If you were a cat lady early in life, you’ve likely watched The Aristocats a few times. Okay, a few hundred times. And in all your nightly viewings of this cat lady classic, you may recall the fictional cream-based dish, “Crème de la crème à la Edgar”, given to Duchess and kittens by the scheming butler, Edgar himself. Ever since then, I always had this vision in my head of happy, eager kitties scurrying towards their milky feast with delight. Sure, cats seem to love it, but I never really stopped to ask myself - should cats really be drinking milk?
When cats are tiny baby kittens, the best way for them to grow up healthy and strong is by, of course, consuming milk from their mamas. This is a general rule for mammals, and cats are no exception. If there is no mama cat available (such as in the case of stray and/or abandoned kittens), the next best thing is something called “Hoskins Formula”. This formula contains goat milk, water, egg yolks, and plain, full-fat yogurt. Alternatives such as milk replacer formula are also available over the counter. During their time as a kitten, this milk is essential to their livelihood and well being, as it delivers the nutrients necessary to sustain a healthy life.
After a kitten has entered into adulthood, the next step is to wean them off of milk and on to a diet of adult food. The Hoskins Formula kitty diet is extremely rich in fat, and in-door house cats especially need to maintain a healthy weight without overdoing it. Simply put, feeding your cat milk is not an essential part of their diet anymore, as they’ve outgrown the need for it.
Interestingly enough, most cats are actually lactose intolerant. That means that their bodies can’t digest the lactose that is common in cow’s milk. Just like lactose intolerant humans, giving this type of milk to a cat or a kitten who is lactose intolerant will likely result in diarrhea or even vomiting. The cow’s milk we buy at the grocery store is especially unhealthy for kitties, because it is low in fat and, you guessed it - high in lactose. Goat’s milk, on the other hand, is high in protein and low in lactose, and is much more suitable for growing kittens.
WHY DOES MY CAT LIKE MILK?
Why would a cat like something that’s bad for them? Well, for the same reason I can house at least two king sized bars of Kit-Kats in one sitting. Okay, maybe not the same reason… I’m sure burying her face in unhealthy food is probably not an emotional coping mechanism for my cat. Probably. However, what can I say? I just love the flavor, and the same is true for cats. They like it because it’s yummy! Cream is particularly irresistible to cats, and for many, milk is just as good. The difference between milk and cream is that cream is heavier in butterfat - and that’s what cats love.
All that being said, what’s our conclusion here? For starters, there’s a steady rule stating that cow’s milk is just all-around not great for cats, no matter which way you look at it. It certainly isn’t horribly harmful, but even if your cat doesn’t get an upset tummy, it’s simply not beneficial enough to serve it to your cat on a regular basis. To be blunt, the negative aspects of feeding cow’s milk to your precious pumpkins outweigh any possible benefits.
Goat’s milk on the other hand is much, much better and yummier for cats - kittens, primarily. The only drawback of feeding goat’s milk to an adult cat is how fatty it is. If you have an adult kitty who needs to bulk up, then a bit of goat’s milk here and there in her diet would be beneficial. If you have an “Oh Lawd He Comin”-grade chonker, then maaaybe take a pass on this one.
Not sure you want to risk it? There is one more alternative, and that’s Cat Milk. Yup, you heard right - food that has been specifically designed for kitties to “give even the most sensitive cats the taste they love without concern for their digestion.” If you wanna be super ultra-safe, giving this to your adult or senior cat is a great way to spoil your baby while also being cautious.
Lastly, always remember - all cats are different. Some kitties may take well to a saucer of cream every once in a while, and some might fall to a wicked case of the poops. Knowing your cat and her tummy troubles (or lack thereof, if she’s lucky) is key in determining her diet. And when in doubt? Always ask your vet!
Written by Diomira Keane