Nowadays, more and more people are interested in healthy nutrition and not only for us but for our furry friends as well. While it's easy to find creative options for most meals like lunch or dinner, for breakfast things are a little bit more complicated or lacking in options. And when most of us think of a standard healthy breakfast option, oatmeal comes to mind. Oatmeal is cheap and has been the predominant morning meal for many decades now, gaining even more popularity in the past few years.
But while oatmeal is good for us and we are always happy to share something tasty with our furry friends as well, there's a question that arises here. Can we give oatmeal to our pet rabbits? Can rabbits eat oatmeal without any problems or not? Some people might already give a little bit of oatmeal to their dogs to solve stomach upsets, but what about bunnies? A bunny's digestive system is different than the one of a dog so let's find out more about this matter.
What is Oatmeal and What's so Good About it?
At first, oats and oatmeal was only fed to animals, and only became a super food for us in the last few decades. Centuries ago, oatmeal was seen as only a food for the poor, or for cattle and horses. But due to the high fiber content, it has gained ground as a healthy breakfast option and has become very common ever since. Sure, it helps that it's cheap and available and tasty so that it got mass adopted almost everywhere in the world.
Oats and oatmeal come from oat grains, which are a cereal grass. To the animals it's fed raw, but we humans use it cooked or slightly processed. Because of its flavor, complex carbohydrates, plenty of nutrients, protein and the high fiber content, oatmeal has come a long way from the past generations and was quickly adopted and became a great breakfast option for a lot of people nowadays. It's used by both athletes and regular folks alike because it's hearty and easy on the stomach at the same time.
But even if nutritionists and doctors around the world recommend it as a healthy breakfast option for us humans, that doesn't mean it's as good for our hopping furry friends, the rabbits, as well.
Can Rabbits Eat Oatmeal
Oatmeal is not on the list of toxic foods for rabbits, so from this point of view, rabbits can eat oatmeal. But don't just rush now to fill your bunny's plate with porridge, because oatmeal doesn't come without health problems for rabbits. Since they've got a different digestive system than we do, rabbits usually cannot eat cooked meals, so you should avoid feeding cooked oatmeal to them as much as possible. Sure, a little bit every once in a while shouldn't harm your pet rabbit, but beware of the quantities. Make it a treat and not his main diet.
A way better option would be to feed your bunny some raw rolled oats instead of the regular oatmeal we usually eat for breakfast.
So, to answer our question, yes, rabbits can eat oatmeal, but make sure you don't make a regular habit out of it, otherwise your little bun will have to suffer some health troubles.
In general, oatmeal is not a good option for rabbits, young and mature alike, but there are situations where it may be appropriate and beneficial to give them some cooked oatmeal. As with athletes or people who need a punch of calories, oatmeal can be given to rabbits who are in desperate need of a lot of calories in a short time. For example, there are a lot of animal shelters or rescue organizations around the world who feed oatmeal to underweight bunnies to bring them back fast to a normal weight and condition.
But these are special cases, so you should consider visiting your vet before pumping oatmeal into your rabbit if you think he's underweight. If your vet gives you the green light, then go for oatmeal as your rabbit's main diet until he recovers himself and grows a little bit more.
Benefits of Oatmeal
Unlike cereals that contain lots of sugar, cookies and crackers, oatmeal are easy to digest and they help rise insulin levels over a longer period of time thus helping with weight gain with decreased risk of diabetes or insulin resistance, making them perfect for your underweight bunny. Or you, for that matter.
Other Things to Consider
If your bunny isn't in immediate need of gaining some weight, there's no actual reason to feed him oatmeal, so you'd better keep it away from him or use it in only small amounts and not too often. Also, it's always better to give him raw oats, as evolution didn't provide bunnies with a stomach which can process cooked foods. Raw rolled oats are closer to what rabbits eat naturally into the wild, and that's lots of hay, grass and leafy greens and not starchy grains.
Keep in mind that a healthy normal weight rabbit doesn't need to gain more weight so it's probably best to avoid oats and oatmeal completely, as they are rich in calories and healthy adult rabbits require a low calorie diet with lots of fiber. That makes oats and oatmeal a bad choice in that case. The failure to do so may lead your bunny to become obese or overweight, which can further lead to heart or lung problems, diabetes or the more serious and dangerous fatty liver disease.
As a conclusion, only give your rabbit oatmeal if he's underweight or just as a treat now and then if he's healthy.