Cute internet videos tell redemption stories of female dogs who decide to nurse young kittens. Some lost their puppies while others may have never given birth but chose to adopt kittens as their own. As adorable as this sounds, can cats be nursed using dog milk? The short answer is they can, as a temporary measure, but generally, they shouldn’t as dog milk is not nutritionally suitable for them.
Can Cats Drink Dog Milk?
Cats and dogs may seem similar but they are biologically very different. For example, cats are obligate carnivores that require meat to survive while dogs are technically omnivores that need meat and plant material. The nutritional content of breast milk naturally reflects the mom’s diet, so you ideally want to match milk with the appropriate species.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. Perhaps you find a stranded litter of kittens, the pet stores are closed, and you have a nursing dog at home. In emergency cases like this, it’s okay to give dog milk to kittens. It won’t hurt them as a temporary measure and it might even save their life, similar to how homemade kitten formula can keep a kitten from starving.
However, on a normal basis, you should try to match the species to the appropriate milk or formula. The nutritional requirements for canines and felines differ. For example, because cats eat more meat than dogs, their milk contains more protein. Giving the wrong type of milk can result in stunted growth or digestive upset, especially if continued over time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to upset a kitten or puppy’s tummy. Diarrhea and vomiting can quickly dehydrate young puppies and kittens, so it’s best to only give them species appropriate milk or formula, if at all possible, to stay safe.
Can Cats Have Dairy?
Like humans, most cats are born with the natural ability to process lactose. Over time, however, this tolerance tapers off until they are considered lactose intolerant. For some cats, this is a rather quick process that occurs shortly after weaning. Others may remain somewhat tolerant with lactose into their adult lives.
The majority of cats are lactose intolerant. Since dairy isn’t a dietary requirement, it’s often recommended to avoid giving your cat milk, yogurt, or cheese. However, intolerance isn’t the same as an allergy and very few cats are actually allergic to cow’s milk. If your cat can digest dairy without any digestive upset, then it’s safe to give them a little lap of milk or a bite of cheese occasionally.
The best option for feeding a neonatal kitten is to purchase a commercial kitten milk replacer. In a pinch, you can also make homemade kitten formula from cow’s milk, egg yolks, and Karo syrup. It’s important to note that you should never substitute cow’s milk for cat’s milk for long-term use, though. Cow’s milk contains more lactose, carbohydrates, and sugar than cat’s milk. Remember, an animal’s breast milk reflects the animal’s diet, and cows are vegetarians. Thus, their milk isn’t a suitable meal replacement for carnivorous cats.
Can Cats Drink Human Milk?
As you might suspect by now, human milk doesn’t contain enough protein to sustain a young kitten since humans are omnivorous by nature. While human milk probably wouldn’t hurt them, it shouldn’t be used as a kitten milk replacement.
In an emergency situation, it’s okay to feed dog milk to a kitten. However, the different dietary requirements of the two species, as well as a kitten’s fragile physical state, make it crucial to match milk or formula to the appropriate species as soon as possible. While some cats can digest dairy, the majority of felines are lactose intolerant. It’s usually best to avoid giving dairy to your adult cat and only temporarily give dog’s milk, or even cow’s milk, to a kitten in a life-or-death scenario. The best milk for a kitten is milk from their biologically appropriate species or a commercially produced formula that’s safe and suited to their needs.
Featured Image Credit: WilleeCole Photography, Shutterstock