Is It Okay for My Cat to Have Milk?

Answers: Is It Okay for My Cat to Have Milk?

My cat absolutely loves milk. If I have cereal, she won't leave me alone! I worry about letting her have milk though, as I've been told that adult cats are lactose intolerant and milk could give her diarrhea. How much can I safely let her have? Would lactose-free milk be safer to give her?
Not all adult cats are lactose intolerant, but many are. Lactose intolerant cats may vomit, become gassy or "gurgly," have soft stool or even outright diarrhea after ingesting milk. If a cat enjoys milk and suffers none of these side-effects from it, then I consider it a healthful treat. I would strongly suggest that organic milk is the best choice. Non-organic milk may come from cows that are given artificial growth hormones. If the milk is not organic, then look for milk labeled "rBGH-free" or "artificial growth hormone free."
How much milk and how often depends on your cat's overall diet plan. If she is overweight, then milk, like any treat, should be fed only occasionally. Give just a little, such as a teaspoon or two and maybe use skim or 2%, versus whole. If she is of normal weight, then more frequently, in greater quantity and/or higher fat content is fine.
As an example, my cat Scootie, who passed away several years ago from old age, loved milk and did fine with it. He was a diabetic, not overweight, and we used about a tablespoon of organic skim milk nearly every day as a treat for him to have while we gave him his morning insulin injection. He was then given his morning canned food portion. Why skim for Scootie? Because, that is what we used day-to-day for ourselves.
If a cat loves milk and it doesn't love them, then lactose-free milk, organic preferred, would be a reasonable choice. There is also a product called Cat-Sip®, a vacuum-packed lactose-free 1% milk enriched with taurine, an amino acid cats require. I have never used it, but several of my clients report that their cats like it. It is not made with organic milk, to the best of my ability to determine by reading the product information available online.
Raw milk from cows or goats can safely be given to cats that tolerate milk, if it is available where you live. Soy milk is made from soybeans and should not be given to cats.
Note: Feline Nutrition provides feline health and nutrition information as a public service. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with your own veterinarian. Feline Nutrition disclaims all warranties and liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.
Andrea Tasi, VMD is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and has been in exclusive feline practice since 1991.

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