Nutrition

Can Cats Have Oat Milk?

We've all seen the images of cats drinking milk, but is it really good for them? What about oat milk? Is it safe to let your cat drink this oaty beverage? Read this article to learn more.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: September 5, 2023 | 4 min read

Cat trying to drink bowl of almont milk with oats in a girl's lap

This article should not substitute contact with a veterinarian. Contact your local vet immediately if your cat is reacting poorly after consumption.

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Historically, we’ve always paired cats with a saucer of milk. It’s an image that easily comes to mind: a scrappy barn cat lapping up milk next to the family cow or a fluffy kitten with a bow enjoying a big bowl of cream. It’s easy to understand, then, why it might surprise you to learn that, generally, cats are lactose intolerant and have difficulty digesting dairy. 

Like other mammals, cats are not able to digest the lactose sugar found in milk and suffer from gastrointestinal issues like gas, diarrhea, and bloating if it’s consumed. But, as all pet parents know, it’s extremely difficult to ignore your pet’s pleas for a favorite treat.

If you—like your cat—are lactose intolerant or eschew dairy, you may already have plant-based milk like oat milk on your refrigerator shelf. Oat milk is a lactose-free treat that is safe for your furry friend. 

Yes, your cat can drink oat milk in moderation. While it will provide little in the way of nutrients, if your cat enjoys the taste of oat milk, it is a-ok for them to enjoy. Continuing reading to learn about the rise of oat milk and how best to prepare this creamy beverage.

Oat Milk

Oat Milk’s rise to fame has been swift. Over the last few years, oat milk has hit grocery shelves as a relatively unheard-of plant-based milk and has become the second most popular alternative milk, according to data from SPINS, reported by FoodNavigator. This dairy-free delight has been admired by environmentalists, animal activists, and consumers alike. 

Oat milk has a rich, neutral taste that makes it a great allergen-friendly alternative to traditional milk. Its smooth texture earns points from baristas, who use it to make vegan lattes. It produces fewer greenhouse gases than cow milk and requires less water than almond milk

Manufacturers create oat milk from oats and water. Sometimes other ingredients like gums, stabilizers, oil, and salt are added to enhance texture and flavor. 

Oat milk comes from a plant source and naturally does not contain lactose. Because oat milk does not have lactose, it may be a better option than cow milk for your cat.

Is Oat Milk Safe For Cats?

Cup of oat milk next to spilled oats on a white table
Too much oat milk could also lead to weight gain and obesity, which could cause other health problems for your cat. 

If you want your cat to enjoy a bowl of warm “creme de la creme” milk à la the Parisian kitties of the 1970 Disney movie “Aristocats,” it will please you to know that oat milk is indeed safe for felines. The key with any human food is only to provide this treat in moderation. Any new food has the potential to hurt your feline’s stomach, and aside from nutritionally-balanced cat food, you should give your cat treats and other foods sparingly.

Look for oat milk without unnecessary additives like gums, fillers, oils, or added sugar. Better yet, make your own. You can make oat milk at home using rolled oats and water in less than five minutes. It’s super easy, and the only specialty item needed is an inexpensive cheesecloth. And, if you’re in a real pinch, you can use a clean t-shirt in place of the cheesecloth. There are so many recipes online, but make sure to keep it simple and omit sweeteners and other flavorings.

If you’re purchasing oat milk, always check the ingredients before giving it to your cat. Added sugars, oils, and gums may irritate your cat’s stomach. If your cat displays any symptoms of indigestion, including vomiting and diarrhea, stop giving them oat milk and consult with your veterinarian. 

Is Oat Milk Good For Cats?

Plain and simple: Cats are carnivores. The digestive system of a cat utilizes nutrients most effectively from meat sources. While your cat will get very little nutritional benefit from having oat milk, it can be used as a treat or a way to bond with your furry friend.

Can Kittens Drink Oat Milk?

While cats can enjoy the occasional oaty treat, it’s best to keep the oat milk to the adults. Kittens should only drink their mother’s milk or a kitten milk replacement. 

A kitten’s delicate digestive system may dislike oat milk, leading to diarrhea, dehydration, and—if untreated—death.

The History Of Cats And Milk

If you’re still hung up on the fact that cow milk is bad for the majority of cats, let’s dive into why cats drinking milk became a popular feline trope.

Most cats are lactose intolerant because they don’t produce lactase, the digestive enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose for digestion. When kittens are first born and rely on mom’s milk, they have the ability to produce lactase. As kittens are weaned, they produce less lactase, making it more difficult to digest milk.

So, where do the stories of cats drinking milk come from? Some historians think it all began with cats being used as mousers on farms. When cats would earn their keep, farmers would treat the cats to a readily available drink of cow’s milk.

Before milk is pasteurized, lactase naturally occurs in milk. If these cats were getting raw milk straight from the source, some historians reason that cats had a better chance of digesting the milk. It could also be that gastrointestinal issues went unnoticed since cats used to live primarily outdoors.

Today, we know there are a few reasons that cats like milk. Dairy milk contains protein and fat, which are essential for a cat’s diet. Your cat may not consciously know why they’re drawn to it, but love the taste of milk thanks to its high content of cat-favorite nutrients. Cats also grew up drinking milk from mom so dairy milk may have a familiar smell and taste. We saw cats going crazy for milk, and thus the trope began.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Other Types Of Milk Can Cats Drink?

Look for cow milk that is lactose-free at the grocery store. There are also specialty milks made for cats. These products are often lactose-free to avoid upsetting your cat’s stomach. Some milk will add in the lactase enzyme to make it more digestible. 

If you’re fostering a kitten, look for a product labeled as a kitten milk replacer. This will give your kitten the appropriate breakdown of nutrients for development.

Can Cats Drink Goat Milk?

Goat milk naturally contains less lactose and may be easier for your cat to digest. Try giving your cat a small amount of goat milk first to see if your cat experiences adverse effects. 

Can Cats Drink Almont Milk? 

Almonds are safe for cats to eat, so your cat may be able to drink almond milk. Like other milk, you should start by feeding your cat a small amount of almond milk and seeing if your cat has a positive reaction. 

Final Thoughts

Cats are generally lactose intolerant, making cow milk a big no-no. As oat milk continues to find its way onto supermarket shelves and into our carts, it is becoming an easily-accessible reward for your furry friend. If you are looking for human foods for your cat to eat, check out our list of feline-friendly foods.

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