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Home > Rabbits > Can Rabbits Eat Oats and Oatmeal? Vet Approved Safety Facts & FAQ

Can Rabbits Eat Oats and Oatmeal? Vet Approved Safety Facts & FAQ

Can Rabbits Eat oats oatmeal

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Dr. Amanda Charles

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Wild rabbits are opportunistic feeders. They eat predominantly grass, grazing for 6-8 hours a day, but also take advantage of seasonal variations. They’ll eat leaves, bark, and buds, extending it to include produce from your garden if available. You may wonder if you can offer your bunny oats or oatmeal. Neither are toxic, but oats or oatmeal shouldn’t make up a significant part of your pet’s diet.

Other caveats also exist, involving carbohydrates and fiber. We must address other factors that can affect the safety of giving it to your rabbit.


Oats vs. Oatmeal

Oats are the seeds of the Avena sativa plant, a grass species. It’s an edible grain that offers cardiovascular health benefits and may help stabilize blood glucose levels—for humans. Manufacturers produce various forms based on the amount of processing to make the final product. Oatmeal is the prepared form of oats that we typically eat, whether instant or boiled as porridge.

We’ll take the prepared products off the table since many issues exist with them. Some contain other ingredients, such as sugar, that make them unsuitable for rabbits. We also have to consider the mess. These animals aren’t the neatest of eaters. It’s probably the last thing you want when there are better choices. Let’s get down to the real deal with the raw oats.

top view of a bowl of cooked oatmeal
Image Credit: Arctic ice, Shutterstock

Nutritional Value of Oats

The bulk of a rabbit’s diet should be timothy hay because of its optimal protein and fiber content. You should also offer your pet fresh greens for additional nutrition and a commercial pellet diet to ensure all their dietary needs are met. Oats fall into the last category of foods your rabbit should eat: treats.

A 10-gram serving of raw oats contains 37.9 calories. That amount is significant, given that a 5-pound bunny should only get around 170 calories daily to maintain their optimal weight. Right away, we can spot an issue with giving your pet oats often. Rabbits aren’t different from other animals. They pick out their favorites and may ignore the foods that are nutrient-dense or better for them. That makes obesity a health concern.

Carbohydrates and Fiber

We came across conflicting information regarding carbohydrates and fiber. That serving of oats has 6.77 grams and 1.01 grams, respectively. The Veterinary Partner website lists oats as a forbidden food, citing these macronutrients as problematic because of obesity and digestibility. On the other hand, the Merck Veterinary Manual says it’s over-simplistic to label carbs and starch as bad.

We can get a bit more information from studies that have looked into the effect of the level of starch in rabbits’ diets in different situations.

One study examined varying proportions of dietary starch and non-digestible fiber fed to rabbit does and the outcomes in the pups weaned. The researchers quantified their findings with milk production and its effect on pup mortality. They determined percentages of 20% for dietary starch and 35.5% for non-digestible fiber were optimal.

Another study looked at the effect of oats and other starches on blood cholesterol levels. It is a health effect documented in humans. Rabbits in the study became hypercholesterolemic when transferred from a commercial diet to a low fat, cholesterol free diet. A diet with ground oats and corn didn’t spike cholesterol levels, but it didn’t lower them, either. These findings suggest that we can’t necessarily extrapolate human outcomes to other species.

It has also been shown that adult rabbits are able to digest starch more efficiently than young animals, though the overall role of a high starch diet in the development of dysbiosis remains unclear. Dysbiosis is an imbalance of gut bacteria and rabbits rely on their gut bacteria and cecotrophy (ingesting soft feces or cecotropes) to aid digestion of the large amounts of vegetation they consume. If it becomes imbalanced, it can have severe consequences on their digestion, absorption of nutrients and their gut motility. Adequate levels of dietary fiber are essential for these gut bacteria, as well as being needed to wear down a rabbit’s continually growing teeth.

To summarize, although oats are not toxic to rabbits, they should only ever be offered in small amounts if at all to adult rabbits only. Rabbits rely on high fiber diets, so if they fill up on oats they will eat less of other foods. This may result in them getting too little fiber and other essential nutrients, and lead to serious digestive issues.

oats instant_ dessuil_Pixabay
Image Credit: dessuil, Pixabay



How should I give my rabbit oats?

Your pet’s regular diet is the best thing to give your rabbit. If you want to give your adult bunny oats, make it a special treat and only a small amount—about 1 teaspoon. The obesity risk still exists because of the grain’s high caloric count.

Can I give my rabbit instant oats?

If you want to give your pet oats, we suggest sticking with raw instead of processed products that may contain other ingredients.

What else should I know?

Remove any uneaten oats promptly. Bacteria can develop, especially if the grains get wet.


Final Thoughts

Oats are safe to give your adult rabbit. However, we don’t recommend offering them to young bunnies or as part of your regular treat rotation. They may provide some nutritional value, but they also contain a lot of calories. Your pet will do just fine if you don’t add oats to their diet. Timothy hay, fresh produce, and commercial pellets formulated for rabbits will meet your pet’s nutritional needs.

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