I don’t know about you, but the moment my cat hears the kettle go on, he starts. The milk mania. He meows and meows, until finally someone in the house can’t take it anymore and gives him a small splash of milk. This quiet doesn’t last long. Before I can’t put milk in my coffee, his is gone and it starts all over again…

Now I do try to resist and some days I get it right, but every time this morning milk-madness starts, I look into those gorgeous green eyes and ask myself, “Is milk really THAT bad for cats?” I’m pretty sure he can read my mind because he responds with a soft, pleading meow gently assuring me, “Yes mommy, milk is super healthy for cats. Please may I have some more?”



Milk is 90% water. It contains sugars (mainly lactose), protein, fat and some minerals. Sounds great actually… so what’s the fuss?

As cats get older, they don’t produce the enzyme lactase anymore. This enzyme is what breaks down the sugar (lactose) in milk and allows it to be absorbed by the body. Because of this, the lactose stays in the cat’s gastrointestinal tract until it passes all the way through. A small amount of milk shouldn’t cause a problem, but the more milk in the gut, the more water is drawn in. This excess volume of fluid in the intestines can cause abdominal discomfort, cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.

 On the other hand, constipated kitties can benefit from a bit of milk every day to help their tummies go, but there are better options available, like lactulose, which are easy to get hold of and won’t add to their waistline.

Adult humans also don’t have the enzyme lactase as they get older but we don’t all get sick when we drink milk. Many of us have it daily without a problem, unless you’re lactose intolerant. It’s the same for cats. My one cat can lap up a bowl-full without a problem, the other boy will vomit within 10 minutes of his morning-mania-milk.


Well, actually, it’s not THAT bad for cats… in small amounts, and it’s not THAT good either. 

Along with the upset tummy issues, the excess fat and protein can unbalance their diet and cause weight gain. Diabetic cats or cats prone to urinary issues should stay away from milk as the glucose, excess calcium and other minerals can cause issues with blood sugar and urine crystals.


If he can tolerate it, and if it’s safe to do so. Just don’t give in to him too often, like me… guilty as charged.

Tags: milk cat
Dr Tanya Viljoen
After studying at Onderstepoort, Tanya worked in private practice for 4 years focused mainly on dogs and cats. She believes that the human- animal bond is a precious and essential part of life.
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