Kittens should ideally be nursed by their mother for the first few weeks of their life. Although kittens can safely drink milk, it depends entirely on the type of milk they are drinking. The source of the milk should be specifically formulated for kittens and contain similar nutrients that they would receive from a nursing mother cat.
Many kitten owners are unaware of the risks associated with feeding their kitten any type of milk they see in their fridge or from a grocery store. These types of human-grade milk should be avoided altogether for the health of your kitten.
What Is Nursing Cats’ Milk?
First, it is essential to understand why a mother’s milk is so important for young kittens. This will further help you understand why other types of milk can be harmful and risky to give your kittens.
Once the mother cat has given birth, her milk supply will contain high amounts of colostrum. This helps to build the young kitten’s immunity and provides them with antibodies to give them a better chance of survival. Without colostrum in a kitten’s milk, their immunity will decrease and cause them to be at risk of diseases and declining health.
The milk supply contains a high amount of colostrum during the first 72 hours after birth, and it will decrease after a week. The milk will then turn to a more whiteish color and keep the kittens healthy and satiated until they are weaned at around 8 to 10 weeks of age.
Furthermore, cat milk is specially produced to aid in a kitten’s growth, development, and weight distribution. The milk will rarely negatively affect the kitten and cause problems such as bloating. The right amount of proteins and fats are produced by a nursing mother cat, and other milk does not have the same properties.
When Should You Give Kittens Milk?
If you have taken in an abandoned kitten, or if the mother cat is no longer nursing, then it is necessary that you intervene and serve your kitten’s milk yourself.
You can feed your kittens milk if:
It is not ideal to supplement the kittens with another source of milk before they are weaned, as this has no real benefit and kittens get everything that they need nutrition-wise from their mother. It can be especially detrimental to give your cat other forms of human-grade milk (cow or goat) during their nursing stage and should be avoided altogether. Keep in mind that this milk is only suitable for baby cows or goats, and the process the milk goes through to be safe for human consumption removes all the necessary nutritional benefits your kitten needs.
If your kitten is no longer nursing from the mother, then the safest option is to provide them with a kitten milk replacement that has been supplemented with colostrum.
Can Kittens Drink Cow’s Milk?
Kittens should not drink cow’s milk as it is not suitable for their nutritional requirements. Giving your kitten cow’s milk can cause issues with their growth, development, and weight, and cause them to become malnourished.
This is mainly because cows’ milk is full of fat and lacks the essential nutrients a young kitten requires. Kittens also lack the proper enzymes needed to digest the form of lactose found in cows’ milk which can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and gastrointestinal distress.
Can Kittens Drink Goats Milk?
Goat milk is also low in protein and fat, so it is not a good form of milk overall. Just like cow’s milk, goat milk contains high levels of lactase which can cause your cat to develop diarrhea, bloating, and constipation. Kittens should not be fed goat’s milk because it is nutritionally inadequate for their sensitive stomachs.
Can Kittens Drink Plant-Based Milk?
Almond, soy, coconut, and rice milk are to be strictly avoided. This is because plant-based milk has vastly different properties and nutrients which are not suitable for kittens. Plant-based milk can cause your kitten to become severely undernourished in a short period and should not be fed to kittens who have not been weaned.
However, your kitten can drink this milk as a treat occasionally once they are older, but it still has no real nutritional benefit for them and can cause gastrointestinal discomfort if it is overconsumed.
What Types of Milk Can Kittens Drink?
Kittens that are younger than 8 weeks of age should be fed a kitten milk replacer such as PetAg Petlac Kitten Powder until they are weaned. During this time, you should not give them cow or goat milk, or plant-based milk. There are many kitten milk replacers on the market, so speak to your veterinarian to decide which is best for your kitten.
Your kitten will then begin to eat solid food which should consist of high-quality kitten food. Even once the kitten has been weaned, you should still avoid giving them milk as it is unnecessary for their life stage. Kittens will generally become lactose intolerant after weaning, so all sources of animal milk will cause stomach discomfort and loose stools.
Overall, it is best to leave cow, goat, and plant-based milk out of your kitten’s diet. Once the kitten has been weaned, they do not require the nutrition provided by milk and it can cause more harm than good.
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