Should I Give My Kitten Milk?

One of the biggest misconceptions pet owners have about kittens is that they all like to drink milk.

However, like people, cats have their own distinct preferences and not all of them will want to drink milk. In fact, there are many vets who would tell you not to give your kitten milk since it may not be good for him, particularly if he is lactose-intolerant and unable to digest it properly.

Here are some of the facts about cats and milk that you need to know:

• Your kitten already gets all the protein that he needs from his cat food and giving him milk will not only not help, but it can also make him fat since milk has a high-calorie content. Keep in mind that a growing kitten who weighs 10 pounds needs just 545 daily calories to stay healthy and avoid getting obese. Once he becomes an adult, he’ll need fewer calories, with a 20-pound cat having a daily requirement of just 439 calories.

• Once your kitten is fully weaned, which happens at around four weeks, you should avoid giving him milk. This is because cats develop lactose intolerance as they grow older, since the amounts of the enzyme that they need to digest diminish with age. A cat with lactose intolerance that drinks milk might suffer from an upset stomach and diarrhea as he cannot digest the milk, and it remains in the stomach where it ferments and causes problems like gas and bloating.

• Cow’s milk is not good for kittens. Although a kitten has a lot of lactase enzymes, he would still have trouble handling all the lactose in regular cow’s milk. In addition, cow’s milk has an insufficient balance of casein and whey for young cats. If you are raising an orphaned cat, you should give him a special milk replacer formulated especially for baby cats. If you have no milk replacer, you can give the kitten sugared water or baby formula temporarily.

• What your cat really needs a lot of is water. Water can help your cat avoid health problems as he grows older, as it helps them digest food, regulate body temperature, let electrolytes pass through their bodies, and eliminate waste. To ensure your cat gets all the water he needs, you can place bowls all around the house so he can drink whenever he wants to.

• If you are concerned about your cat’s calcium intake, you can provide him with calcium supplements or ensure that the cat food that you give him has sufficient calcium content. This is particularly true if your cat is pregnant or nursing since it might suffer from a calcium deficit. If you are concerned about your cat’s calorie intake, you can consult with your vet about how much he needs and where he can get it from.

• If your cat loves milk, you can give him lactose-free milk that is gentle on his digestive system. However, even these milk substitutes should only be given in limited quantities since they are still high in calories. You can find lactose-free milk for kittens at your local pet store.