Why Do Cats Love Milk?

If you want to know why do cats love milk you’ve come to the right place. In this article you’ll discover some of the myths surrounding cats and milk that may surprise you.

Whether you’re brand new to cat parenting or you’ve been giving your kitty milk up until now, you need to read this. Although your feline friend may drool at the sight of milk is it really good for her?

Keep reading as we discover why cats are attracted to milk and why your kitty turns her nose up at a bowel of fresh water in favor of milk.

Myths About Cats And Milk

We’ve all seen images of cats lapping milk from a bowl. Many of these are from years gone by. If you’ve seen picture books as a child of cats lapping milk they’re really a myth.

In reality, most cats are lactose intolerant and drinking milk could cause diarrhea or tummy upsets.If you’re wondering why cats like milk if it’s bad for them, the answer lies in modern production methods.

Years ago, farm cats often drank fresh cows milk straight from pails. The warmth of milk fresh from a cow can be very attractive to a cat.

However, unlike milk you’d find in today’s supermarkets, back then milk had a far higher fat content. Cream found on top of milk had very low traces of lactose.

In fact all dairy produce is bad for your cat, including cheese. Surprisingly, this is another food cats can’t digest very well.

Why Most Cats Are Lactose Intolerant

Just as some people are lactose intolerant the same applies to cats. In fact it’s mostly kittens that are able to digest this enzyme.

Lactose is a type of sugar found mostly in dairy products. It’s broken down in your body using an enzyme known as lactase.

Those intolerant to lactose lack this enzyme and must avoid foods such as yoghurt and most types of cheese. The same rule applies to your cat.

Undigested lactose stays in the stomach where it starts to ferment. As you can imagine this may result in diarrhea, flatulence, and probably discomfort.

Very few cats are tolerant of lactose and you risk making your kitty sick by offering her milk. However, there are a few alternatives you could try, but even these could upset your cat.

In my opinion it’s far better to provide a fresh bowl of water for your cat. Not only is it healthier but keeps your kitty hydrated as well.

Why Cats Are Attracted To Milk

why cats are attracted to milk

The reason your cat may be attracted to milk is she can smell fat and protein found in it. While cats need a certain amount of fat as well as protein in their diet, too much can be harmful.

If your cat develops a sudden craving for milk there’s a slight possibility she may be deficient. However, it’s far more likely she enjoys the taste!

The Real Reason Kittens Are Lactose Tolerant

During the first few weeks of a kitten’s life she’s drinking her mother’s milk. It’s at this stage she’s able to digest lactose without any ill effects.

In fact you’ll be interested to know it provides a valuable source of nutrients needed by a tiny kitten. By the time this little bundle of energy is around 8 to 10 weeks old weaning will be complete.

This means she’ll be on solids and her ability to process lactose will be gone. That being said, there are exceptions.

It may well be your little kitty can drink milk into adulthood with no problem. If this is the case you should still only give milk in moderation.

The best drink for your cat by far is water. This is because it prevents dehydration and promotes healthy kidneys. As kidney disease is so common in older cats it’s worth bearing this in mind.

Is Cat Milk A Good Alternative?

If you’ve walked down any pet aisle in a supermarket you will probably have seen cat milk. This will have been specially formulated and lactose free.

In fact many brands add additional nutrients. Even so, these should only be given as a treat.

Milk replacement is a good alternative for abandoned kittens though. If there’s no queen to feed the kittens then formula milk will be the closest thing to mother’s milk.

You can read my post on best cat milk for cats to give you a guide on some of the best ones on offer at the moment. All are suitable for both cats and kittens.

There may be occasions when a queen has too many kittens and can’t provide enough milk for all of them. In this case milk replacement is the best idea. NEVER give cows milk to kittens though as it could be harmful.

Weaning Kittens With Formula

weaning kittens with replacement milk

The nursing mother’s milk contains antibodies vital for a newborn kitten’s health. In fact, the first milk a kitten takes from the mother is known as colostrum. This is packed with antibodies which can only be absorbed during the first 12-24 hours of life.

Good quality replacement milk for kittens contains colostrum, as well as other nutrients. Interestingly, if your cat gives birth to a very large litter, it’s sometimes possible for another queen to provide milk.

If you need to buy replacement milk for newborn kittens always check if it contains colostrum. As you now know, this can only be absorbed up to the first 24 hours of life.

If in an emergency you find yourself with newborn kittens and no nursing cat you can always blend whole milk with an egg yolk. Also, add a few drops of liquid multivitamins.

However, only use one that’s formulated for cats and NOT human use! Although this provides a good alternative it should only be used in the short term.

You can also buy nursing kits specially for kittens or other baby animals. These contain everything needed including feeding bottle and teats.

Knowing how to care for a kitten in the first few days and weeks of it’s life is important. Whether it’s been abandoned or the mother has a large litter and can’t manage you are responsible.

Final Thoughts

why do cats love milk-cat lapping milk

I hope this article has helped you understand why do cats love milk. As you’re now aware, the main reason your cat may be attracted to milk is the smell of fat.

As I’ve often mentioned before, cats have an amazing sense of smell far greater than any human! The ability to smell fat content in milk is incredible!

We’ve also looked at why cats find it hard to digest milk as well as milk alternatives. In addition, we touched on weaning kittens and what you should do if faced with an emergency.

NEVER give your cat soy milk as it’s highly toxic to felines. The same goes for almond milk as it could cause diarrhea.

Even if your cat is ok with cows milk it’s best to avoid it. This goes for half fat or fat free as well.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful please share. Feel free to share this pin on your “pets” board.

Also, if you have any questions or would like to share experiences, leave a comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

8 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Love Milk?”

  1. Oh my, it’s a very common assumption that cats love milk! I had no idea that milk (especially cow milk) isn’t always good for the feline friends and in fact, can be detrimental to their health. And I am surprised to learn that that most cats are lactose intolerant.

    Imagine that!

    Whether one has a furryball or not, it’s always good to know some basic information about our pets.
    Thank you for such an insightful post and the helpful recommendations on the milk alternatives to feed cats, Kathy.


    • Hi Femi, thank you for your comment:) Yes, many people are surprised to learn that most cats are lactose intolerant. In fact, any dairy produce is bad for cats. Oddly though, cream has very low levels of lactose, especially heavy cream. It has a high fat content though, and should only be given as a treat. Thanks for stopping by:)

  2. Hey Kathy,
    I have owned cats and always been curious as to why cats love cows milk. So am glad to finally learn about this. That is really interesting to learn – that in reality, most cats are lactose intolerant and get upset tummies. This is just like many humans, including my me and family. So I have gone off milk.

    This is consistent with what I have read from a few books.
    Cows milk is designed for baby cows.
    Human milk is designed for baby humans (not cows milk, the composition is very different)
    Cats milk is designed for kittens.
    Why we try and mix and match this especially cows milk to the other 2 categories is causing health issues for many humans and cats. Have I got this right?

    • Hi John, thanks for your comment:) Yes, many people are surprised to learn cats have a high chance of being lactose intolerant. It seems quite common among humans and sorry to hear you and your family are lactose intolerant. You are right that cows milk is only designed for calves and not any other mammal. Kittens can only tolerate milk in the first few weeks of life, and after that time most become intolerant. Yes, cows milk and other dairy made with it can cause health issues in both humans and cats. Thanks for stopping by:)

  3. Hey there, Kathy! Thank you for another great post. I was surprised, when I was reading about how many people are suggesting milk to cats. I heard earlier on, that it can be pretty dangerous. Your post, just proved it. Although, I didn’t know that the lactose, is the biggest problem. Is there something (except water) that can be used as milk replacement? Or is water, the only one you would suggest? Asking because, lately I am concern also about the quality of the water in some areas.

    • Hi Julius, thanks for your comment:) Yes, most cats are lactose intolerant which is surprising to many people. In answer to your question, there are a few good milk replacement products for cats and kittens. I’m actually publishing a review and will include a link from this post. Water is indeed the best drink for cats, but cat milk can be given as a treat or feeding very young kittens. If you’re concerned about the water quality in your area I’d recommend either getting a water filter or boiling a jug full and keeping it in the fridge.

  4. Hi Kathy,

    Before this article, I had never thought of this question. It’s interesting to know that cats could digest lactose early, but they will lose this ability after 8-10 weeks. Other facts such as cats are attracted by the smell of fat or the mix of whole milk with egg yolk is suitable for newborn kittens are also adding value to this article.

    I am sure your readers will be like me getting lots of helpful information about this topic and using it as a conversation opener. 🙂


    • Hi Matt, glad you enjoyed this post:) Yes, it’s surprising how kittens are lactose tolerant for the few weeks of life. Yet, after they’ve finished nursing from their mother they lose the ability to process it. Yes, the power of a cat’s sense of smell is amazing, and the fact they’re able to detect fat. Thanks for stopping by:)


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