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Lactose Intolerance in Cats

There are a few things in the world that undeniably belong together: peanut butter & jelly, hotdogs & mustard, coffee & donuts. However, one dynamic duo can no longer make the list: your kitty & a bowl of milk. What many people do not know is that lactose intolerance is common in our furry feline friends. Like humans, cats often develop this intolerance over time. In order to digest milk, cats need a specific enzyme (lactase) that diminishes as our cats grow older. While kittens love milk (and usually can digest it easier), it still isn’t in the best interest of our friends’ little tummies. Mama cat knows best- her milk is very different than cow milk.

Cows’ milk contains amounts of whey and casein that kittens’ bodies are not ready for. So, what are our options? There are several brands of cat milk replacers available at pet stores. (PetSmart has some!) These are especially important for those of us raising an orphan kitten. Lactose-free milk products are balanced to treat your cat's digestive system gently. For grown cats, even without the lactose, these products should only be given in small amounts, as a treat.

Any nutrients milk contains can be found in your cat's food. Allowing your cat to have milk isn’t providing her with any extra nutrients. Additionally, milk's high calorie count is a contributing factor to feline obesity. Intolerance to milk acts like many other allergies. It can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach and skin problems.

We should be turning to water; it’s essential. Cats need water to regulate body temperature, digest food, eliminate waste and allow electrolytes to pass through their bodies. If you don't think your cat is getting enough water, try using a flowing water bowl and placing various bowls of water around the house. While I don’t condone my cats licking my faucet nozzles, I know they’re just thirsty. When I’m not home, I leave a bowl of water in the tub and in the bathroom sink.

I had always thought it was strange that my Captain didn’t like milk. I thought all cats loved it. Nevertheless, I stopped offering it to him years ago- and boy, am I sure glad I did! Water is your best, healthiest bet. Of course it’ll be hard for some of us to break old habits, but try lactose-free milk until you can wean your furry felines off of it for good! You’ll be glad you did!

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