If you saw a cat on TV while growing up, chances are that kitty at some point was lapping up a bowl of milk. The idea that cats love milk came from…somewhere! While many cats definitely do enjoy the taste of milk, drinking milk isn’t inherently a feline thing. You’d be surprised to discover that cats and milk don’t always go together, despite what movies have shown us!
How Did Cats Start Drinking Milk?
What started the whole cat’s love to drink milk thing was the truth of course! Stereotypes have to come from somewhere and cats loving milk came from one place: a farm.
Yes, cats live on farms and they love to chill in barns. They have no problem hanging out with the cows, goats, or sheep. With these dairy animals around, milk is one of the easiest sources of nourishment. Cats adore the rich and sweet texture of whole milk. This image of cats drinking up milk in a picturesque farm setting soon proliferated through media, aligning kitties with milk everywhere.
We can blame Disney
So, how do things typically spread everywhere? Media, duh. This is what pushed the cat’s love milk agenda the most, with Disney at the helm.
Have you ever seen The Aristocats? I’m sure you have. This charming film of cats in Paris graced the childhoods of many generations. This movie actually came out in 1970 (I know, hard to believe!) But, what most remember from this adorable movie was the evil Edgar sedating the cats through their milk. The scene of the cats drinking all the milk is one that we won’t forget.
The movie isn’t wrong, cats do love milk. But, milk isn’t necessarily a go-to drink for cats. But, as we know, Disney loves to romanticize things. And, what could be cuter than a bunch of kitties drinking milk altogether?
Cats are like humans (sort of)
Hear us out on this one – the way cats drink milk is similar to how humans drink milk. When born, cats, humans, and all mammals are able to digest lactose. That’s because we have an enzyme called lactase in our bodies. This enzyme makes it easy for mammals to digest their mother’s milk.
Once mammals are weaned from their mothers, their lactase production decreases. Now, every human and cat has its own unique body. For some, the loss of lactase doesn’t affect them much. But, many others develop lactose intolerance, which isn’t a fun thing to have.
Does this sound familiar? I bet it does. I’m sure you have a friend or two that’s lactose-intolerant, while you may be able to enjoy a bowl of cereal with no problem at all (or maybe it’s vice versa.) Either way, just because cats may love milk doesn’t mean they should drink it. The answer is the same for us humans. If your cat can safely digest milk, they can drink it in moderation. But, your kitty can be lactose-intolerant too, and this shouldn’t be ignored.
The stereotyping of cats drinking milk doesn’t necessarily make milk off-limits. Whether or not a cat can drink milk depends on the cat. As we know, not all cats are the same. Some are shy, some are active, while most are lactose intolerant. The kitty diversity never ends…
It isn’t rocket science to figure out if your cat is lactose intolerance. Your cat will have clear and obvious symptoms. These can range from a terrible stomach ache to vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms typically occur within 8 to 12 hours of digesting milk. If you notice them, it’s best to keep milk out of your cat’s diet, period.
For cats that don’t show any lactose intolerance symptoms, you still need to be a little careful with milk. The fats and sugars in milk can definitely make a kitty gain extra weight, fast. If your cat is super active, this may not make much of a difference. But, for any creature, a balanced diet is absolutely necessary for a happy and healthy life. Therefore, it’s always best to give milk as a treat to your cat, rather than a regular snack.
There is no doubt cats love milk. But, whether or not it’s good for them varies from kitty to kitty. The next time your cat is eager to dive into your leftover cereal milk, it’s best to think twice – it might save your cat a major tummy ache. Remember just because your cat loves milk, doesn’t mean they should always drink it!