We've all seen it before: a scene in which a cat owner gives their cats milk to drink as if it were water, and the cats seem to love it. Whether it's in a picture book or a movie, fiction likes to portray cats as milk indulgers. But chances are, you've probably only seen cats drinking water--not milk--in real life. So where does this milk-drinking cat trope come from? And do they actually like milk?
Before the start of processes that cow milk undergoes today, milk simply came from cows on small farms, and cats loved the cream that would separate and rise to the top. Because of these farm cats that would sip away at the milk cream, it has become a fictional stereotype for cats to like and drink milk.
So it turns out that, yes, cats actually do like milk, but it's because of the yummy fat content, not because they need it. Just like humans, kittens drink their mother's milk but then lose the ability to digest lactose as they get older. In other words, most cats are lactose intolerant.
What Veterinarians Recommend
Even though cats are attracted to the fat content of milk, it's not good for their digestive system. Drinking milk can cause a variety of gastrointestinal issues, like an upset stomach or diarrhea. For cats that are not lactose intolerant, veterinarians still don't recommend giving cats dairy milk because of the fat content and lack of nutritional benefits.
So if you want to give your cat a treat, maybe give them a spoonful of low-fat milk, but know that milk generally can cause digestive sensitivity and has unnecessary calories for your cat.
We hope this helps you make a decision about your cat and milk!
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