The image of the cat quietly lapping up its little bowl of milk is tenacious. However, our little living room felines do not have the same relationship as we humans with dairy products in general and milk in particular. If the kitten absolutely needs to be breastfed until the age of 8 weeks, this need disappears with the growth and the loss of lactase, an enzyme which allows the proper digestion of the lactose present in milk. So should you give milk to your cat? Let’s do a check in.
Milk for the kitten: a necessity up to 8 weeks of life
The kitten drinks the mother’s milk produced by its mother until the age of 8 weeks on average, the period from which the weaning is intended to be final. However, kittens that cannot be fed by their mother are fed milk bottles with the gradual introduction of solid food from the age of 3 to 4 weeks, as for breastfed babies.
Bottle-fed kittens will need to drink formula. Indeed, cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk is not formulated for their organism. These milks are too low in lipids, minerals and proteins and too rich in lactose. Consequently, if the kitten is fed with these types of unsuitable milks, it will develop deficiencies. The pattern is identical to that of human babies, children not breastfed by their mother having to be fed formula milk preferably, in order to cover their nutritional needs different from those of calves, kids and lambs.
From the age of 10 weeks, the kitten eats kibble, which becomes its main or only food. However, he still needs to stay hydrated. To do this, water remains the best solution. The little cat then no longer needs milk. But what about as an adult?
Milk for the adult cat: is it a need or a danger?
The cat generally likes milk – and dairy products – whose taste is very appetizing. However, it is no longer needed. Man remains the only mammal breastfed at birth that continues to consume milk as an adult. However, this is not out of need, but out of choice and taste. The cat, too, does not need to consume milk once it becomes an adult to meet its nutritional needs. It is only out of greed that he may be tempted to dip his lips in it.
In addition, you should know that if the kitten has lactase in its small intestine, which is an enzyme allowing it to digest breast milk or infant formula, the production and digestive performance of this enzyme begin to be reduced from age. of 6 weeks. As a result, as the kitten grows, it gradually loses its ability to digest milk.
In adult cats that no longer produce lactase, the digestion of the lactose contained in milk becomes difficult. Thus, the lactose that cannot be digested ferments in the intestines of the cat and can cause digestive disorders, such as diarrhea and bloating leading the cat to fart.
Nevertheless, this complex relationship with milk should be nuanced. Indeed, this inability to digest milk present in all cats does not translate in the same way in all felines. About 50% of tomcats do not show any reaction to the consumption of milk or dairy products. They can therefore consume a little, at a rate of 10 ml of milk per kilo of weight at most, or 40 ml to 50 ml of milk per day at most.
On the other hand, the remaining 50% of cats may show a reaction to milk in the form of an allergy or intolerance to lactose or milk proteins. If your cat is a victim, this will result in digestive disorders (diarrhoea, vomiting, etc.) or even itching and skin disorders. In this case, avoid any contact between your little companion and the milk. No need to make your pet sick for food it doesn’t need.
For the adult cat who consumes milk, remember that it is only a matter of taste and not of needs. The tomcat no longer needs it to cover its nutritional needs after the age of 8 weeks. Consequently, you can give your cat, if he tolerates it and if you wish, skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole milk, without it having any importance, while bearing in mind that it is not for him. not necessary. Water remains the preferred hydration solution.