Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Should you feed kittens goat milk?

When you spend any time with a group of people who rescue orphaned kittens, you inevitably run into the question "What is the best milk for feeding kittens?"

Everyone has their own opinions. In the US there is KMR, Breeders Edge, and PetLac for commercial options and "kitten glop" and plain goat milk for homemade options.

I started using goat milk a few years ago when my friend asked me what I was using and told me how wonderful goat milk was. She had been using it a while and had great success with it. I was so reluctant to try it prior to this because while I heard it provided everything a kitten needed, I could find nothing on the internet or in any literature I could put my hands on that could confirm this. Having someone I trust tell me that it worked was enough for me. The next time I had a litter of kittens that needed to nurse I went out and bought some goat milk and tried it.

I kept the commercial stuff on hand on the off chance that it didn't work for me, but the kittens immediately started to thrive. I initially started with refrigerated Meyenbert goat milk because that was easiest to obtain. Having gone dairy free for a few months prior to this time I knew that it was available at my local grocery store and my local mega-mart. Once I was done with that I bought fresh raw goat milk at my local health food store, preferring that to the ultrapasteurized product. I will use either product. I have talked to many in rescue who have used both the canned and the powdered goat milk that is available in the cooking section of most grocery and mega-mart stores and they have had great success with those as well.

So I share my experiences with goat milk and how kittens grow fat and happy and have very good stool (provided they don't have parasites - which most kittens have) and inevitably someone comes along and tells me I am killing my kittens by feeding them goat milk or that I am doing severe long-term damage by feeding goat milk to kittens. They believe that goat milk does not contain taurine, an essential amino acid necessary for cats because they can not produce it themselves.

So, does goat milk have taurine? Yes. It does. Loads of it. What I had a very hard time proving is that goat milk provided enough taurine for kittens. I could not find a single source that told me exactly how much taurine is generally in goat milk, nor could I find how much taurine was in the commercial kitten replacers.

Wanting to have hard facts to share with people who won't take my word for it (and I am completely okay with that, I want people doing their own research) I decided to go directly to the source. I emailed PetAG and asked them directly how much taurine is in KMR. I received an email reply that said the taurine content in powdered KMR is 40 mg/100 grams (or 11.34 mg per ounce)

Now, how to determine how much taurine is in goat milk. Since the FDA doesn't require labeling of taurine content in food, I reached out to the popular goat milk provider in the US, Meyenberger, and the reply I received said there are approximately .075 milligrams of Taurine per ounce of the goat milk. I contacted Answers Pet Food who also sell goat milk and they say that goat milk has 2mg per ounce. So per 100 grams 0.2625 and 7mg respectively. A study in Italy of goat milk says there is 6.55mg per 100g. Another study puts it at 6.90 mg/100 g

So goat milk does provide less taurine than KMR, but how much do kittens need?

In 1982 I. H. Burger and K. C. Barnett determined that the requirement for taurine was 10 mg/kg bodyweight/day. So a four-ounce kitten (a newborn) would need 0.11kg*10mg=1.1mg per day.

So, if you are feeding the kitten approximately 48 mls (1 ounce =30 ml), which is the midline recommendation for newborn kittens, then the kitten is getting 1.2 milligrams of taurine. (0.075 mg of taurine per ounce *1.6 ounces) on the low end and 3.2 mg on the high. (2mg of taurine per ounce*1.6 ounces)

Is more taurine better? yes and no. Taurine is very important for so many different aspects of the body so having enough is very important but taurine is water soluble so if you feed more they simply urinate it out.

If you are concerned and want to err on the side of caution you can easily add in powdered taurine which is available at most health food stores or vitamin stores, as well as many online retailers.

I am happy to entertain any additional studies or information you have if you want to dispute my belief that goat milk is a complete and nutritious substitution for kitten milk for a kitten who does not have a mother to nurse off of or as a supplemental feeding if she is having a hard time keeping up with their demands. Personally, I prefer a source of raw (minimally processed) goat milk as I believe that the nutrients are higher and are better absorbed, but in reality, even ultra pasteurized goat milk makes very fat happy healthy kittens.


  1. I had no idea. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  2. Great detective work tracking down the facts on this! It’s surprising this information isn’t more available, and it’s really valuable for people wavering about whether to use goat milk or KMR.

  3. Good to know! You would think Answers at least would put the info out there. Honest Kitchen makes a powdered goat milk product that my cats love mixed with egg yolks for a treat (keeps them out of my ice cream lol.) I just looked, they don't list how much taurine is in it either

  4. You are truly the kitten expert. I never even considered this.

  5. glad you were able to find all that info - very interesting.....

  6. Thank you!!! My current foster babies are not gaining weight as I like them to... thinking of introducing goats milk to help...

  7. This is interesting, and good to know. When we adopted Sadie, she was estimated to be around 4 weeks old and could have benefited from goat's milk. You never know when you might need to know this kind of stuff.

  8. "very fat, happy healthy kittens"
    By the way, when I was recently have some gastrointestinal problems myself, The Hubby bought goat milk yogurt for me, and it helped! Smelled a bit goaty....

    1. The odor is usually caused by what feed they are eating. When I raised goats when I was young we fed sweet cow feed with molasses added to it. The milk didn't have a "goaty" smell or taste.

  9. How awesome that you went and researched this, and shared the results! All this is so good to know.

  10. Interesting. The mom tried to give us goat milk one time and we wouldn’t drink it. Actually, she put a little bit in our wet food and we wouldn’t eat the food.

  11. I never would've thought of goat milk - but it sounds like a success!

  12. Didn't know any of this and found it really interesting

  13. It would be interesting to know how much taurine is in a mother cat's milk to compare with the amount in commercial formula and goats milk.


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