Most cats have digestive systems that are perfectly capable of processing meat. In fact, some cats even enjoy eating meat more than they do their usual diet of fish, bird, and other feline favorites. But you might be surprised to learn that many cats actually prefer the taste of dairy products especially when those dairy products contain lactose (as opposed to lactalbumin).
In this article, we’ll look at whether your cat can safely eat dairy, including how much, what kind of dairy product, and how to get the most out of the experience for both you and Fido.
First on our list is an old favorite among felines: raw milk. It contains high levels of fat-soluble vitamins A and D and has been shown in studies to promote healthy teeth and gums. However, as with any food, there may be risks associated with consuming raw milk from cows, goats, or sheep.
These include disease transmissions, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), as well as contamination by parasites and bacteria. Raw milk also can carry E. coli infections, which could make your cat sick. To avoid these problems, pasteurize the milk before feeding it to your pet.
Cats and Lactose
The majority of adult people don’t produce enough stomach acid to break down the sugar in milk into its component parts. This means that humans must consume the sugars contained within milk through other sources. Cats, however, produce plenty of gastric juices. As a result, cats are able to digest the lactose found in milk without needing the presence of stomach acids.
Humans, on the other hand, need stomach acid in order to properly break down the sugars in milk. Without sufficient amounts of stomach acid, human adults cannot process all of the lactose in milk. This causes bloating and flatulence in some individuals, while others suffer severe intestinal discomfort.
Some cats, however, lack the necessary enzymes to convert lactose into glucose. For these kitties, raw milk is often the only option for them. Other animals, like dogs, can digest lactose because they possess the enzyme lactase. While this doesn’t mean every dog will want to lap up milk straight from the kitchen sink, it does mean that raw milk isn’t necessarily harmful to your canine friend.
While your cat may be able to tolerate the lactose in milk, he or she won’t be able to reap all of the nutrients found in the protein, fats, and carbohydrates present in dairy products. That’s where another animal comes into play — humans. We’re the ones who can create dairy products rich in calcium, vitamin B12, and protein.
And since we’re not naturally equipped to process lactose, we’ve developed special digestive systems that allow us to ingest dairy products and still absorb the benefits. Next, let’s take a closer look at how milk gets broken down inside your cat’s body so it can be absorbed.
Lactose intolerance occurs when someone fails to produce enough saliva containing enough hydrochloric acid needed to break down the sugar. The condition is common in children but can also occur in older adults due to medication use or poor oral hygiene. If your child or elderly relative suffers from lactose intolerance, try giving him or her foods low in lactose until his or her body builds up its tolerance.
Lactase Breasts Milk Sugar
When you think about milk, you probably picture a bowl full of steaming hot liquid. You see, though, that’s not exactly how milk works. When milk first arrives in your mouth, it looks pretty gross. After all, milk is basically water with proteins floating around in it. It’s only after the proteins settle to the bottom that you realize it’s actually edible stuff. So why bother swallowing something that tastes so bad right off the bat?
To understand how this happens, imagine a big vat of milk sitting on a restaurant table. You’d never start chugging away on top of the milk, would you? No, you’d wait until it was time to add the cheese and crackers.
The same goes for your cat. Before she swallows any milk, she needs to mix it with gastric juices produced by the stomach lining cells. Once mixed, the proteins in the milk begin to clump together and form curds. Next, the mammary glands secrete colostrum, which coats the small intestine walls and allows the now-formed curds to pass through more easily.
Once the milk reaches the small intestine, the next step is for pancreatic proteases to break down the curds into smaller pieces. Then the pancreas releases insulin to transport the resulting peptides into the bloodstream. Finally, the blood transports the peptides to the liver, where they’re eventually converted to glucose.
Your cat’s ability to handle milk is determined by her breed and genetics. Some cats’ bodies naturally produce large quantities of an enzyme called lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. Lactose intolerance occurs when a person lacks enough lactase production to break down all of the lactose in milk.
Since cats don’t produce enough of the required enzyme, they have trouble absorbing all of the calcium, vitamin B12, and protein in milk. There are several different types of lactose intolerances. One type results from damage to the small intestines caused by diseases or injury, while another type occurs due to a genetic deficiency.
But what if you feed your cat raw milk anyway? Read on to find out why some experts say it’s better left to the birds…or perhaps you should consider raising your own kitten instead.
The Case Against Cat Milk
Many veterinarians and nutritionists believe that lactose intolerance is a myth perpetuated by the dairy industry. They argue that the average American consumes far too much milk compared to the amount that would be detrimental to health. For one thing, Americans tend to consume three times their recommended daily intake of milk. And even if someone did manage to successfully absorb all of the calcium in milk, the excess consumption would lead to weight gain and bone loss. Excess dietary calcium can also cause kidney stones.
Another concern is that dairy products often contain antibiotics and growth hormones, substances that aren’t good for the environment or the consumer. And then there’s the potential for contamination by E. Coli. Many experts recommend choosing organic dairy over conventional options whenever possible.
Raw milk is a controversial topic among nutritionists and public health officials. Although it is known to have higher concentrations of certain nutritional elements, such as vitamin C, it also can carry disease-causing organisms such as Salmonella, Mycobacterium avium, and Campylobacter. Moreover, it’s difficult to determine the quality of milk-based on its appearance alone. A farmer may claim his milk is Grade A, yet it may have been contaminated during transportation.
And although cats are biologically suited to digesting milk, the practice isn’t always safe. For example, young kittens under 8 weeks old shouldn’t be fed raw milk, as they haven’t fully developed their immune system. Also, pregnant women should consult their veterinarian prior to nursing their kitten’s raw milk.
If you’re interested in making your own homemade kitten milk, continue reading.
Although the debate continues regarding the effects of raw milk on human health, research indicates that raw milk is beneficial in two ways. First, it helps to maintain regularity and prevent constipation. Second, it’s said to boost energy and reduce symptoms of allergies. It’s thought that the fatty acids in raw milk help to strengthen the skin and keep it moist.
How to Make Your Own Kitten Milk?
There are a few different methods used to extract milk from your cat’s udders. Most involve either manual squeezing or the action of centrifugal force. Manual extraction involves placing your cat on a piece of cloth and pressing downward using a wooden spoon. Centrifugal milking machines, on the other hand, consist of a container attached to a motorized device that spins rapidly. During centrifugation, the milk is separated from the whey and collected in containers.
You can purchase commercial milk replacer powder from pet stores, which typically consists of corn gluten meal, soybean flour, and minerals. Dry milk replacement powders are designed specifically for pets. Wet milk replacements are made by pouring fresh milk into a warm pan and adding starter cultures and rennet.
Rennet is a substance secreted by the stomachs of calves, which causes coagulation of milk proteins. Once the mixture curdles, it’s poured into molds and allowed to sit overnight. The following day it’s cut into squares and placed onto trays to dry. These cubes are called cottage cheese.
Of course, you can skip all of the extra work and simply give your cat raw milk straight from the source. Just be sure to check for signs of illness, such as diarrhea, which could indicate infection.