Rice milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative for humans in recent years. Made from milled rice and water, rice milk is naturally sweet and often fortified with vitamins and minerals. Some cat owners wonder if rice milk is safe for cats to drink as an occasional treat or milk replacement.
The answer is not so simple. While small amounts of plain rice milk are unlikely to seriously harm cats, there are some important considerations before giving your feline friend a sip.
Is Rice Milk Safe for Cats?
Rice milk, at its most basic, is made from rice and water which are not toxic or inherently dangerous ingredients for cats. However, cats have very different nutritional needs than humans do. As obligate carnivores, cats thrive on a diet of animal-based proteins and derive little benefit from plant products.
While rice milk is lactose-free, and thus avoids the digestive issues milk can cause cats, it still contains a high amount of carbohydrates. Cats lack the metabolic pathways to properly digest carbs and rice milk will simply spike their blood sugar. Over time, excess carbs can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other health issues in cats.
So while a lick or two of rice milk probably won’t seriously harm your cat, it offers no health benefits and the risks increase with larger amounts. It’s better to avoid making rice milk a regular treat.
Key Takeaway: Rice and rice milk offer no nutritional value for cats. Small amounts are not toxic but unnecessary.
Dangers of Rice Milk for Cats
There are a few specific dangers associated with giving cats rice milk, especially in large quantities:
Commercially produced rice milk often contains added flavors, sweeteners, stabilizers, and fortifying nutrients. Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can be highly toxic to cats. Unnecessary additives serve no nutritional purpose for cats and may cause digestive upset.
While less common than dairy allergies, some cats are allergic to rice products. Signs of an allergy include gastrointestinal distress, itchy skin, and respiratory symptoms. Feeding an allergen will only make the problem worse.
Rice milk is high in calories and carbohydrates with little protein. Regular consumption could quickly lead to unhealthy weight gain in cats.
Too much rice milk at once can overwhelm a cat’s digestive system leading to vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain.
The natural sugars in rice milk can contribute to cavities in cats, especially if fed in large amounts. Dental disease is painful and dangerous for cats.
So while an occasional lap of rice milk probably won’t cause disaster, it’s better not to make a habit of sharing this human drink with cats. There are safer feline-friendly alternatives for special treats.
Healthier Alternatives to Rice Milk for Cats
If your cat seems attracted to milky drinks, there are better options than rice milk to provide as an occasional treat while ensuring your cat’s diet stays balanced and healthy overall. Here are some cat-safe ideas:
Commercial Cat Milk
Special cat milk products are formulated to be easy for cats to digest. Available in liquid and powdered forms, follow package instructions for serving cats.
Slow-cooked bone broth makes a nutritious, feline-friendly treat. Choose unseasoned broth and serve just a few spoonfuls.
Plain Goat Milk
Goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk, making it easier for some cats to digest. Give just a teaspoon initially to test for tolerance.
Cat Food Gravy
The juice from canned cat food makes a tasty, low-calorie treat cats love. Carefully spoon off the gravy and serve just a bit in a separate dish.
Clear Low-Sodium Broth
A few spoonfuls of unsalted chicken or vegetable broth offer hydration without unnecessary calories.
Is Rice Milk Ever Okay for Cats?
Most cats should never be given rice milk, but there are a few exceptions where small amounts may be appropriate:
- Kittens – Growing kittens have higher calorie needs and better ability to digest carbs than adult cats. A tablespoon of plain rice milk can provide extra calories for rapid growth.
- Elderly cats – Older cats with decreased appetite may benefit from rice milk’s added calories and palatability. But introduce slowly and discontinue if causes digestive upset.
- Ill cats – Rice milk can sometimes tempt cats recovering from illness to eat when they might otherwise refuse food. Only give under veterinary guidance.
- Diabetic cats – Some vets recommend small amounts of rice milk to treat low blood sugar in diabetic cats. But improper dosing risks dangerous spikes so only give under direct veterinary supervision.
- Malnourished cats – Seriously malnourished and underweight cats may benefit from rice milk’s calories until a healthy weight is restored. But it does not provide complete nutrition.
In these specific situations, the potential benefits of stimulating appetite and providing extra calories may outweigh the risks. But never give rice milk to cats with these conditions without explicit veterinary approval.
Signs Your Cat Should Not Have Rice Milk
While rice milk probably won’t seriously harm most cats in tiny amounts, some cats should absolutely never consume it. Do not give rice milk if your cat has:
- Digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease
- Food allergies
- Dental problems
- Kidney or heart disease
Rice milk is also never appropriate for healthy adult cats as part of a balanced diet. Only offer tiny tastes and monitor your cat closely for any signs of an adverse reaction.
Is It Okay to Give Rice Milk to Kittens?
Kittens should never be given rice milk as a replacement for proper milk replacement formulas specially formulated for their needs.
Cow’s milk and plant-based milk alternatives like rice milk do not contain the right balance of protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals that kittens need to grow. Feeding could result in malnutrition and health problems.
However, a small amount of plain, unsweetened rice milk can provide extra calories for a rapidly growing kitten. Up to 1 tablespoon can be fed along with the kitten’s normal diet under veterinary guidance. More can lead to diarrhea or upset stomach.
Always choose plain rice milk with no added sugars or artificial ingredients which are never appropriate for kittens. And stop feeding immediately if any signs of digestive upset develop.
Can Cats Drink Regular Milk?
Most adult cats cannot properly digest the lactose sugar in regular dairy milk. While kittens naturally produce an enzyme called lactase to digest their mother’s milk, levels drop dramatically after weaning.
Without sufficient lactase, lactose passes undigested into the intestines where it ferments and produces gas, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea in lactose-intolerant cats.
Some cats appear to enjoy and tolerate small amounts of milk without problems. But regular milk still provides no nutritional value and any cat can develop an intolerance with enough exposure. It’s safest to avoid milk altogether and choose healthier feline-friendly alternatives.
Homemade Rice Milk for Cats
While store-bought rice milk is not ideal for cats, it may be acceptable to share a small amount of plain homemade rice milk with your cat on occasion.
To make basic rice milk:
- Cook 1/2 cup of white rice in 4 cups of water until soft
- Blend rice and cooking water in a blender until smooth
- Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove solids
- Discard rice pulp
- Refrigerate liquid rice milk for up to 5 days
This produces a thin, low-calorie rice milk you can mix with an equal amount of water to share a few sips with your cat. Avoid adding any sweeteners or other ingredients. Introduce slowly and monitor for any intestinal upset.
Be aware homemade rice milk lacks the added vitamins and minerals in commercial products so should not be fed long-term or as a kitten food replacement.
Can cats drink almond milk?
No. Almond milk is not safe for cats. It’s high in fat and calories that cats can’t properly digest. Even small amounts can cause vomiting or diarrhea. Never give almond milk to cats.
Can cats drink oat milk?
Plain, unsweetened oat milk in small amounts is unlikely to harm most cats but provides no health benefits. It contains carbohydrates and calories cats don’t need. Large amounts could lead to digestive upset.
Can cats drink coconut milk?
While the lactose-free coconut milk may seem appealing, it’s too high in fat and calories for cats. It may cause stomach upset and provides no nutritional value. It’s best not to give coconut milk to cats.
Can cats drink lactose-free milk?
Lactose-free dairy milk avoids the digestive issues caused by lactose but still doesn’t provide needed nutrition for cats. It’s safer than regular milk but not necessary. Very small amounts are unlikely to cause harm for non-sensitive cats.
In general, rice milk provides no nutritional benefits for cats, and the risks of consumption outweigh the possible advantages. While tiny tastes of plain, unsweetened rice milk probably won’t seriously harm most cats, regular consumption could lead to obesity, diabetes, and other problems.
There are better alternatives to provide as treats that avoid adding unnecessary carbohydrates and calories to your cat’s diet. Unless recommended by a vet for a specific health condition, rice milk and other plant-based milk alternatives should be avoided and never replace proper cat nutrition. Focus on feeding a balanced cat diet based on your feline’s unique needs.