Let's talk about the relationship between cats and dairy milk. How many movies have you seen and how many movies have you watched where the cats are given milk in their bowls? Take the Aristocats, for example. The Disney film has many scenes depicting animated cats drinking milk from their bowls. Although the movie is meant to stimulate the imagination, the lines can sometimes blur between fantasy and reality.
In the real world, cats are actually lactose intolerant. Much like humans, cats lose their tolerance for Lactaid and lactose as they age. When they are youthful little kittens, their ability to latch onto their mama and drink her milk is beneficial for the sake of survival. As the hormones of our cats' bodies begin to adjust and shift as they mature, the body slowly but surely loses its ability to break down the enzymes in milk. This is where the lactose intolerance comes into the picture.
Can Your Cat Drink Milk Comfortably? How to Know if Your Cat Can Drink Milk
Do cats drink milk? Yes, like kittens. It is in their nature to drink from their mother’s milk supply and receive their nutrients through that source. But as they grow up, they no longer feed on their mothers. In fact, most cats start eating wet food around four weeks of age.
They are still very tiny kittens at that point, but that is when the foster parents of kittens begin to introduce wet kitten food to the little felines.
It takes a little bit of time for kittens to adjust to the switch because cat food is an entirely different texture from the milk that they are used to consuming. Since wet food has a bite to it, as does dry food, kittens might be a little put off by the change in diet. Even so, the switch from milk to cat food is an essential step in advancing the natural development of kittens.
There is no way that a cat could grow up and continue drinking milk from their moms for their entire lives. The biggest roadblock to this is the fact that most, if not the majority of, kittens are taken away from their mothers shortly after being born. This is not always the case, but it is true about any cats or kittens that you adopt, no matter where you adopt them from.
Unless the kittens are stripped from their mama cat before reaching four weeks of age, then the cats will naturally ween off of their mother's milk. At that point, they are introduced to wet food specifically designed for kittens, and eventually, they will mature and grow into adult cat food. One of the main reasons why kittens require milk from their mom so early on in their lives is that milk contains something known as an antibody. In fact, there are hundreds of antibodies in milk, and they benefit kittens more than you might think.
Milk from a female cat is called colostrum, and the colostrum provides the female feline's litter with an abundance of nutrients that they cannot receive elsewhere. Now, just in case you are in a situation where there is not an adult female cat involved, don't panic about the kittens not receiving the nutrients they need at such a young age.
Of course, directly nursing from an adult feline is the best-case scenario, but we don't live in a perfect world, so it's no surprise if that isn't your circumstance! When the mom of a litter is not in the picture, turn to formulas specifically designed for newborn kittens. Just like formulas designed for newborn babies, the formula for kittens serves the purpose of replacing the milk they would otherwise receive from their mother.
Depending on the specific formula, you'll ultimately end up heating the formula so that it is room temperature. The general consensus is that you should never microwave the formula, and definitely do not boil the formula after mixing it with water. That will result in a kitten milk formula that is far too hot for your kitten friends to consume. It'll burn their tongue, not to mention surprise them like no other.
Instead, place the baby bottle in a glass of water and let it sit there for a minute or two. Then, test the temperature of the formula on the back of your hand, just as you would the formula for human babies. You'll typically find yourself feeding each kitten every couple hours or so, but they'll fall asleep at some point and during their rest hours, it's not necessary that you wake them up just for their bottle.
Is Milk Beneficial to Cats?
Another point to take into consideration is the fact that female adult cats are not in constant milk production mode. Just like human mothers, cat moms stop producing milk after about twelve weeks postpartum. However, keep in mind that kittens do not need to feed on their mother or consume her milk for more than four weeks after being born, at a maximum.
It is not possible, nor is it natural, for adult female cats to produce milk at all times. Similarly, it is not normal for cats to drink milk from their mother forever. It would be dangerous for cats to constantly make milk, and it would not improve the health of kittens to be fed by their mother for longer than four weeks either.
So, long story short, milk is not necessarily beneficial for cats, both young and old. Milk is not beneficial altogether. It serves its purpose for about a month, but like everything, milk from female adult cats has its time and place.
Some kittens are ready to wean off of milk and transition over to cat food within three weeks, but it all depends on their health at the time of their birth. As a generalization, cats do not receive any benefit from drinking milk beyond a month old, and even more dangerous is the caloric density of milk, especially dairy milk.
Although anywhere between sixty to one hundred twenty calories is not a lot for a person like you or me, these are very high numbers considering the suggested intake of cats. Most veterinarians and feline specialists suggest a maximum of twenty -- maybe thirty -- calories that come from food beyond wet and dry cat food.
Most cat treats contain the equivalent of two calories, at the most, and cats very rarely consume more than two hundred calories per day. That number takes treats, human snacks, wet food, and dry food into consideration. So when you consider that a cup of whole milk contains roughly one hundred fifty calories, it makes sense why this is a very calorically dense addition to your cat's diet.
So, not only is it not natural for kittens to drink milk often, but it’s also not safe or necessary for the mother to endlessly produce milk. Lactose does not serve any benefits beyond kittens that are four weeks of age and younger.
The Truth About Cat Food: Look Out for Dry Food with Added Dairy
Another common question regarding cats and milk is… Are cats allergic to milk? The short and brief answer to this question is no, cats are not technically allergic to milk. Having an intolerance for milk is not quite the same as being allergic to milk, even though they sound like the same action but phrased in different wording.
To clarify how intolerance and an allergy are different, let’s focus on what sets them apart. Intolerance to milk comes down to the body experiencing discomfort towards something. On the other hand, an allergy entails a near-shutdown of the body after coming in contact with the allergen. In this case, the allergen is milk.
At its core, the difference between milk allergies and lactose intolerances centers around the severity of the reactions. Allergies elicit far more severe responses. In many cases, allergic reactions can pose serious risks that can elevate to a state of being life-threatening if medical attention is not taken immediately.
There are many similarities between milk allergies and lactose intolerances, which can actually create a lot of confusion when it comes to figuring out which is which. To make it easier, here are the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and then we'll follow up with the side effects of milk intolerance.
Symptoms of Allergic Reactions to Milk for Cats
When kittens or cats have an allergic reaction to milk, they tend to exhibit symptoms such as...
- Swelling of the tongue
- Itchy sensation in the mouth
- Swollen lips
- Closing of the throat
- Hives that erupt all over your kitten's body
- Otherwise inexplicable eczema
- Trouble walking as a result of dizziness
- Falling over due to a feeling of lightheadedness
- Vomiting at random
- Wheezing because of closing nasal passageways
- Sharp and short breaths
- Ragged breathing
- Coughing and struggling to focus
Symptoms of Milk Intolerance in Cats
Although allergic reactions to milk can happen for cats, it is not the norm. If cats are incapable of drinking milk, it is likely to be the result of something less severe, and therefore, it would be considered an intolerance for milk.
Examples of symptoms associated with lactose intolerance for cats include…
- Bloated stomachs
- Abdominal pain
- Either cat constipation or diarrhea
- Changes in bathroom habits and behaviors
- Unusual increase in passing of gas
- Less frequent bathroom breaks
- Spots that break out on your cat's fur
- Inability to focus or concentrate when playing with toys
- Sleeping even more than is typical
- Moving around more slowly than usual
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Endlessly drinking water
- Dry mouth symptoms
- Elevated resting heart rates
Not all of these symptoms are present when a cat is experiencing an intolerance towards milk and the enzymes in it. The most common physical symptoms manifest as discomfort and sluggishness after consuming milk.
What To Do If Your Cat is Experiencing Lactose Intolerance
Your next question probably has to do with when to visit your cat's veterinarian regarding a possible lactose intolerance. The truth of the matter is that it's ultimately your call. If you are seriously concerned about your cat's wellbeing, then you should reach out to your pet's regular veterinarian clinic.
Seeing the vet sooner is always better than waiting for symptoms to worsen. Even if you arrive at the clinic only to find that your cat is fine after all, at least you have the security of knowing your feline friend is going to be just fine! Also, symptoms might worsen as you make your way to the vet, so as a precaution, we advise contacting the vet at any point where you don't know what to do.
As a cat owner, it is very wise to be up-to-date and knowledgeable regarding pet CPR. In the off chance, your cat’s symptoms exacerbate before you make it to the vet, safely performing CPR can make all the difference. If you want to refresh your memory, the American Red Cross offers courses nationwide. You can also search for pet CPR classes near you for locally-based options.
What is the Best Diet for Your Cat?
The best diet for cats is one that does not incorporate any dairy. Are you interested in learning about the best diet that doesn’t involve cats drinking milk? Well, you’re in luck! We have some guidance for you.
First, you should try to base your cat’s diet around the idea that cats should eat foods that are similar to the foods found in nature. Cats are a domesticated animal, but that does not mean all of their instinctive behaviors go away when they learn to live indoors. If you think about it, cats cannot stumble upon milk when they are out and about in the wild. They have to fend for themselves and scour their environment for food sources, none of which involve access to dairy products.
From there, start exposing wet food to your cat and figure out which one they take to the best. Some cat foods are fish-flavored, like tuna, shrimp, and salmon wet food options. Other wet food for cats tastes like chicken, turkey, beef, or other meats. Whether your cat likes fishy flavors or has a preference for more meaty flavors, all comes down to personal preference.
While experimenting with different brands and flavors, there is one thing to keep in mind at all times. As you are checking the nutritional composition, be sure to closely focus on the ingredients list of the wet food. If there are traces of dairy in the mixture, you might want to avoid that particular option. You’ll come to find that there are many cat foods that contain cheese alongside the meat or fish source. Just because pet food companies sell wet food with dairy does not mean that it is something worth buying.
All in all, when it comes to your kitten’s health, it is always better to play it safe than to wish you hadn’t taken a risk with their diet. The inclusion of milk in your cat’s daily nutritional intake could end up being something you wish you had omitted instead. There are no risks involved when you avoid dairy altogether.
Should You Add CBD to Your Cat’s Diet?
As you eliminate dairy from your cat’s diet, you might want to consider adding one thing in particular, especially if your feline friend is overcoming a recent lactose intolerance episode. Cannabidiol
CBD oil is very beneficial for cats that have come in contact with lactose while also having an intolerance for milk.
CBD for cats resolves a lot of the physical discomfort that lactose intolerance causes. As a completely natural supplement, CBD acts as the healthiest and safest pain reliever known to man. While CBD is heavily associated with marijuana and other cannabis-derived products, cannabidiol oil for cats will not cause any psychoactive behavior for your feline. Your kitty cats will feel like their usual selves after a few doses of CBD for cats drinking milk.
Your cat won’t be able to verbally tell you that he or she is feeling much better, but they won’t have to because it will be obvious based on the way they move. The sluggish behavior will be replaced with playful movements, and the excessive thirst will revert back to normal. You won’t have to worry about the odd bathroom behaviors, and you’ll be able to spend more time with your cute cat now that their lactose intolerance isn’t inflicting more exhaustion than usual.
Where to Purchase CBD for Cats
If you are in the market for all-natural, hemp-based CBD for cats, then Innovet has everything your cat could dream of, and then some. The most commonly purchased CBD product for cats is cannabidiol oil. It is created with kittens and cats in mind, and you’ll find that it reduces the severity of the milk intolerance symptoms.
Pair CBD oil with a diet free from dairy for the best outcome. You can administer CBD to your cat in other instances, too. Whenever your kitten is experiencing pain, anxiety, or stress, CBD will be there to help! Discomfort from drinking milk is not something that has to affect your cat for a long period of time. Let us help you help your cat today!
Sources:Foods Your Cat Should Never
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