Reviewed and updated for accuracy on February 3, 2020, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM
Oats have a long list of nutritional and health benefits for people, so you might wonder if oatmeal is good for dogs and cats, too. Many commercial dog food formulas include oats, and a few cat foods, too.
But how do pets benefit from eating oats, and how much oatmeal should they have in their diet?
Nutritional Benefits of Oats for Cats and Dogs
Simply put, oats are nutritious. Compared to other types of cereal grains, oats are relatively high in protein and fat. The protein quality is also high in oats, meaning that a dog or cat’s body can digest and use them, and oats also provide a good balance of amino acids.
Oats also contain a lot of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals (including vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, iron, and selenium), all of which play an important role in maintaining or improving health. Many of the antioxidants that oats contain, such as linoleic acid and vitamin E, can supplement your pet’s liver, skin, fur, etc.
Should Cats Eat Oats in Their Daily Diet?
Of course, the nutritional value of oats needs to be judged in view of a pet’s overall dietary needs. For example, most cats do best when eating foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Even though oats do contain relatively large amounts of protein for a cereal grain, they are still high in carbohydrates and should therefore be limited to a small role in the feline diet.
Oat Grass for Cats
One way cats can safely enjoy oats is in the form of “cat grass.” Oats are easy to grow indoors. Simply stick some organic seeds in a pot or purchase a ready-made kit and add water and sunlight. Wait a few weeks until the stems are a couple of inches tall before you let your cat indulge in her natural instinct to nibble on grass.
Oat Tea for Cats
Oat tea is another way to safely incorporate oats into your cat’s diet. To make oat tea, steep about one tablespoon of organic oats for 15 to 20 minutes in a cup of hot water. Mix a small amount of the tea into your cat’s canned food or apply enough to her kibble to thoroughly moisten it.
Is Oatmeal Good for Dogs to Eat in Their Daily Diet?
Due to their more omnivorous nature, dogs can thrive on a higher proportion of oats in their diets than do cats. Some commercially available dog foods are made with oats, or you can add a little cooked oatmeal to your dog’s current diet. If you are feeding a homemade diet, ask the veterinary nutritionist you are working with whether he or she can incorporate oats into one or more of your recipes.
Alternatively, a tablespoonful of cooked oatmeal for every 10 to 20 pounds of your dog’s weight can be safely added to her diet in lieu of other treats. Talk to your veterinarian about the specifics of your pet’s nutritional needs.
Oats in Alternative Medicine
Oats are considered a nervine, an herbal compound that acts as a general nerve tonic, calming the nerves when necessary, and stimulating their activity when needed.
Herbalists and homeopathic practitioners will often prescribe oats to treat some common conditions.
Check with your holistic vet for proper uses and dosages. Oats should not be used in place of going to your vet if your pet is having symptoms of anxiety or other issues.
By: Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD