What Do Cats Drink?

Unlike humans, cats should only really drink one thing – water. Despite popular belief, milk is not good for cats, so it’s best to steer clear of dairy. But why?
Fluffy cat staring into camera
Fluffy cat staring into camera
Fluffy cat staring into camera

It’s important that your cat is properly hydrated all the time, particularly as they’re good at ignoring thirst if their water doesn’t suit them. However, there are many myths surrounding what cats can and can’t drink, including their love of milk.

Can cats drink milk?

Adult cats should not drink milk. Despite popular belief, milk can be harmful to their health. Kittens should only drink milk when they are very young, but this will be milk that comes from their mother (or a specially designed ‘kitten formula milk’ if necessary). In short, there is no need to give cow’s milk to any cat or kitten.

If you give your cat milk, they may well decide to drink it, particularly if there is any cream on top. This is because cats value the high fat content – after all, fat is a very valuable foodstuff in the wild, particularly if an animal isn’t being fed every day! Your cat, however, should already have a completed and balanced diet, meaning the extra fat isn’t necessary for their health – no matter how attractive it seems. Furthermore, most supermarket milk doesn’t contain a large amount of fat, so there is very little benefit for your cat at all.

Adults cats also have difficulty digesting milk. Kittens have an enzyme in their stomachs that allows them to break down lactose, but adults cats don’t. Instead, the lactose in the milk may cause an upset stomach when it begins to ferment. Kittens are able to drink milk if you give it to them, but it’s rarely necessary.

Some pet shops sell special ‘cat milk’ which has reduced lactose. This can be used as a delicious treat for your pet, and it can also help keep them hydrated. However, there is no need to give your cat or kitten ‘cat milk’ if you don’t wish.

If your cat has drunk any normal milk, keep an eye on them. If they appear unwell, ask your vet for advice.

Cat sitting next to bowl of water

What do kittens drink?

When kittens are very young, and before they are weaned, they only need their mother’s milk. This will be enough to help them grow healthily, without the need for anything else in their diet. Their mother’s milk contains all the nutrients a kitten needs until they begin the weaning process.

If your cat is an orphan, or for any other reason can’t drink their mother’s milk, they can get everything they need from ‘kitten formula milk’. You shouldn’t, however, use normal cow’s milk instead, as it doesn’t contain everything they need for their development.

Kittens will generally begin to wean around four weeks of age, at which point it’s time to start giving them a little solid food . At the same time you should provide them with fresh, clean drinking water. They are likely to take in a little of each – food, their mother’s milk (or formula milk), and water – so make sure the water bowl is always topped up.

What do cats drink?

Adult cats only need to drink water as part of a healthy, balanced diet. How much they drink depends on their age, size, whether they eat wet or dry food, and many other things. You can read more about how much your cat needs to drink here.

If you decide to give your feline friend ‘cat milk’ from the pet shop as a treat, just ensure they are still enjoying a balanced and healthy diet and that their treat is part of their daily food allowance.

The most important thing to remember is that fresh, clean water should be available to your cat and weaning (or weaned) kitten at all times. If they’re not tempted by their bowl of water, instead of reaching for the milk, find out how to encourage them to drink with the perfect bowl.