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Vet 101: Hey Cats, Got Milk?

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)

1-got milk-humor-cat-cat wisdom 101

We’d love a “like” on Facebook at Yes, that’s a milk mustache on Domino. It was warm enough to enjoy my cereal on the porch the other day and read the paper. Before you could say latte, Gris Gris joined in for some Cheerios and milk. If you feel like filling in the caption, you’ll get another chance to win our Sunday giveaway of a custom made healing stone collar and vet a consultation valued at $ caption cartoon contest-cat wisdom 101-got milk
Was it it a good idea for the kitties to taste my breakfast? I’ll let Dr. G. answer this week’s question about feeding your cat milk and other dairy products.


I’ve heard it’s no good giving cats milk but mine like it (organic low fat) and have no digestive problems. Is it ok? What about other dairy like butter, yogurt, cheese? or other milk like coconut milk or almond milk?

One of the first commandments that veterinarians learn in vet school is “above all else, do no harm.” So, in the big scheme, is it doing your cats harm to give them milk? Short answer: if it’s not causing any digestive problems, then you’re probably not doing any harm. But let’s take a look at why milk might not be a good idea for some cats.

The digestive system is an ever-changing environment, subject to adapting to the whims of our brains deciding what we’d like to eat. The enzymes found in the digestive tract will change, depending on the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content of our food. But those changes take time. During the nursing period, animals have a lot of lactase enzymes to digest the lactose sugar found in milk. Once animals are weaned, those lactase enzymes go away because they’re not needed. If you then give that animal milk, they may develop diarrhea because there are no enzymes there to digest it – hence, they become lactose-intolerant. Eventually, the body may respond by producing some more lactase. In the case of your cats, since you’re regularly giving milk, their bodies are maintaining some lactase enzymes, and not experiencing any GI problems.

This same principle is important when considering diet changes in cats. Do it gradually, in order to give those digestive enzymes a chance to catch up with the new nutrients on the block. Even changing brands, or from dry to canned food, can be enough to cause vomiting or diarrhea if done too rapidly.

As for feeding dairy products to cats, it all comes down to the principles of nutrition: cats are carnivores. Just like you’ve never seen a cat jump into the lake to catch a fish for lunch, you won’t see them milking a cow for something to drink. It’s like McDonald’s: we know we shouldn’t eat it, but we do! Dairy products, while having protein and fat (which are good for cats), also have a lot of carbohydrates and sugars (which are not good for cats). Dairy can also be high in calcium – too much of which can also cause problems.

So why do cats like milk? Theoretically, cats do not possess the taste buds that detect “sweets.” Is there something else in milk that attracts them? Do the “sweets” stimulate another sense in cats? My cat won’t say. I suppose it’s yet another aspect of our feline friends that just keeps up their mysterious allure!

Have a question for our Vet, Dr. Rich Goldstein (Dr. G.)? Kindly sent it to [email protected] Thanks and take good care of your cat this week.

Editors note: Re: Feeding cats almond or coconut milk. Since cats carnivores, I wouldn’t feed any of the nut milks. Some cats are sensitive to nuts and the oils in coconut milk can have laxative effect. Gris Gris likes unsweetened coconut milk as an occasional treat, and he loves unsweetened Greek yogurt but again just a teaspoon.


  • Mary Matthews

    Dominic looks full of personality! Beautiful cats! Thank you for an illuminating post. It’s wonderful to have something explained in a detailed and accessible way for those of us without medical backgrounds.

  • Abby

    Gris Gris:What are those things floating around in the milk?

    Domino: I heard they were the breakfast of champions and that’s us right, Gris Gris?

    Luckily none of my kitties shows the slightest interest in any people food other than meat. (Baked chicken or turkey)


  • Carolyn

    Helpful info there. Because we’ve been told many times in recent years to not give milk to cats, I never have – the one cat I did give milk to many years ago, did get “dire rear”, so I stopped. Austin is not even bothered with the special cat milk you can get, he just likes water, preferably from a puddle!

  • Tinch

    GRIS GRIS: Mom says we shouldn’t be drinking this stuff.

    DOMINO: When she stops drinking rosé wine, I’ll stop drinking milk!

  • Sushi-Mon

    I love cat humor and that Got Milk? ad made my morning. Thank you for your sense of humor- It always brightens a dreary day!

  • Cheysuli

    Actually, check out the Weston A. Price site and the foundation. Milk is difficult to digest because of the long chains of amino acids. However, anyone can take in cows milk if it is RAW. Pasturization started around the turn of the century because we had cows in the cities eating the left over garbage from the bars (really) and kids started getting sick. Until something else could be devised as far as milk coming from health cows in the country, there was this stop gap measure of pasturization. Now, dairy farmers love it because they can ship milk for long distances. Unfortunately the high heat of pasturization destroys the good vitamins of a and d and we can’t absorb synthetic ones as well. Further, when we do low fat milk, that means we are less likely to be able to digest vitamins like A and D which require fats to be absorbed.

    Most cats and people do just fine on raw milk and I in addition to the Weston A. Price Foundation I refer them to the Price/Pottenger Foundation and a video called Pottenger’s cats.

      • Cheysuli

        We misspoke–most people–not anyone. There are those that can’t digest the long chain amino acids even if the milk is raw. However, many people who do not do well do okay on raw milk (esp in small quantities. The Woman discovered she gets bloated after a latte with low fat milk but does okay with whole milk–go figure? But she thinks that the fat is allowing her to digest the proteins more easily than she can with low fat. This does say that she is probably better off without milk at all so is working to come up with a coconut milk solution for herself (not us).

  • Kathryn

    Growing up we only fed the kittens milk right after they were weaned. I gave milk to Emma, but she threw it up so I stopped. Our boys are just meaters, pure and simple. We don’t give them fish products, because I heard that fish will increase the risk in males for the urinary problem that is expensive to fix and it usually doesn’t work, anyway.

    Our boys caught the mouse under the stove the other night.

      • Kathryn

        Weird, that I don’t remember this. Think I might try to give them some milk. Mao ate Tabasco covered chicken. Well, he put up with the Tabasco to get to the chicken – my daughter’s chicken piece. She yanked it out of his mouth and ate it herself.

    • boomermuse

      Brian, our dad said the same thing.*s*
      @Eve, LOL
      @Cynthia, thanks for another perspective using raw milk.
      @Caren, MOL. Oooh tapioca, yum.
      @Pam, Gris Gris is so thin and loves the odd dab of butter.
      @Alfie and not Milo?

  • Eve F

    Domino: Hey, don’t you eat all that! Save me some!

    Gris Gris: You already had your fill this morning. The rest is mine!

    I haven’t tried milk with my cats but they sure do like a little vanilla ice cream from time to time.

  • cynthia

    I give my cat crew only raw milk (both cow & goat) and they love it. Raw goat’s milk is excellent for the immune system (humans too!) and great for bottle-feeding kittens if they don’t have a momcat. Store-bought milk gives them the runs – with raw milk I’ve never had any issues. Yummy!

  • caren gittleman

    DOMINO: Do you see a prize, I don’t see a prize?

    GRIS-GRIS- there’s gotta be one in here somewhere! Let’s keep eating til we find it! May not be “Lucky Charms” but this sure is “magically delicious!!”

    Thank you for answering the milk questions that I am sure many of us have. Due to Cody’s allergies he can only consume rabbit, but my Bobo used to LOVE teeny-tiny bits of Swiss Miss Tapioca pudding!

  • Pam Kimmell

    Sam doesn’t like milk but does like a spoonful of yogurt on occasion….he’s also been known to ask for a tiny taste of butter! Both not good for him obviously, but a special treat, infrequently – well – he’s just not to be denied! 🙂


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