Lactose free milk for cats – is it just a passing fad or is it here to stay? Is this alternative product really good for cats? In this article, we will address this topic and you can decide whether you need to hop on to the ‘lactose-free bandwagon as well.
So what exactly is Lactose-free milk? This is regular milk from which the ingredient Lactose is removed. Newer studies have shown that drinking milk can create deficiencies in cats. Some cats have issues like bloating, vomiting and diarrhea when consuming lactose. Hence people are slowly looking for this alternative for their cats.
Myth: Milk is good for cats
Folklore has it that cats love milk. When scientists did their research, they found that most cats did like the smell of it. Yet it might not be good for your cat is what science tells us. Hence, this myth does not hold true. So what is it that they found out?
First of all, yes, we have all seen kittens and cats being fed dairy products. They did look fine, yet, did you know that all cats might not be able to digest it?
It can actually cause severe health concerns in cats. Kittens on the other hand are not as intolerant as adult cats.
The reason is that Kittens have the necessary enzyme (lactase) to digest dairy.
Most grown cats lack the necessary enzymes (lactase) to digest this.
So, you may notice that your kitten was fine when you gave her cow milk, but the grown cat does not tolerate it well. This is because as the cat grows it loses the lactase in some cases.
Today we have many brands selling this alternative product.
These product does not have the trouble-causing ingredient – lactose, which can cause a lot of health issues and distress.
There is another theory where people believe that cats can be given an unpasteurized version of milk instead of boiled milk. It is said that it is better to give it unpasteurized as the bacteria present might have already broken down the lactase.
Yet if your cat shows the distress signals and symptoms mentioned below, just stop giving the cat any dairy at all.
Why you should never give milk to cats
Feeding diary in its pure form can cause deficiencies in cats. Taurine, Zinc, Iron, Copper, and Manganese deficiencies can occur if cats are fed only this ( that is if they are able to digest it). Some people argue that skimmed version can be given as technically it is not in its purest form.
In reality, this is also not suitable for cats with lactose intolerance.
Apart from the lactose intolerance concern, cats fail to get Vitamins A, D, and essential fatty acids from skim milk.
Benefits of Lactose Free Milk
Vitamin A, Vitamin D, essential proteins are present in this ( just as in regular milk). The added benefit is lactose intolerance can be eliminated in cats while providing nutrients.
It is said that only about 0.005% of the cat population can be affected by dairy products.
You can spot the signs of this issue in cats pretty quickly.
What are the issues you can identify that cats have with dairy?
Not all cats might have issues with dairy. Yet if your cat shows signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, signs of having abdominal pain, excessive gas, increased thirst, increased heart rate then these are warning signs that your cat might have lactose intolerance.
Can a cat be put on a diet of Lactose-free dairy products? There are two viewpoints on this. Some say it is good, some say that the high sugar content in this type of milk is harmful to cats.
It can make them obese.
The choice ultimately is with you, in consultation with your vet.
Cats can have health issues that cause severe weight loss and if their internal organs are weak or affected, the lactose-free version can provide the necessary nutrients in these cases.
There are many brands that may claim to be devoid of lactose, but if you look at ingredients, they are not really 100% free of this component.
To worsen it they also might contain preservatives, soy, gluten, antibiotics, preservatives, and growth hormones. All of these can be harmful to your cats. So, check the ingredients and pick the best one based on your cat’s dietary requirements.
If your cat has constipation, find a lactose-free milk substitute that has a lot of fiber.
If your kitten is weak, looking malnourished, you need more calories, protein for building her energy and strength back.
Some aging cats cannot digest almost anything, their vision might be failing. For such cats ensure that the milk is loaded with taurine.
Feral cats and kittens, stray kittens you find, who need to be nursed back to health can be immediately moved on this product
Some vets recommend Pedialyte as an alternative too.
There are many cat parents who feel that lactose-free milk is a better alternative to Pedialyte.
Not only does it help quell the hunger pains, but it also adds in vitamins and other nutrients for the overall development of kittens.
Types of the product available
This product is available in powdered and liquid form. It comes in bottles, tetra packs, and containers.
There usually is a short shelf life, based on the ingredients used. Some of them can be used for up to 3 years.
How to use this product
If you are considering using this alternative here are some helpful tips on the right way to use this.
Abandoned, nursing kittens can be nursed back to health with this milk. Mix the powder with warm water and feed it using a feeding bottle.If you are using the liquid form then dilute it before feeding the kittens. It might be too rich and thick for very tiny kittens.
Whenever you introduce this to a kitten, make sure you do that in small quantities.Never feed it to a cold kitten. Warm the kitten up and then feed warm milk to it.
Adult cats can be picky (as a side note my kitten was picky as well). They might not take to this as readily as kittens do. Introduce them slowly to this product as a supplement to their present diet.
Irrespective of whether your cat is a kitten or a grown adult cat, this product should not be the only food given to them. This should be a part of their diet. Keep feeding your cat regular cat food whether it be nibbles or wet food along with this milk.
If your kittens are just starting on wet and dry food, mix in a little with their food. We do not want to bring in too many variations too soon.
Kittens and cats need to be gradually moved to new foods as they are highly sensitive.
Many pet owners mention that kittens take to this easily but cats are reluctant to. Our advice is to be patient and go slow. Play it by the ear. If the cat shows sensitivity to the diet change leave it or find another alternative.