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cat looking at milk

What Do Cats Drink?

5 min read

Cats only need to drink water to stay hydrated. Despite popular belief, cow’s milk for cats isn’t recommended. Find out why in this article below.

Can cats have milk? It may surprise you to learn that cows’ milk is actually detrimental to their health, no matter how much they may like the taste of it.

Cats should only be given water to drink. It’s important for your cat to stay properly hydrated especially if it has other health problems such as kidney disease. Some individuals are really not keen on the taste of water, but there are a few tricks you can try to encourage increased water intake.

Can cats drink milk?

Milk is bad for cats because they are lactose intolerant and consuming dairy products can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. There are some specially designed cat milk options available, which are more suitable and contain reduced lactose. However, these should only be fed in moderation. Kittens will drink their mother’s milk for the first few weeks of life, or a specially designed ‘kitten formula milk’ if necessary. However, they will be fully weaned by around 8-9 weeks of age.

Kittens have an enzyme in their stomachs that allows them to break down lactose from their mother’s milk, but adult cats don’t have this enzyme and lose the ability to digest milk sugars. Instead, the lactose in the milk may cause an upset stomach when it begins to ferment.

Why do cats like milk?

Cats love the taste of milk because it is high in fat. They will often choose to drink it even if it results in an upset stomach. If your cat is fed a high quality, balanced diet it does not need the extra fat from drinking milk.

If your cat has drunk some milk, watch for any signs of vomiting or diarrhea and contact your vet if you are concerned.

What do kittens drink?

Young kittens will drink their mother’s milk until they are weaned. There should also be free access to fresh water for their mother and kittens will start to lap this too. From around 4 weeks of age they will start to explore solid food and drink more water alongside their mother’s milk.

Can cats drink milk if they’re orphaned?

If you are hand-rearing an orphan kitten, or it can’t drink its mother’s milk for any other reason, you should feed it special ‘kitten formula milk’. You shouldn’t use cow’s milk from another species as it will not contain the right balance of nutrients for its development. The first milk that a mother produces is called colostrum. This is high in antibodies and helps to pass on some immunity to her kittens. If a kitten is unable to drink colostrum from its mother you should get advice from your vet.

When should you start giving kittens water?

Kittens will generally begin to wean around three to four weeks of age at which point it’s time to start giving them a little solid food. You should also provide them with fresh, clean drinking water in a shallow bowl.

What do cats drink?

Adult cats only need to drink water as part of a healthy, balanced diet. How much they drink depends on several factors, including their age, size, and whether they eat wet or dry food.

If your cat has an underlying health problem such as chronic kidney disease, it is particularly important that they stay hydrated. If your cat will not drink fresh water, then you can try boiling some plain chicken breast or white fish and give your cat the broth to tempt them. This should not contain any salt or oil. You can also ask your vet whether oral rehydration fluids would be suitable. These are often meaty flavored and can be more popular than plain water. Another option may be a pet drinking-fountain as some cats prefer these to water bowls.

If you decide to give your feline friend ‘cat milk’ from the pet shop as a treat, ensure they are still enjoying a balanced and healthy diet and that their treat is part of their daily food allowance.