Friday, March 15, 2019

In defense of using goat milk for bottle feeding kittens




A while back I did some research to show that goat milk has enough taurine to properly nourish nursing kittens to debunk a myth that keeps popping up.

Now I am running into people who love to tout that goats are herbivores and cats are carnivores so "obviously" the milk is not enough for a carnivore. They also like to trot out the "Milk Compostion - Species Table" (sic) to prove it


So, if you only look at this, I can understand why you might be fearful of using goat milk for neonatal kittens. Mother's milk is 10.9% fat and goat is only 3.5%.  Sounds dramatic doesn't it?

But since we have no source of actual cat milk that we can obtain (other than a lactating mother cat and if you can get one of these this post is mute) comparing goat milk to cat milk doesn't really get us the information we need.  Most people who are feeding kittens are using a commercial milk replacer. In general, most people in the US are using KMR (yes there are others, but KMR is what is you often hear as a recommendation)

So, what is the calorie content of KMR. According to the PetAg website, KMR has 11 kcal/Tbs and crude fat is (min) 4.5%.  This is dramatically less than the 10.9% of cat milk, yet this is the standard for commercial milk replacers that so many people swear by..

Goat milk? One Tbs is 0.5 fl oz. and goat milk has 21 calories per ounce, so it is pretty much equivalent calorie wise. Since goat milk is 3.5% fat and KMR is 4.5% fat, we are still in that same range.. especially when you consider that a lot of kittens become constipated on KMR and the first thing people recommend to combat that is to dilute the formula, so they have fewer grams of fat and fewer calories per ounce. Kittens might need to eat a little more goat milk vs KMR reconstituted as directed, but that doesn't mean it is bad or lacking. And if you are diluting KMR with three to one instead of the two to one, ounce per ounce goat milk wins calorically and on fat content (but again, you just feed the kitten a little more and they get what they need)

Lastly, I really want you to know what you are feeding when you are feeding a commercial milk replacer, so take a look at the ingredient list of KMR.


If you look at the other popular milk replacer in the US, Breeder's Edge, their % are also not in line with the milk composition chart of cat milk. This one has much higher percentages.

Both products uses cow milk as a base despite people who save kittens being immediately warned to not feed cow milk because the lactose is hard on kittens. Goat milk naturally has lower levels of lactose than cow's milk (10% less) and it has smaller fat globules as well as higher levels of medium chain fatty acids.  The smaller globules mean easier digestion. Goat milk also has 89% less Alpha A1 Casein*  which is notoriously hard for humans to digest; is this important in cats? Well, I honestly do not know, but when you feed cow milk the cats react to it and have diarrhea and left untreated can lead to dehydrated kittens that are under nourished.  When you feed goat milk you generally get well formed stools (unless the kitten has parasites) and they thrive. They are very fat and happy..

I have heard, in defense of commercial products using cow milk, that overly processing the milk makes it easier for the kittens to digest. The fact that there are so many cats out there that owe their lives to KMR bears that out. My thoughts on that is that the health communities for every species are touting that fresh is more nutritious and overly processed food is hard on the body.

As for the idea that "no vet recommends it" that many detractors will say, I have talked to people who have said their vet does recommend it. Is second or third hand knowledge enough to "prove" anything, no, but then again hearing that "no vet recommends goat milk" is just as useless because chances are no one has talked to all of the vets. You will hear that "no vet recommends raw food" but we know that is not true as several vets have websites out there talking about recommending raw food. Then there is the consideration of liability. If a vet recommends that you use KMR and the product fails your kitten, KMR takes on that liability. If a vet recommends goat milk, the vet takes on the liability. There is no "goat milk for kittens" company who has done the research to share with vets that commercial companies do, nor is there a "big goat milk company" who is willing to step up and take that on.  Does this mean there is risk? There is always risk, but I do not believe more than any other product. Every cat is different and there is no doubt that some kittens might fail to thrive on goat milk just as some kittens fail to thrive on commercial milk and some kittens fail to thrive on their mother's milk.

In the end, I'm not telling you that you should not use KMR or Breeders Edge. If that is what you are comfortable with, by all means, I will support you fully in that. I will absolutely be your champion for feeding a hungry kitten. I just want to defend the choice of using goat milk for motherless kittens and address some of the misinformation I have heard out there.

7 comments:

  1. It's so important to point these things out. There is so much misinformation going around, and humans treat it like it's true!

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  2. I'm torn. One part of me wants to rage that you have nothing to prove ... but on the other hand, I'm impressed that people do the research and form opinions on something cat-related - even if they are misguided.

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  3. According to the first chart, it looks like the best substitute would be dolphin milk. ;-) I agree with your "less processed" argument. But it's hard to argue with success and scary to take a chance with fragile little lives! Maybe people (including me) who've never used goat milk could consider trying it while having a more conventional solution ready and waiting. Frankly, I think goat milk would be a LOT easier to use! Very glad my current little peanut has a mama!

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    1. I was scared the first time I tried it. I had someone I respected who had experience telling me that she loved it and kittens thrived but I still kept commercial milk on hand. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with using both. Really, it is what you feel comfortable with as long as the kitten is being fed and is happy, all is good.

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  4. I think we have to use what we have access too and what is helping the kitten thrive. Having options is better than nothing....and like people, kittens are all different.

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  5. You are more an expert in this field than anyone that I know, so your recommendations carry weight! I have not yet had neonatal kitten experience, so I'll fill this information in my 'hope to foster' file for the future! Thank you for caring for the wee ones.

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  6. We didn't know about it, that's great information ! Thank you for sharing with us ! Purrs

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