Cats are known to be lactose intolerant, so they shouldn’t be given any milk, as it can cause all kinds of digestive issues. What about lactose-free milk though? Can cats drink that, or should we step away from the stereotypical belief cats need milk to thrive, and just stick to giving them plain water?
Can Cats Drink Lactose-Free Milk?
Yes, cats can drink lactose-free milk. However, there is no actual need to add any milk to their diet, as they don’t require it to thrive.
Lactose-free milk is free of lactose, as the name suggests. As such, it is easier for cats to digest, and it won’t cause any stomach upsets that regular milk may.
However, cats don’t actually require milk. Since they are carnivores, they need a lot of protein in their diet, but milk is not the best source of it. In the wild, cats don’t have access to milk after they have been weaned. Their bodies have thus adapted to living without it.
While adding a small amount of lactose-free milk to your cat’s diet can be a decent treat for them, you don’t need to worry if you never give it to them. Water and quality cat food is what they really need.
Can Kittens Drink Lactose-Free Milk?
Kittens shouldn’t drink lactose-free milk. If they are still too young to be eating solid food, you can find a kitten milk replacer.
Kittens are meant to be drinking their mother’s milk for the first 4 to 6 weeks of their life. If they have been separated from her, it’s best to find a milk replacer, as opposed to giving them any other kind of milk, lactose-free included. It just doesn’t have the nutrients they need to grow into healthy, playful adults.
Why is Milk Bad for Cats?
Cats are lactose intolerant: their body stops producing the enzyme lactase as they grow up, so they can’t digest the lactose from cow’s milk. Without lactase, the undigested lactose will start to ferment in a cat’s stomach, causing bloating and pain, or even vomiting and diarrhea.
Lactose is a type of sugar, and it requires lactase to be broken down and digested properly. Adult cats lack this enzyme, as they don’t really have any need for it. They don’t have access to milk unless a human gives it to them, so they have evolved to thrive without it.
Note that not all cats are lactose intolerant, and that some might be able to drink cow’s milk without experiencing any side effects. However, since they don’t require milk at all, you don’t need to test their lactose intolerance. They will be fine drinking plain water.
Can Cats Digest Lactose-Free Milk?
Yes, cats can digest lactose-free milk, since the offending ingredient, lactose, has been removed from it.
There will probably be a bit of lactose left in most lactose-free milks, but not enough to cause any issues for your cat.
Will Lactose-Free Milk Hurt Cats?
Lactose-free milk won’t hurt cats. They can digest it just fine, and it won’t upset their stomach. Note that they don’t actually need it though, so you don’t have to worry about sourcing it for them.
There are no harmful ingredients in lactose-free milk, unless it is full of artificial flavorings or added sugars. Drinking it does however mean that your cat will be ingesting some extra calories that they probably don’t need. If you want to offer them the occasional drink of a lactose-free milk, feel free to do so, just make sure you do it rarely, as there is no real requirement for it.
What Happens If a Cat Drinks Lactose-Free Milk?
Nothing will happen if your cat drinks lactose-free milk. They will satiate their thirst, and ingest a bit of protein and some calories.
There should be no side effects to drinking lactose-free milk.
Can Cats Drink Lactose-Free Milk For Humans?
Yes, cats can drink lactose-free milk made for humans. There are no harmful ingredients in it, so it shouldn’t cause any stomach upsets.
You don’t actually have to give your cat any lactose-free milk. If you are drinking it yourself, you can share some with your feline once a month or so. Don’t worry if you never give them milk though, as all they really need is some fresh, cool water.
Note that you should be giving your cat plain lactose-free milk, and not one with added flavors or sugars.
Can Cats Drink Lactaid Milk?
Yes, cats can drink lactaid milk, as it is lactose-free and should not cause any digestive issues in your lactose-intolerant cat.
As we’ve established before though, there is no real need to be giving your cat any milk, so you can forgo the lactaid altogether.
What is the Difference Between Lactose-Free Milk and Cat Milk?
The difference between lactose-free milk and cat milk is that the latter has been designed specifically for cats, while the former is made for human consumption.
Based on the research I have done, I’ve actually come to the realization that a lot of commercial cat milk is full of additives that have no room in a cat’s diet. For example, the Whiskas Catmilk has corn syrup and carrageenan, as well as dextrose and salt that really don’t need to be in there. Cats can’t eat salt as it is toxic above a very small amount, for example, while carrageenan is a potential cancerogen. They probably improve the taste, but your cat will be better off drinking plain water.
On the other hand, some human-grade lactose-free milks can be a better choice, as they only contain milk, lactase and vitamins.
The choice will of course be down to you. Know that your cat does not need any kind of milk, lactose-free or cat milk, so you don’t have to invest in either.
Can I Give Milk to My Cat Even Though I’m Not Sure if She is Lactose-Intolerant?
If you want to give any kind of milk to your cat, do so in a very small amount and monitor how they respond. You can increase the dosage over time if there are no side effects.
As you know by now, cats don’t need milk. True, there are proteins in it and some useful minerals, but your cat will be getting all of them from a balanced diet based on quality cat food.
Some cats may be perfectly okay with having some milk on occasion. You can also try cheese or yogurt, but bear in mind that you will only be adding extra fat and extra calories to their diet, so only do so on rare occasions. Plus, you can also make sure they get a bit more exercise in to counteract the “overfeeding”.
Other Types of Milk You May Be Considering
While lactose-free milk is okay as an occasional drink for your cat, don’t give them any almond or soy milk, as they don’t digest plant-based milks well. The fat and oil contents can also make them sick.
Goat milk has less lactose than cow’s milk, so you can give your cat a bit of it if they seem to tolerate it well. Cats can drink oat milk, so you can offer them a bit of that too, on occasion.
Wrapping It Up
Lactose-free milk is certainly a better choice for your cat than regular cow’s milk. However, cats don’t actually need any milk, no matter what popular cartoon culture would have us believe. They will be just fine drinking plain, clean, fresh water.