Can Cats Be Lactose Intolerant?

Welcome to the wonderful world of feline health. As devoted cat parents, we all know that our furry friends can be finicky eaters. But did you know that they can also suffer from lactose intolerance? That’s right – just like many humans, cats can have trouble digesting milk and dairy products.

The culprit behind this condition is lactose, a sugar found in milk. But don’t worry – lactose intolerance isn’t life-threatening and can be managed with the right care and diet.

It’s important to remember that cats are obligate carnivores, which means their digestive systems are designed for a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Any food outside of this norm can cause digestive problems. In this article, we’ll dive into the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance in cats, as well as explore why it occurs and how you can help your furry friend live a happy and healthy life.

So if you’re someone who loves sharing your dairy products with your feline companion, keep reading. We’ll discuss one of the most common health issues faced by our beloved pets: lactose intolerance.

Causes of Lactose Intolerance in Cats

Lactose intolerance in cats is a common issue that arises when the cat’s body fails to produce enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar found in milk. This can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting. But what are the causes of lactose intolerance in cats?


One of the primary causes is genetics. Some cats are born with a genetic predisposition to lactose intolerance, meaning that their bodies do not produce enough lactase to break down lactose effectively. Certain breeds such as Siamese and Burmese cats are more prone to this type of lactose intolerance.


Age is another factor. As cats get older, their bodies produce less lactase, making them more likely to develop lactose intolerance. However, kittens typically produce more lactase than adult cats because they need it to digest their mother’s milk.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can also cause lactose intolerance in cats. Infection or inflammation in the digestive tract can affect the production of lactase and lead to lactose intolerance. Additionally, some cats may experience temporary lactose intolerance after undergoing surgery or taking certain medications.


Lastly, a sudden change in diet can also cause lactose intolerance in cats. If a cat has been consuming a diet with little to no dairy products and is suddenly given a large amount of milk or other dairy products, it can overwhelm their digestive system and lead to lactose intolerance symptoms.

As a responsible cat owner, it’s crucial to be aware of your pet’s ability to tolerate dairy products and avoid giving them any if they show signs of lactose intolerance. Many alternative treats and snacks are available that are safe and healthy for cats to consume. Furthermore, excessive consumption of dairy products can lead to other health problems in cats such as obesity and related issues, so it’s best to limit your cat’s intake of dairy and choose other treats that are more suitable for their dietary needs.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Cats

One common sensitivity that many cats experience is lactose intolerance. This condition can lead to various symptoms that can negatively impact their quality of life.

If your cat is lactose intolerant, you may notice some of the following symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. These symptoms arise because lactose cannot be fully digested by cats with lactose intolerance, resulting in an accumulation of undigested lactose in the colon.

Diarrhea is one of the most prevalent symptoms of lactose intolerance in cats. The undigested lactose raises the water content in the colon, leading to loose stools. Meanwhile, vomiting can occur due to irritation in the stomach and intestines caused by lactose. Additionally, bloating and gas are common symptoms since lactose can ferment in the gut and produce gas.

Abdominal pain is another symptom that cats with lactose intolerance may experience due to the build-up of gas and inflammation in the gut. Furthermore, lactose intolerance can make your cat feel fatigued and experience a decrease in appetite since their digestive system works harder to digest lactose.

It’s important to note that while these symptoms are typical for cats with lactose intolerance, they may be indicative of other health issues. If you observe any of these symptoms in your cat, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Diagnosing Lactose Intolerance in Cats

However, cats can be lactose intolerant, which can lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. That’s why diagnosing lactose intolerance in cats is crucial.

The first step in diagnosing lactose intolerance in cats is by observing their behavior after consuming dairy products. If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms after consuming dairy, it’s best to avoid giving them dairy altogether. However, if you must give them dairy products, lactose-free alternatives are available in the market.

In some cases, a veterinarian may perform tests to confirm lactose intolerance in cats. Blood tests measure the level of glucose in the bloodstream after consuming lactose, while breath hydrogen tests measure the amount of hydrogen in the breath after consuming lactose. These tests can help your veterinarian determine whether or not your cat has lactose intolerance.

It’s important to note that lactose intolerance is different from a milk allergy. Milk allergy in cats is an immune response to the protein in milk, while lactose intolerance is a digestive issue caused by the inability to digest lactose. Therefore, it’s essential to get the right diagnosis for your cat.

Treatments for Lactose Intolerance in Cats

The good news is that there are several treatments available to help ease their discomfort and improve their overall health.

One effective treatment for lactose intolerance in cats is switching to a lactose-free diet. This involves excluding all dairy products and instead opting for commercial cat foods specially formulated for sensitive stomachs or those with lactose intolerance. These foods contain easily digestible proteins and carbohydrates and may also include probiotics or other digestive aids.

Another great option is supplementing your cat’s diet with lactase enzymes. These enzymes help break down lactose in the digestive system, making it easier to digest and reducing the likelihood of digestive issues. You can find lactase supplements in tablet or liquid form, which you can add to your cat’s food or give directly by mouth.

Aside from dietary changes and enzyme supplements, there are also natural remedies that can help alleviate your cat’s symptoms of lactose intolerance. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that can reduce inflammation in the digestive system, while slippery elm can soothe the intestinal lining and improve digestion. Probiotics and digestive enzymes can also be beneficial in restoring healthy gut bacteria and improving overall digestive function.

It’s crucial to work closely with your veterinarian when treating lactose intolerance in cats. They can create a customized treatment plan that meets your cat’s individual needs. They may also suggest additional diagnostic tests or medications if necessary to manage symptoms and ensure your cat’s continued health and wellbeing.

Dietary Considerations for Cats with Lactose Intolerance

If your cat suffers from lactose intolerance, providing a diet that meets their nutritional needs while avoiding lactose-containing foods can be challenging. In this article, we will discuss the dietary considerations for cats with lactose intolerance and how to provide them with a balanced diet that they will love.

Lactose intolerance in cats is caused by an enzyme deficiency called lactase. This enzyme breaks down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. When cats consume lactose-containing foods, it can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Therefore, it is crucial to provide lactose-free or low-lactose diets to cats with lactose intolerance.

Fortunately, there are several commercial cat foods available in the market that are specifically designed for cats with lactose intolerance. These foods are formulated with easily digestible proteins and carbohydrates and do not contain any milk or dairy products. That means you can give your furry friend the delicious food they crave without worrying about their health.

If you prefer to make homemade cat food recipes, you can also avoid milk or dairy products and use ingredients such as cooked chicken, turkey, fish, rice, and vegetables. However, it is essential to ensure that your cat receives all the necessary nutrients required for their growth and development.

To ensure that your cat’s nutritional needs are met, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian before making any significant dietary changes for cats with lactose intolerance. Your veterinarian can guide you on the best diet plan for your cat and recommend supplements if needed. With their expertise, you can be confident that your cat will receive the proper nutrition they need to thrive.

Alternative Treats and Snacks for Cats with Lactose Intolerance

However, if your feline friend has lactose intolerance, finding suitable treats and snacks can be quite tricky. But don’t worry, there are plenty of delicious and nutritious alternatives that will keep your cat purring with delight and keep their tummy troubles at bay.

One option is cooked chicken or fish, which is rich in protein and an excellent way to reward your cat without upsetting their stomach. However, be sure to remove any bones and avoid seasoning the meat with garlic, onions, or other potential harmful ingredients.

Another alternative is to look for commercial cat treats specially formulated for cats with lactose intolerance. These treats may come in alternative protein sources like turkey or duck and may include natural ingredients like cranberries or pumpkin that support digestive health. Always read the label carefully to ensure that the treats do not contain lactose or other potential allergens.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try making your own cat treats using simple ingredients like canned tuna, cooked egg, or pureed baby food. Be creative with different flavors and textures to find out what your cat likes best. Just remember to avoid any ingredients that may contain lactose or other potential allergens.

However, it’s crucial to monitor your cat’s reactions to new treats and snacks. If you notice any signs of digestive distress such as diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach pain, discontinue the treat and consult your veterinarian.


In summary, lactose intolerance is a frequent problem that affects cats and can lead to various digestive issues, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The root cause of lactose intolerance in cats is the lack of lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose present in milk and dairy products. Certain breeds such as Siamese and Burmese cats are at higher risk for lactose intolerance.

To determine if your cat has lactose intolerance, you can observe their behavior after consuming dairy products or perform tests like blood tests or breath hydrogen tests. It’s crucial to distinguish between milk allergy and lactose intolerance to ensure your cat receives the proper diagnosis.

The treatment options for cats with lactose intolerance include switching to a diet free from lactose, supplementing with lactase enzymes, using natural remedies like ginger or slippery elm, and collaborating closely with your veterinarian to create a personalized treatment plan.

If you have a cat with lactose intolerance, it’s essential to avoid feeding them foods containing milk or dairy products. Fortunately, there are many commercial cat foods available on the market specifically designed for cats with this condition. You can also try making homemade cat food recipes but must ensure they contain all the necessary nutrients required for their growth and development.

When it comes to treats and snacks for cats with lactose intolerance, there are plenty of nutritious options available such as cooked chicken or fish, commercial cat treats formulated for them or homemade treats made using simple ingredients like canned tuna or cooked eggs. However, monitoring your cat’s reactions to new treats is critical.

So, understanding how to manage lactose intolerance in cats can significantly improve their quality of life by preventing uncomfortable digestive issues.