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Optimeal® Blog

Optimeal® Blog

Can Cats Drink Milk and Should They?

By Bridget Reed


If you’ve ever seen a cartoon with a cat drinking something, chances are they were drinking from a saucer of milk. But is milk good for cats? It can sometimes be difficult to know what foods and drinks are beneficial for your feline friend. 

This article will tell you everything you need to know about if cats and kittens can safely drink milk.

Can Cats Drink Milk?

Cats can technically drink milk, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Many cats are lactose intolerant, so they can’t easily digest milk. Lactose intolerance in cats functions the same as in humans, so cats may experience painful and uncomfortable symptoms when they drink milk.

However, some cats can tolerate a little bit of milk. If you observe that your feline friend loves the taste of milk and does not react badly to it, you may be able to give them some as a treat now and again. 

How Often Can Cats Drink Milk?

If you think your cat can tolerate milk, you might wonder how much milk you can give your cat and how often. First, it’s always important to talk to your vet before incorporating any milk into your pet’s diet. 

With approval from your vet, you can feed your adult cat cow’s milk once or twice a week. It’s advisable to give them, at most, one tablespoon of cow’s milk at a time. You can think of milk for your cat as a special dessert or treat. 

If your cat reacts badly to cow’s milk, try another option with less lactose, such as lactose-free milk.

Can Kittens Drink Milk?

Kittens rely on their mother’s milk just like human babies. It is their sole source of nutrition and naturally contains all of the essential nutrients kittens need to grow healthy and strong. 

Kittens can drink their mother’s milk because their bodies produce the enzyme lactase. Lactase digests lactose, the sugar found in milk. When kittens drink their mother’s milk, the lactase breaks lactose into two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. 

Once the lactose is converted into these simple sugars, they are easily absorbed into the kitten’s bloodstream. Usually, a kitten is weaned off their mother’s milk after four or five weeks of age and, after they are weaned, lose their ability to digest lactase and develop lactose intolerance.

Although kittens can easily digest their mother’s milk and need it to survive, they should not drink cow’s milk. Drinking cow’s milk may give kittens diarrhea or cause dehydration because kittens do not have the proper enzymes to break down the sugars in view milk. 

How Often Can Kittens Drink Milk?

It is dangerous to feed kittens cow milk because they have such sensitive stomachs. You should also avoid feeding your little feline friend different types of milk, such as soy milk, almond milk, or goat milk. 

If you are taking care of a young kitten that has been prematurely separated from their mother, the best option is to give them a kitten milk formula. Like how you can give babies formula, there are specific products made to mimic a mother cat’s milk that you can feed to a kitten that shouldn’t lead to stomach upset.

What Are the Downsides of Milk for Cats?

There are several downsides to milk for most cats. Since many adult cats cannot digest lactose, drinking milk can lead to an upset stomach, loose stool, or diarrhea. If your cat experiences diarrhea, they may also experience dehydration. 

If you’re a concerned pet parent and think your cat may be lactose intolerant, look for the following symptoms:

  • Bloating 
  • Vomiting
  • Gas
  • Upset stomach
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight gain (which can eventually lead to obesity)

Just like humans, cats can also be allergic to dairy. The main symptom of an allergic reaction in cats is red or itchy skin. If you notice that your cat is itching far more than usual, you may want to bring them to the vet to see if they have an allergic reaction and to get allergy medication if so. 

Are There Any Benefits of Milk for Cats?

If you have one of the rare adult cats that are not lactose intolerant and are not allergic to dairy, there are a few benefits of giving them a saucer of milk now and again. First, milk contains protein and calcium, which cats need to maintain a balanced diet. 

Milk also contains plenty of fat, so it can benefit your cat if they need to gain weight or if they find it difficult to eat solid foods. And, of course, cats tend to love the taste of milk; it can be a nice treat for your feline friend.

How To Feed Milk to Cats?

There are a few things to remember if you want to feed your adult cat cow’s milk. The most important thing is to give them small amounts of milk as an occasional treat. 

Even if your cat is not lactose intolerant, you should only give them milk sparingly. Remember that milk should never make up more than 10 percent of your cat’s daily caloric intake, regardless of how well your cat’s digestive system tolerates it. 

If you want to incorporate more milk into your cat’s diet and have your vet’s approval, you can try giving them cat milk or a milk substitute. Lactose-free milk or milk specifically designed for cats can accompany healthy cat food to make a well-balanced meal for your furry friend. 

Even if you include milk in your cat’s diet regularly, don’t forget to keep them properly hydrated with easily accessible drinking water. When you see your cat drinking milk, it can be easy to forget to give them plenty of water in addition to the milk, but milk can actually be dehydrating. 

For this reason, giving your cat enough water when you give them milk is especially important. 

What Are Milk Supplements?

If you have the kind of cat that can’t get enough milk, you can look into milk supplements or a milk replacer. There are several milk products specially designed for cats and kittens. 

If you want to feed your kitten milk, you should only give them a milk replacer similar to baby formula, and can be either a powder or liquid. Adult cats can have a wider variety of milk supplements. The term milk supplement can refer to a milk replacer or a milk substitute such as lactose-free milk. 

You may want to give your cat milk to bond a little more with your furry friend. Giving them a little bit of their favorite treat may help establish trust between you and your cat. 

Interested in other supplements for your cat? Check out our guide about cat vitamins!

Can Cats Digest Any Products With Lactose?

Although many cats cannot digest cow’s milk, you might wonder if there are any dairy products they can have. Luckily, the answer is yes! 

Most cats can tolerate small amounts of low-lactose dairy products. Adult cats can generally tolerate foods like hard cheeses, yogurt, and sour cream — and they make great cat treats.

However, even though cats can tolerate these foods, they should only make up 10 percent of their total calories daily. Cats need plenty of nutrients and vitamins in cat food that are not in human foods, so cheese or yogurt should only be used sparingly as an occasional treat.

Why Do Cats Drink Milk?

So if milk can upset your feline friend’s stomach, why do they take every opportunity to drink it? For the same reason, you may eat a whole tray of brownies or the entire tub of ice cream; they like the taste! 

Given that their mother’s milk is the first thing cats eat, it is normal for them to crave the flavor of milk. It also has a high-fat content and is full of protein, two things that all cats love.


Although most people associate cats with milk, most adult cats are lactose intolerant! Giving an adult cat milk can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea, obesity, or an allergic reaction. 

However, there are a few cats who can tolerate and love milk. If your feline friend seems to react well to milk, you can give them one tablespoon once or twice a week as a special treat. But if you want to make milk a regular part of your cat’s diet, you may want to look into a milk replacer, especially if you have a kitten. 

Regardless of how frequently you give your cat milk or a milk supplement, remember that healthy, nutritious cat food is the most important part of a cat’s diet. Although most feline friends love milk, it should never be more than 10 percent of their caloric intake to keep them happy and strong. 


Milk Is Not Good for Cats - Publications & Guides | FOUR PAWS International

Comparison of kittens fed queen's milk with those fed milk replacers | NIH

The Power of Pets | NIH News in Health

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