Cat Milk: What's the Skinny?

Cat Milk? A healthy alternative for your cat? Seriously?

When I first heard about this, I thought, "Someone is actually selling this stuff?"

No, not milk from a cat - milk for a cat. This is a bit of a stretch (even for me), but several manufacturers are producing cat milk - a formulation made especially for cats to drink as an alternative to cow milk.

Why? Why does your cat need an alternative to cow milk?

Well, I'm sure you've seen it in movies or on TV, or in photographs, or paintings: a happy cat lapping up milk like it's going out of style.

In fact, here's one...

Or maybe you've seen a cat drinking milk first hand? Perhaps you've even given your own cat milk before?

There's a famous poem by Harold Monro, Milk for the Cat. If nothing else, even if you don't like poetry, you have to love the perfect description of the cat who loves milk...

"Till her tongue has curled the last holy drop"

Despite the fact that many cats seem to really enjoy milk, the plain fact is that it isn't so good for them. Your cat might love milk, but milk doesn't love your cat!

The bottom line here is, cow's milk should not be part of your cat's diet. Why?

First, most adult cats are lactose intolerant. They simply lack the ability to properly digest milk sugar (lactose) and therefore have an adverse reaction to drinking milk.

If you do give your lactose intolerant cat milk, you can expect vomiting and diarrhea. Since this depletes the cat's body of water, your cat can end up in a potentially dangerous state of dehydration.

As well as causing life threatening problems for your cat, dehydration is also a symptom of many other feline illnesses.

Second, nutritionally speaking, there is no reason for a cat to drink cow's milk.

Note: Cat's have very particular nutritional requirements. This is one of the reasons you should ensure that your cat's primary nutrition source be a primarily animal-based protein premium cat food.

These foods are carefully prepared so as to meet certain standards, and this ensures that your cat gets the proper mix of vitamins, fat, protein, and other nutrients. An alternative to this is a carefully prepared, nutritionally complete home prepared diet. Remember that cats that don't get the amino acid, taurine, will go blind.

So, what nutritional value would cow's milk have to a cat? A look at a comparison of cat milk (mother cat's milk, that is) to cow milk gives us a peek at the answer.

The protein content of a mother cat's milk is 3 times higher than that of cow's milk. Overall, the nutrient balance is way off, with cat milk providing more than twice the calories. So, we can see that the nutritional information speaks for itself.

Note: Let's remember a couple of points here as well. Other than humans, what animal typically drinks another animal's milk? I don't know, do you?

Here's another question. What other animal typically drinks milk on a regular basis, of any kind, into adulthood? None that I know of.

So, why would you give milk to your adult cat?

And that brings me to some advice that is being given about this subject. According to some pet experts, if your cat likes milk, you can do a test to determine whether your cat is lactose intolerant or not.

They recommend giving your cat a small amount of milk and seeing if she develops an upset stomach. If she does, then your cat is lactose intolerant and shouldn’t have milk.

If your cat shows no evidence of this, then you can give your cat milk as a treat, no more than 1 or 2 ounces a week.

Personally, I don't see the point. Your cat does not need cow milk in her diet.

I certainly can't see giving your cat something that would upset her stomach, especially if it is non-essential.

If you think that your cat would enjoy milk, and is lactose intolerant, you can purchase one of the cat milk products on the market. Cat milk is a milk product with the lactose "removed," and is nutritionally balanced with vitamins that your cat can use.

These products, such as CatSip Milk for Cats (Amazon), are available at pet stores or online, and have a good nutritional balance as well as avoiding the negatives of cow's milk. The lactose is "removed" by treating the milk with lactase, which pre-digests the lactose for your cat. Now that makes more sense to me.

A bit, anyway. Remember, adult cats need constant access to fresh, clean, water. They don't need to drink milk or any kind of alternatives.

Two other alternatives to cow milk that some experts recommend are either small amounts of rice milk, or cow's milk with acidophilus added to help with the lactose intolerance issue. Rice milk can be found at health food stores, and you can usually find acidophilus enriched milk at grocery stores.

Before you do that, though, here's a good page on cat nutrition with a table showing cat milk (as in milk from a  mother cat) versus other types of milk.

Milk for the Cat
In case you'd like to read the full poem, here's the link. It's a brilliant description of a cat's satisfaction over a bowl of milk. The original link I had dried up, so that link now takes you to the page I put up to display the poem.

Cat Health

Cat Lovers Only

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