Can Cats Drink Oat Milk? Health & Safety Explained

Last Updated on: September 27, 2023 by Crystal Uys

oat milk in a glass on wooden table

Plant-based milk like oat milk is becoming a popular substitute for cow’s milk, so more people are using them in their homes. If you are someone who likes to give your cat milk, you are probably wondering whether oat milk will be a better and potentially safer alternative than dairy-based milk.

There’s no doubt that some cats love drinking milk, but is the plant-based substitute safe for your feline companion? Oat milk is safe for cats to drink in moderation. This article will give you all the answers you need as to whether oat milk is safe for your cat to drink and how healthy it is for them.


Is Oat Milk Safe for Cats To Drink?

Yes, oat milk is safe for cats to drink on occasion, and it could be a better option than cow’s milk for cats with sensitive stomachs to lactose. This is because oat milk does not contain any lactose and the few ingredients used to make this milk aren’t very unhealthy. Most cats are lactose intolerant after weaning from their mother’s milk, and lactose naturally occurs in dairy products.1

This makes oat milk a better alternative for some cats since it contains fairly digestible ingredients that are well tolerated by many cats. However, it seems to have fewer nutritional benefits than cow’s milk. Avoid feeding your cat oat milk that contains added sugars, risky preservatives, and added salt since this isn’t going to be healthy for your cat. Always double-check the label of any human foods you plan to feed to your cat to check for potentially unhealthy ingredients.

You can give your cat one to two tablespoons of unsweetened or homemade oat milk in moderation. Keep in mind that cats are obligate carnivores that benefit from a meat-based diet, so oat milk shouldn’t make up a large or regular portion of their diet.

long haired cat with green eyes licking with tongue out
Image credit: Lina Angelov, Unsplash

Plant-Based vs Dairy Milk for Cats

There is a variety of plant-based milk such as oat, almond, rice, and soy milk that are dairy-free and contain no lactose. However, there is also lactose-free dairy milk, making it a better option for lactose-intolerant cats. Cats can drink both plant and diary-based milk with guidance from a veterinarian if they have no adverse health effects from drinking it. However, milk in any form is not a necessary part of a feline diet (after weaning) and should only be viewed as an occasional treat.

In terms of nutrition, dairy-based milk has a slightly higher nutritional value and is enriched with a wider variety of vitamins and minerals. Plant-based milk like oat milk also contains plenty of vitamins and minerals that may benefit your cat, plus it is high in fiber and low in sodium. Some cats will have difficulty digesting certain plant milk while being able to digest small amounts of dairy-based milk just fine or vice versa.

Most cats will have no problem drinking a small amount of dairy, but other cats who are lactose intolerant will have trouble digesting the lactose found in goat and cow’s milk. This could lead to your cat having gastrointestinal upset like bloating, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. Kittens will drink their mother’s milk up until they are weaned, but once that kitten starts to depend less on drinking their mother’s milk for sustenance, fewer digestive enzymes (lactase) are produced.

So, cats that drink milk containing lactose when they have too little lactase will have trouble digesting the dairy-based milk. It’s uncommon for cats to have difficulty digesting small amounts of plant-based milk because it contains no lactose and has fairly digestible ingredients. However, each cat may have a different reaction depending on any allergies or food sensitivities they have.

oat milk in a glass and pitcher
Image Credit: Alter-ego, Shutterstock

How Healthy Is Oat Milk for Cats?

Most store-bought oat milk is a blend of water, plain rolled oats, preservatives, a touch of salt, and sugar (for sweetened versions). Oat milk is free from lactose, soy, and even gluten if it is made from gluten-free oats. Although the oats themselves are not bad for cats, that doesn’t make them the healthiest or nutritionally beneficial food for carnivorous cats. Cats should get most of their nutrients from a balanced meat-based diet, and not from oat milk.

Oats are a good source of fiber and a combination of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A and B6, potassium, magnesium, and niacin which may benefit cats. You can either make your oat milk at home or you can purchase store-bought oat milk for your cat. The best option, in this case, would be to make homemade oat milk for your cat since you will know exactly what goes into the recipe.

This gives you the option of only blending water and plain rolled oats for your cat, and you can exclude ingredients like salt and sugar which your cat doesn’t need. If you do choose to buy oat milk for your cat, opt for the unsweetened version with no added salt.

Furthermore, oat milk is low in fat and contains a higher amount of protein than many alternative plant-based milks. While cats don’t need milk in their diet, if you want to give it to them as an occasional treat, oat milk can be a good option. Cats who have food allergies to grains shouldn’t be given oat milk, since oats are a type of grain.

Do Cats Need to Drink Milk?

Cats have been depicted for decades drinking milk from saucers in illustrations, advertisements, and movies, which has led many cat owners to believe that milk is necessary for cats to drink. The truth is that cats don’t need milk in their diet, whether it be plant-based or dairy-based milk. You might believe that milk helps to hydrate your cat better than water which can make it a substitute, but this isn’t a good idea.

Giving your cat a saucer of milk shouldn’t replace their water intake, and clean, fresh water is the best source of hydration for your cats. Many cats can become dependent on drinking milk as a replacement for water if they are given it often, which isn’t a good habit to start for your cat. Unless your cat has a health issue and your cat’s veterinarian recommends enticing them to drink using milk, water should be your cat’s main source of hydration. If you do plan to feed oat milk to your cat, it should not replace their bowl of fresh water.


Conclusion

Unless your cat has allergies to grains, oat milk is completely safe for them to drink in moderation. Making homemade oat milk for your cat is going to ensure the safety of the ingredients since the salt and sugars in some store-bought oat milk aren’t going to be the healthiest for your cat. If your cat has trouble digesting dairy-based milk because of lactose intolerance, you can switch them to oat milk as a treat with guidance from a veterinarian.

The lower sodium and fat content with higher fiber may also appeal to cat owners looking to give their cat an occasional drink of milk that is healthy and lactose-free.


Featured Image Credit: Naumenko, Shutterstock

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