Can Cats Drink Milk?

Kitten drinking milk

Can Cats Drink Milk? Cats can drink milk, but it is generally not recommended as most adult cats are lactose intolerant, meaning they cannot properly digest lactose, the sugar found in milk.

This can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea and stomach upset.

Why Are Cats Lactose Intolerant?

Most cats are lactose intolerant because they lack sufficient levels of the enzyme lactase, which is necessary to break down lactose in milk.

While kittens produce lactase when they are nursing, their production of this enzyme decreases as they grow older and transition to solid food.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Cats

If a lactose-intolerant cat drinks milk, they may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea: Loose or frequent stools are common after consuming milk.
  • Vomiting: Some cats may vomit shortly after drinking milk.
  • Stomach Cramps: Abdominal discomfort and cramping can occur.
  • Gas and Bloating: Increased gas and bloating due to undigested lactose fermenting in the gut.

Can Some Cats Drink Milk?

Some cats may tolerate small amounts of milk better than others.

However, even if a cat does not immediately show symptoms of lactose intolerance, milk should still be given sparingly to avoid potential health issues.

Safe Alternatives to Milk for Cats

If you want to give your cat a milk-like treat, consider these alternatives:

  • Lactose-Free Milk: Specifically formulated for cats and available at pet stores.
  • Cat-Specific Milk: These products are designed to be safe and nutritious for cats.
  • Water: Fresh, clean water is always the best hydration option for cats.

Historical Context: Why Do People Think Cats Love Milk?

The image of cats drinking milk is a common stereotype, often depicted in media and literature.

Historically, farm cats might have had access to milk from dairy animals, but this does not mean it was nutritionally appropriate for them.

Kittens and Milk

Kittens can digest their mother’s milk, but once they are weaned, they lose much of their ability to digest lactose.

Feeding cow’s milk to kittens can lead to digestive problems and should be avoided.

Transition to Solid Food

Kittens should be weaned onto high-quality kitten food that provides the necessary nutrients for their growth and development.

Understanding Cat Nutrition

A balanced diet is essential for a cat’s health and well-being.

Commercial cat foods are formulated to provide the right balance of nutrients.

While treats can be given occasionally, they should not replace a cat’s regular diet.

Essential Nutrients for Cats

White Liquid Filled Glass Bowl
  • Protein: Cats are obligate carnivores and require high levels of protein.
  • Fat: Essential for energy and healthy skin and coat.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Necessary for overall health and bodily functions.
  • Water: Crucial for hydration and organ function.


While cats can drink milk, it is not generally recommended due to the high likelihood of lactose intolerance.

Most cats cannot properly digest milk, which can lead to digestive upset and discomfort.

Instead, offer lactose-free or cat-specific milk products and ensure your cat has a balanced diet and plenty of fresh water.