While we try to lead more active lives and make smarter food choices, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the same considerations don’t apply to pets. Oat milk is a perfect example. The fiber and vitamin-rich replacement for cow’s milk may do wonders for us, but it’s hardly a sensible staple in our cat’s diet. Although cats can drink oat milk to a point, it doesn’t have any health benefits for them.
Is oat milk bad for your cat? We’ll explain whether a few sips should cause concern so you can make the best decision for feline friends.
Can Cats Drink Oat Milk?
Oat milk is generally safe for cats to drink, though there’s no reason for it to replace plain water in their diet. The creamy plant-based drink, made from oats soaked in water and strained, has few ingredients that are unsafe for your cat to consume.
Oats, in general, are a healthy food. They have a generous protein and unsaturated fat content compared to other non-dairy milk varieties, with abundant fiber, antioxidants, and assorted vitamins and minerals supporting proper organ functioning. After blending and straining, much of the original oats end up in oat milk to offer their impressive nutritional benefits.
Carbohydrates and Cats
Oat milk carries a high carbohydrate content. One cup contains roughly 16 grams of carbohydrates, far outweighing its 3–4 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. While that might work for humans, an omnivorous species that should get most of its calories from carbs, it doesn’t align with cats, a group of obligate carnivores.
Cats primarily consume protein and fat, with carbohydrates only occupying roughly 12% or less of their natural diet. They don’t need to ingest tons of carbs, and their bodies don’t process them as efficiently as proteins and amino acids.
Is Oat Milk Harmful to Cats?
Oats undergo enzymatic processing when producers blend them into oat milk. Starches convert to simple sugars, giving the oat milk a sweeter taste. At the same time, these pre-digested carbs are more usable for cats once they reach the small intestine, as cats don’t have amylase in their saliva to begin breaking down starch from raw oats.
Healthy cats can digest and use processed carbohydrates without much issue, and there’s little connection between a high-carb diet and diabetes mellitus despite the higher glucose intake. The primary risk factors for diabetes in cats are the low activity levels and overeating that cause obesity, not how much oat milk they drink. A low-carbohydrate diet is ideal for cats with diabetes, but an infrequent taste of oat milk likely won’t have long-term adverse effects.
Although they may be okay to ingest in limited quantities, too many carbohydrates can adversely affect your cat, causing inefficient protein digestion, reduced fecal pH, and altered gut bacteria colonies. Since cats won’t increase the absorption of carbs in the small intestine despite higher levels, they can linger in the intestines and give microbes a substrate on which to flourish. GI issues can result, such as bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting.
What About Oat Milk with Sugar?
The added thickening agents, preservatives, salt, and flavoring in premade store-bought oat milk compound the issues cats may face from drinking too much. Alongside the immediate stomach upset that may occur, excessive sugar intake can further influence diabetes, heart health problems, and weight gain.
Fortunately, artificial sweeteners, particularly xylitol, don’t have the toxic effect on cats that they do on dogs. While there’s less cause for concern if your cat accidentally has a taste, they may still have a negative reaction to your flavored oat milk.
How Much Oat Milk Can Cats Have?
If your cat accidentally gets into your oat milk, there shouldn’t be much reason to worry. You can even occasionally feed your cat some if they develop a taste for it.
Oat milk can fulfill an adult cat’s entire daily carb intake without coming close to meeting their other dietary needs, so you should only give them a few laps once in a while. Doing so will ensure they don’t exceed their carb requirements as they eat their normal cat food. If your oat milk has preservatives, sweeteners, and other additives, you may want to play it safe and avoid offering it entirely in case there’s a chance it could disagree with your cat’s stomach.
Whether or not your cat is healthy, there isn’t much reason to give them oat milk. The limited nutritional benefits aren’t more impactful than their more well-balanced cat food, so you won’t necessarily improve their diet by giving them any amount of oat milk. Plus, cats lack the sweetness sensitivity to have any preference for sugary drinks. They likely won’t care whether you put oat milk or plain water in their bowl, so why waste it on their unrefined palates?
Signs Your Cat Drank Too Much Oat Milk
Oats in a blended milk form are more digestible for cats than raw grains, but they can still have a tough time with it when they drink too much. Vomiting and diarrhea are clear tell-tale signs of distress. Otherwise, it can be challenging to tell if your cat has an adverse reaction. If you’re worried about whether your cat drank too much oat milk, look for the usual signs of a health issue, such as:
- Loud vocalization
- Inappropriate evacuation around the house
- Protective habits, such as curling up or hiding
Watch for unusual behaviors for several hours after your cat ingests oat milk, and call your vet for advice when your cat shows signs of discomfort.
Is Oat Milk Better Than Cow’s Milk for Cats?
Cats typically stop producing lactase after weaning, causing ingested lactose to build and ferment in their intestines. Being lactose-free, oat milk won’t have the same effect as dairy milk, which, in excess, can cause severe diarrhea. Regardless, neither oat nor dairy milk is a healthy substitute for plain water in your cat’s diet.
Oat milk has some beneficial aspects that can help your cat, but the nutritional balance doesn’t make it a practical alternative to their regular food and water. While you’re giving them fiber and carbs, they’re missing out on the protein and fat their bodies desire. Stick with your vet-approved diet, and reserve oat milk for your enjoyment.
Featured Image Credit: Alter-ego, Shutterstock