I have lost count of the number of cat treats that I have bought for my cat over the years only to have him turn his nose up at. He will act all excited when he hears me tear open the packet but walk nonchalantly away after smelling the content.
However, it is a different story when it comes to my dog’s treat. My cat will always be interested to sneak a bite if given a chance. One popular dog treat that many dog owners know about is called Milk Bones.
But can cats eat milk bones without any problems? Milk bones might not be the best type of dog treat to be sharing with your cat. There are some ingredients in milk bones that are not very suitable for cats and the large size of a milk bone can be large enough to pose as a choking hazard for most cats.
Let us take a closer look at what goes into the making of milk bones and how suitable they are as a treat for our cats and even for our dogs for that matter.
What Are Milk Bones?
Despite its name, milk bones are exactly a dog treat that is made from bone. Milk bones are just dog biscuits that are shaped into a bone.
This doggie treat has been around since the early 1900s and got its name from having a high milk content from the manufacturing process.
Over the years, the composition of the biscuit has changed to its modern-day formula.
The main ingredients are:
- Ground whole wheat
- Wheat flour
- Meat and bone meal
- Beef fat (preserved with BHA/BHT)
Milk bones come in various sizes, flavors and some types are even meant to help clean your dog’s teeth. This dog treat is meant to be fed as a snack to dogs on top of their usual dog food.
Why Do Some Cats Like Milk Bones?
There can be valid reasons as to why cats are drawn to some of our dog’s treats. It isn’t because our feline friends are greedy, it’s usually the case of my dog trying to steal my cat’s food, but there could be an ingredient or two in milk bones that your cat’s nose finds appealing.
The one ingredient that stands out to me is milk.
Many cats love the smell and taste of milk due to the large amount of animal fat present. This can be cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, etc.
Cats are drawn to the smell of animal fat and protein due to them being obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivores need protein and fat from an animal source to survive. The best type of cat food for your cat is one that is very high in animal protein.
This is why some cats are known to eat earplugs due to the presence of earwax on them. And earwax contains secretion from our fat and sweat glands as well as dead skin.
Not the tastiest of snacks but it probably smells like a bbq meal to your cat.
Can Cats Have Milk?
Almost every movie which I’ve seen that has a cat in it also involves a bowl of milk being served to the cat.
Milk or dairy seems to be the default food item that one should be feeding a cat.
The only time that cats are fine with milk is when they are kittens. Then again, kittens should only be drinking their mother’s milk or a specialized milk formula. Other types of milk contain too much lactose which can give them an upset stomach and explosive diarrhea.
Once kittens get older, they lose the ability to digest milk. This makes the majority of cats lactose intolerant as adults. If your cat really has a thing for milk, you can try feeding some rice milk to your cat. Rice milk is lactose-free but high in sugar so make sure to only feed in small amounts.
Can Cats Eat Milk Bones Safely?
If you are just giving your cat a mini milk bone or a small piece from your dog’s milk bone, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
Most cats can handle it without any problems.
The problem arises if you are thinking of feeding milk bones to your cat on a regular basis. This isn’t something that I would recommend due to the ingredients in milk bones vs the natural diet of your cat.
Here are some reasons why milk bones aren’t good for your cat if given in large amounts.
Too Much Carbohydrates
When you look at the ingredient label of any food item, the first few items are usually the largest components and the last few are in trace amounts.
The top two ingredients for milk bones are grounded whole wheat and wheat flour. This alone tells me that each biscuit is very high in carbs which isn’t ideal for a cat.
Cats do not have the necessary enzymes in their bodies to digest carbohydrates, unlike dogs. This means that too much carbs in their diet can lead to an upset stomach and unnecessary weight gain.
Cats that are overweight are more prone to diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart problems.
Too Much Calories
Besides being too high in carbohydrates, milk bones are also rather high in calories. Assuming that you are feeding your dog a large milk bone and you give one to your cat, that one treat alone contains a whopping 125 Kcals.
It might seem negligible for a dog that is 60-80 lbs, but for a cat that only weighs 10 lbs, that forms a food portion of his daily calories.
A cat should be consuming about 20-25 cals for every pound of body weight. A 10 lbs cat would have eaten more than half of its calories with just one large milk bone.
Milk Bones Contain BHA/BHT
BHA and BHT are synthetic chemical compounds that are mostly used as preservatives in many of the items that we used.
They can be used in cosmetics, body care products and even in the food that we eat and even in commercial pet food. The bad thing about using such chemicals in the food that we eat is that they have been found to be carcinogenic or cancer-causing.
However, the FDA claims that BHA/BFT are ‘safe’ in limited amounts and the quantity used in foods is fine for consumption.
Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the long-term effects of such chemicals on our bodies as well as our pets. A single dosage might not cause much harm but the accumulative effect of ingesting such chemicals can lead to a build-up effect over time.
Many Other Chemicals That I’ve Never Heard Of
If you were to take a look at the complete ingredient list of milk bones, there are many other chemicals and minerals that I’ve never heard of.
Are these ingredients safe for dogs but not for cats? Or are they not safe for animals in general?
I figured that if I wanted to fully understand all the ingredients, I would probably need a degree in chemical engineering.
Are Milk Bones Digestible?
Given that the main ingredient of milk bones is whole wheat and flour, milk bones are very digestible. Especially in cats that have such an acidic stomach, these dog treats don’t stand much of a chance.
You need to be careful when giving your cat dog treats like milk bones. Milk bones come in various sizes which should be given in accordance with the size of the dog.
Cats have very small mouths as compared to dogs so anything more than a small or mini milk bone can become a choking hazard for your cat. Milk bones are dog biscuits which makes them pretty hard too.
A small cat biting down on a big milk bone can break or chip the cat’s teeth.
Most cat treats are small and smooth which makes them easy for cats to eat.
Is It Safe For Cats To Eat Dog Treats?
There are too many dog treats out in the market to actually know which are safe for cats as well. As a pet owner of both a dog and a cat, I make it a point to buy them separate treats.
For my dog, I am fine with having treats that tend to contain some amount of carbs in them like dog biscuits. For my cat, it is mostly meat treats that I will buy for him.
And I try to get treats that are as natural as possible and contain as few preservatives and chemicals on the ingredients label.
It takes a while to familiarize yourself with all the chemical names but most of the time, you will see them being commonly used.
With experience, you will know what you can and shouldn’t be putting into your pets.
Can Dogs And Cats Eat The Same Treats?
There might be times when you come across treats that are suitable for both your cat and dog. Based on my experience, most dog treats aren’t suitable for cats but cat treats are fine for dogs.
Another reason to not feed your cat ice cream that is meant for dogs.
To solve this problem, I tend to make my own treats at home.
I start off by finding a suitable cat treat recipe online and then making portions for my dog. This works because a good cat treat will be high in protein and low in carbs which works well for dogs too.
In fact, It isn’t in your dog’s best interest to be feeding it a diet that is high in carbohydrates which can lead to canine obesity.
What Types Of Bones Are Suitable For Our Pets?
Since we are on the topic of ‘bones’, there is something very important for all pet owners to be aware of.
If you do want to give your dog or cat bones to eat or chew on, always make sure that you give them raw bones.
Raw bones are safe for your pets as they don’t splinter. Cooked bones on the other hand are brittle and tend to splinter easily. These splintered bits can injure your pet’s mouth and digestive system, causing a lot of internal damage.
When it comes to treats, I abide by the rule that ‘less is more’. It’s called treats for a reason. Be mindful when feeding your cat treats that are meant only for dogs. Some even come with a warning label that it isn’t suitable for cats.
Cats have a smaller margin of error when it comes to food so make it point to be more careful.