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The Truth Behind Cats and Milk

Cat Drinking MilkMany people are under the impression that cats need to drink milk instead of water, however, that is not exactly true. Cats are in fact lactose intolerant which means that they don’t have the enzymes needed to digest the lactose in milk. The only time that cats should drink milk is when they are weaning, and this is milk from their mother or specifically formulated kitten milk. Kittens are born to digest the sugar in milk as this sugar is a valuable source of energy for young animals, but at around eight weeks of age the enzyme, lactase, that enables them to digest it disappears from the gut. After a kitten has been weaned, milk is not necessary in a cat’s diet. Milk, especially ordinary cow’s milk, can be very harmful to their health - causing severe sickness and diarrhoea. This is because the undigested lactose stays in their intestines rather than passing into the bloodstream, where it could possibly ferment due to the bacteria found there. The problems often appear around eight to twelve hours after drinking the milk, with the sickness and diarrhoea proving potentially fatal to young kittens as their body dehydrates very quickly. Milk can also be very high in fat. One saucer of milk is the equivalent to four burgers – based on an average sized woman and a 4.5kg cat. Fresh, clean water is the only drink cats need.

What Do Kittens Drink?

Before kittens are weaned onto a wet or dry food they only need their mother’s milk to grow and develop healthily, as this contains all the nutrients that they need. If, for whatever reason, the kitten is an orphan or cannot drink their mother’s milk, then it should be replaced with specifically formulated kitten milk. It is important to never use normal cow’s milk as this doesn’t have everything in that kittens need to develop. It is advised to wean kittens when they reach around four weeks old and start off slowly with a little solid food. Always provide fresh clean drinking water.

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What Do Adult Cats Drink?

Adult Cats only need water for a balanced diet and it is important that fresh, clean drinking water is available at all times. How much they drink daily depends on many factors such as; age, size, weight and whether they eat wet or dry food. Getting cats to drink water can be quite a challenging task as they can be very wary of it and aren’t always thirsty when they should be. There are things you can do to encourage them to drink and make it more fun for them, such as purchasing a cat fountain which will make them think they are drinking straight from the sink.

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