Are Cats Lactose Intolerant To Milk?

As a cat owner, you may have heard the age-old stereotype that cats love milk. However, what you may not know is that many cats are actually lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is a common condition among mammals, including humans and cats. It occurs when the body lacks the enzyme lactase which is needed to break down lactose – a sugar found in milk.

If your feline friend is lactose intolerant, giving them milk could lead to gastrointestinal issues such as stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. But why are cats lactose intolerant? Well, it’s partly due to their natural diet and evolutionary history. Cats are obligate carnivores and their bodies aren’t designed to digest dairy products.

However, this doesn’t mean that your cat can never have dairy products. There are some dairy products that might be safer for cats to consume in moderation than others. So if you’re curious about whether or not your cat can indulge in a bowl of milk or other dairy treats, keep reading.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the science behind lactose intolerance in cats and the potential risks of feeding your cat dairy products. We’ll also provide safe alternatives for treating your feline friend to a special treat without risking their health.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

However, it’s essential to understand that many cats are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is a condition where cats have difficulty digesting lactose, a type of sugar present in milk and dairy products.

This occurs when there’s a deficiency of lactase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose into simpler sugars that the body can absorb. While kittens have higher levels of lactase enzymes to digest their mother’s milk, as they grow older, these levels decrease, making it difficult for them to digest lactose.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance in cats can range from mild to severe and include diarrhea, vomiting, gas, and bloating. These symptoms can appear anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours after consuming dairy products. Prolonged exposure to lactose can also lead to more serious health problems such as dehydration and nutrient deficiencies.

It’s vital to note that feeding your cat milk or dairy products is not necessary for their overall health and well-being. In fact, many commercial cat foods already contain all the essential nutrients and vitamins that cats need to stay healthy. If you do choose to give your cat milk or dairy products, it is recommended to use lactose-free options or provide a small amount as an occasional treat rather than a regular part of their diet.

Are Cats Lactose Intolerant?

If you’ve ever seen a cat lapping up milk, you might assume that felines have a natural affinity for all things dairy. However, the truth is that cats are actually lactose intolerant. This means that their bodies struggle to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products that requires the lactase enzyme to be broken down.

While kittens produce lactase to break down their mother’s milk, adult cats produce less lactase, making it tough for them to digest lactose. As a result, feeding your cat milk or dairy products can lead to digestive problems like vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It’s worth noting that some cats may be more sensitive to lactose than others, and certain cat breeds may be more prone to lactose intolerance.

So, what should you do if your kitty loves milk? Firstly, it’s crucial to stick with commercial cat food that contains all the necessary nutrients. You could also offer lactose-free dairy options as an occasional treat. Alternatively, consider giving your cat small bites of cooked meat as a tasty snack instead.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Cats

Milk and dairy products in particular can be problematic for cats due to their lactose intolerance.

If your cat is lactose intolerant, they may experience a variety of uncomfortable symptoms after consuming milk and dairy, including diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence, and lethargy. These symptoms are caused by the undigested lactose that draws water into the colon resulting in loose stools or worse, watery diarrhea. The irritation caused by undigested lactose in the stomach can lead to vomiting accompanied by abdominal pain and discomfort.

Cats with lactose intolerance may also exhibit excess gas and flatulence due to the fermentation of undigested lactose in their digestive system. Additionally, they may experience lethargy and decreased activity levels as a result of an upset stomach.

It’s vital to note that not all cats are lactose intolerant; however, if you suspect that your feline friend may be, it’s best to avoid feeding them milk or dairy products altogether. Instead, opt for other treats such as catnip or commercial cat treats that are specifically formulated for feline consumption.

Is Milk Necessary for Cat’s Health and Wellbeing?

While it may seem like a staple food for our furry friends, the truth is that milk can actually be harmful in some cases.

For starters, cats are lactose intolerant, which means their bodies can’t properly digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. This often leads to digestive issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Therefore, it’s best to steer clear of giving your cat milk altogether.

Moreover, many veterinarians advise against giving cats milk as it can cause more serious health problems like pancreatitis or obesity. Instead, cats should have access to fresh water as their primary source of hydration and a well-balanced diet of cat food that provides all the nutrients they need.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all dairy products are created equal for cats. Some cats may be able to tolerate small amounts of low-lactose dairy products such as cheese or yogurt. However, this should always be done in moderation and under the guidance of a veterinarian.

Alternatives to Milk and Dairy Products

As much as we adore sharing a bowl of milk with our feline friends, it’s crucial to remember that most cats are lactose intolerant. Feeding your cat milk or dairy products can lead to digestive problems and other health issues. So, what can you give your furry friend instead?

One fantastic option is lactose-free milk or dairy products. These have had the lactose removed, making them easier for your cat to digest. However, even lactose-free products should be given in moderation as they can still be high in fat and calories.

Another option to consider is non-dairy milk alternatives like almond milk or coconut milk. These options are lower in fat and calories than traditional dairy products and can be a great choice for cats who have trouble digesting dairy.

There are also plenty of non-dairy treats available for your feline companion to enjoy. Cooked chicken or fish can be a delicious treat, and there are also commercial cat treats made with non-dairy ingredients such as chicken or turkey.

It’s essential to keep in mind that these alternatives should not replace a balanced and nutritious cat food diet. Making sure your cat is eating high-quality cat food that is tailored to their specific nutritional requirements is crucial for their overall health and well-being.

Tips for Feeding Cats with Lactose Intolerance

Feeding cats with lactose intolerance may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tips and tricks, you can provide your furry friend with a balanced and nutritious diet without compromising their health or well-being. Here are five essential tips for feeding cats with lactose intolerance:

Choose Lactose-Free Cat Food or Treats

Lactose-free cat food or treats are specifically designed for cats that cannot digest lactose properly. These products are available in most pet stores and are formulated to meet your cat’s nutritional needs while avoiding any dairy ingredients. Before purchasing cat food or treats, always check the label carefully to ensure that it is completely free of lactose.

Read Labels Carefully

When buying cat food, it’s crucial to read the labels carefully to avoid any milk-based ingredients. Even small amounts of lactose can cause digestive issues in cats with lactose intolerance, so it’s essential to choose food that is completely free of lactose. By doing so, you can prevent any unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and bloating.

Avoid Human Milk and Dairy Products

It’s important to avoid feeding cats with human milk or dairy products like cheese or yogurt as they contain high levels of lactose. These foods can cause severe digestive problems, including vomiting and diarrhea. Instead, consider alternative sources of calcium to ensure that your cat gets all the essential nutrients they need.

Consider Alternative Sources of Calcium

Calcium is an essential nutrient for cats, but it can be challenging to provide enough of it without feeding them dairy products. Some alternative sources of calcium include bone meal, canned fish with bones, and calcium supplements. These options can help ensure that your cat gets the necessary nutrients without causing any digestive issues.

Introduce New Foods Gradually

When introducing new foods to cats with lactose intolerance, it’s important to do so gradually. Start by mixing a small amount of the new food with their regular food and slowly increase the amount over time. This helps the cat’s digestive system to adjust to the new food and reduces the risk of digestive issues.


In conclusion, cats may not be the milk-loving creatures we once thought they were. Many cats are lactose intolerant, which means they can’t digest lactose properly and may suffer from stomach pain, diarrhea, or vomiting if they consume dairy products. This is because cats are obligate carnivores whose bodies aren’t designed to process dairy.

Although it’s not necessary for a cat’s health to consume milk or dairy products, there are still safe ways to treat your feline friend. You can opt for lactose-free dairy options or non-dairy milk alternatives like almond or coconut milk in moderation. Cooked meat or commercial cat treats made with non-dairy ingredients such as chicken or turkey can also be a delicious snack.

Feeding cats with lactose intolerance requires careful consideration and attention. It’s important to choose lactose-free cat food or treats, read labels carefully, avoid human milk and dairy products, consider alternative sources of calcium, and introduce new foods gradually.

By following these tips and providing your furry friend with a balanced and nutritious diet tailored to their specific nutritional requirements, you can ensure their overall health and well-being while still indulging them in the occasional special treat.