As humans, many of us know that oats can be very nutritious and beneficial from a health standpoint.
Oats, when consumed by humans, pack a punch of antioxidants and fiber, which are crucial for a healthy lifestyle. It is also thought that regular oat consumption in humans can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol.
However, just because a particular food is good for you doesn’t automatically mean that it will be good for your rabbit.
Today, we’ll be delving into the relatively complex relationship between rabbits and oats, including instances when oats may be more healthful or harmful, depending on the circumstances.
Are Oats Safe for Rabbits to Eat?
For the most part, oats are unlikely to severely impact the health of your rabbit in a negative way. However, this food is generally not recommended as part of a rabbit’s diet.
The reason for this is that your average, healthy rabbit will not need to consume starch because this food group doesn’t have any known nutritional value for rabbits. Some experts say that giving your rabbit oats as an occasional treat might be acceptable, but this should be kept to very small quantities (a teaspoon a day, maximum) and should not be a regular occurrence.
With that being said, feeding your rabbit the odd couple of oat flakes every so often is very unlikely to have a significant damaging effect, so if you’ve been treating your rabbit to oats on occasion, you probably don’t need to panic. You should, however, refrain from giving your rabbit oats to eat in the future.
It’s important to note that despite rabbits generally not benefiting from oats in their diet, there are special circumstances where introducing oats into your rabbit’s daily feed could be helpful.
For example, if your rabbit is significantly underweight, he or she might actually benefit from a small amount of oats introduced into their diet. A rabbit that is generally unwell or underweight will be able to digest the nutrients in oats, such as protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. These nutrients may help your rabbit to put on weight and muscle.
However, even in such circumstances, you shouldn’t give your rabbit too many oats. Remember, rabbits have a much lower daily calorie allowance than humans do.
So, to summarize, oats are safe but not recommended for rabbits in most cases. However, an underweight or otherwise unwell rabbit may be able to build its strength back up by consuming oats.
What About Oatmeal?
So if oats should not constitute a significant or regular part of your rabbit’s diet, what’s the consensus on oatmeal?
Much like oats in their raw form, oatmeal is not toxic for rabbits, but it’s also not a recommended food.
However, this is assuming that the oatmeal has been made using a combination of oats and water, as opposed to oats and milk.
Under no circumstances should you give a rabbit, healthy or otherwise, any food containing milk. That includes oatmeal. The reason for this is that rabbits are lactose intolerant and drinking milk could make them very ill or even kill them. This also applies to baby rabbits (bunnies) because although they drink milk from their mothers, cow’s milk is very different and will not agree with their digestive systems.
If you want to give your rabbit oatmeal, make sure that you have prepared it with water and that it hasn’t been contaminated with any lactose-containing ingredients.
Can Oats Be Dangerous for Rabbits?
Oats are not toxic to rabbits, so in most cases, feeding your rabbit oats occasionally won’t do any harm (although it usually won’t do any good, either).
If you feed a generally healthy rabbit oats in large quantities or on a regular basis, you may find that they quickly put on weight and may even become obese.
In addition to this, because your rabbit is likely to feel full after a meal of oats, they might reject other, more nutritious foods. This could potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies, which can have a significant impact on your rabbit’s health and quality of life.
Which Oat Brands are Safe for Rabbits?
If you’re going to give oats to your rabbit as a treat, you should take care only to select plain, natural oats without fillers or additives.
Many oats you’ll find in stores these days will have been sweetened with sugar or flavored with other ingredients.
Unflavored Quaker Oats, for example, are generally considered to be safe for rabbits, but again, even these oats should be given infrequently and in moderation if you want your bunny to stay healthy and active for as long as possible.
Thick rolled oats are generally considered to be the best choice for rabbits, so if you can find a brand that manufactures this type of oats without additional ingredients, this should be safe.
The bottom line is that, on balance, rabbits can eat oats. However, that doesn’t mean they should. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, feeding your rabbit oats will not be beneficial and may even lead to serious health problems, including obesity and nutrient deficiency.
You may give your rabbit plain, thick rolled oats without additives or filler ingredients as an occasional treat not exceeding a teaspoon per day.
In addition to raw oats, oatmeal should be avoided. Oatmeal that has been made with milk should never, under any circumstances, be given to a rabbit because rabbits are lactose intolerant. Even baby rabbits, who drink milk from their mothers in infancy, will not be able to tolerate cow’s milk, and in severe cases, consumption can lead to death.
If a rabbit is sick or underweight, however, oats and water-based oatmeal might have some health benefits. For example, the protein in the oats might help the sickly rabbit to build up more muscle and put on some weight, which will go a long way towards improving their health.
Ultimately, whether or not feeding your rabbit oats is a good idea depends on whether or not the rabbit is underweight, the ingredient content of the oats, and the quantities in which you give them.