. It still has more fat and calories than your cat should be eating if you want to keep them at a healthy weight.
Skimmed milk also still contains lactose which your cat can’t digest and it will cause stomach pain, soft stools, and sickness if they eat it.
Can cats drink powdered milk?
Although powdered milk seems a million miles from the bottles you buy from the shop, it still isn’t suitable for cats. It’s still cow milk with the same fat and lactose, even if the moisture has been removed, which means drinking it can make your cat sick.
Can cats drink evaporated milk?
Although most of the moisture has been removed from evaporated milk, it isn’t a suitable drink or treat for cats and could make them ill.
Your cat definitely shouldn’t drink condensed milk either, which is like evaporated milk but made using a ton of added sugar. The high amount of sugar is unhealthy for your cat, not to mention it still has high levels of lactose which can make your cat sick.
Is milk safe for cats?
Milk might seem “safe” for your cat to drink since they seem to enjoy the taste.
It's also "safe" to a degree because drinking milk won’t put your cat's life in danger or make them seriously ill.
However, drinking milk will likely cause discomfort and gastrointestinal illness if your cat laps it up, so it’s best not to give it to them.
Why can’t cats have milk?
Most cats are lactose-intolerant. That means their body doesn’t produce the enzyme
which is responsible for digesting
, which is the sugar in milk.
“Kittens are often weaned around 4-5 weeks, and then they start to lose their ability to digest milk in order to digest solid food. Some cats can tolerate and digest the sugars in milk and could drink it without causing any gastrointestinal upset in their adult life, but it isn’t worth the risk and in regards to nutritional value, they certainly don’t need it.”Dr Louisa Lane
Unlike an allergy, lactose intolerance isn’t going to cause inflammation or anaphylactic shock and put your cat’s life at immediate risk.
However, it can still make your cat sick and cause illness, not unlike lactose intolerance in humans. Drinking milk can cause your cat to suffer from gastrointestinal problems like vomiting, diarrhoea, flatulence, and stomach pain.
That being said, it is possible for your cat to be allergic to dairy, which means drinking milk could cause some serious ill-health.
As mentioned, milk also contains a lot of calories and fat that could contribute to obesity if your cat drinks it regularly. Milk also doesn’t have the essential nutrients your cat needs to stay healthy.
Basically, it’s like junk food for your feline, and ideally, it should never be given to them.
Flavoured milk is off the menu for your moggy
Can cats drink chocolate milk?
Most of us know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but it’s actually toxic to cats too.
Chocolate contains a natural chemical called “theobromine” which is toxic to pets. It causes increased urination and potentially kidney failure because it is a diuretic, and fits, rapid heart rate, and heart palpitations because it is a stimulant. Sadly, theobromine and chocolate can be lethal if your cat eats them.
So not only does chocolate milk contain a toxic ingredient, but it’s also packed full of fat and lactose so it will make your cat sick and can lead toobesity
. All in all, it’s very bad for your feline and you should never give chocolate milk to a cat.
Can cats drink strawberry milk?
Although strawberries are safe for cats to eat in small amounts, you shouldn’t give your cat strawberry milk.
It’s packed full of sugar and is high in fat, which means it can cause your pet to pile on the pounds. Plus, cats don’t have tastebuds that detect sweetness, so they probably won’t even enjoy it.
Finally, cats can’t drink strawberry milk because it still contains cow’s milk and lactose, which will cause your cat stomach pain and diarrhoea.
Can cats drink goat milk?
Goat milk has lower lactose than cow milk, which is why some lactose-intolerant humans can handle it. It also has higher nutritional value compared to cow’s milk.
However, the problem still remains that goats milk has a lot of calories and fat your cat doesn’t really need, and could cause obesity if they have too much.
But if you really want to offer a milky treat to your cat as a very rare and special treat, a tiny bit of goat milk is a better option than cow’s milk. But it’s a much better idea to never give your cat any goat milk at all.
Can cats drink non-dairy milk?
Can cats drink oat milk?
Oats are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They’re super healthy for us humans, and oat milk is a popular alternative to milk. But can cats drink oat milk?
Cats can eat plain oats on occasion, and technically cats can drink oat milk as it shouldn’t put their life at risk. There’s no lactose in it, so it’s less likely to make your cat sick compared to cow’s milk.
That being said, you still shouldn’t give your cat oat milk. It doesn’t have any benefit for them, and it just puts empty calories into their diet, which could lead to weight gain.
Can cats drink almond milk?
No, your cat shouldn’t drink almond milk. Although it is lactose-free, almonds aren’t something your cat would eat in the wild, and as true carnivores, their digestive system isn’t built to break down nuts.
Drinking almond milk could put your cat at risk of the same gastrointestinal illness as drinking cow milk. It also contains a lot of fat, which isn’t good for your feline’s waistline or health.
Can cats drink coconut milk?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, no, your cat can’t drink coconut milk.
Like almond milk, it contains fats and oils that can cause gastrointestinal illness and your cat’s gut isn’t evolved to digest it effectively. That means coconut milk will probably cause diarrhoea, and it has no nutritional benefit for your furry friend.
Can cats drink soya milk?
Although soya milk doesn’t have lactose, it still isn’t safe for cats to drink soya milk. Cats are true carnivores so their digestive system isn’t evolved to break down plants like soybeans effectively and drinking it could cause digestive problems and illness.
Soya is also a common allergen for cats and dogs, which means your cat might be allergic to it.
Plus, soya milk often has additional sweeteners or additives to preserve it (particularly in long-life products) which aren’t good for your cat.
What should my cat drink?
The only thing your cat needs to drink to stay healthy is fresh water. Although cats can sometimes be finicky about drinking, it’s vital that they drink plenty of water to stay healthy and prevent dehydration.
If you’re worried your cat is not drinking enough water, then you can feed them wet food, which contains a large amount of water. Some cats also prefer drinking water from running taps or water fountains. So offer various options for drinking water and hopefully, they will drink from one!