Thanks to the internet a lot of cat guardians know that domestic cats are lactose intolerant. However, many cat owners are unsure about it or don’t really give it enough attention. Some people are lactose intolerant too just like cats and adult cats are lactose intolerant to varying degrees.
What is lactose intolerance?
The lactose which is in milk requires the intestinal enzyme lactase to digest it. I’ll quote Linda P. Case in her book The Cat, Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health as she explains it nicely:
As in most mammals, the cat’s intestinal mucosa has decreased lactase activity as the cat reached maturity. This change results in lactose maldigestion. Undigested lactose travels to the large intestine, where it is fermented by bacteria, resulting in the production of gas, loose stools, and possibly diarrhoea.
To put in another way adult cats can’t digest milk properly because they don’t have the enzyme in their gut to do it. This can result in diarrhoea. But the severity varies from cat to cat because the ability to digest lactose varies in cats. Of course it also depends on the amount of diary produce given.
The fact is that adult cats like milk and cream because it is fatty but they don’t realise it is not entirely suitable for them. Before weaning kittens consume lactose as a carbohydrate source in their mother’s milk. However, once weaned, lactose is not in the adult cat’s diet unless a cat owner is feeding their cat milk as a treat!
The typical advice is that it’s okay to give your cat some milk or cream from time to time but don’t overdo it for the reasons outlined above. Commerical cat milk is lactose free. I give my cat lactose free milk for humans sometimes. Cat owners who let their cat go outside might be unaware that their cat has diarrhea if they poop outside which would be normal. They will be unaware of the consequences of providing their cat with a treat of mlik.
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