Why Do Cats Eat Grass?
If you have an outdoor cat, one thing is for certain: you have probably seen her nibbling on grass. Grass isn’t just for horses or cows — sometimes your feline friend will enjoy eating grass too. Although cats eating grass might seem unusual, there is nothing to worry about. Dr. Benjamin Hart, a veterinary behaviorist at the University of California Davis, cited statistics that said about 80 percent of cats eat plants of some kind or another. Although grass-eating among cats is normal, a sudden increase in grass-eating behaviour could signal intestinal distress, Hart said. Therefore, cat owners should monitor the grass-eating behaviour of their cats.
Although it is not completely understood why cats tend to eat grass, there are some explanations that may give you some insight.
Reasons Why Your Cat Might Be Eating Grass
One of the theories is that cats may eat grass for the nutrients it contains. Cats are carnivorous and they need to consume meat to survival. When cats hunt, they would also be consuming the contents of the prey’s stomach. The prey’s stomach typically contains small amounts of plant matter and other nutrients.
Grass juice contains folic acid that promotes cats’ growth and helps increase oxygen levels in their blood. According to petMD, cats regurgitate when they eat grass because they lack the necessary enzymes to break down vegetable matter. If your cat is grazing, it may be because she is battling a dietary deficiency and is in search of this vitamin boost. Plus, grass seems to have a laxative effect and many people believe that it helps a cat settle an upset stomach.
A Natural Treat
According to Cat Behavior Associates, cats may enjoy the taste of grass. They eat grass simply because they like the taste of it.
Another theory is that cats consume grass is to assist with the passage of hairballs out of the body. Grass-eating helps cats to cough up hairballs. Sometimes those hairballs don’t pass so easily out the other end. The added fiber from eating grass may help with the passage of hairballs either from vomiting or within the feces.
It is also suggested that cats eat grass so that they vomit to purge intestinal parasite.
Intestinal Distress: Myth Or Not?
Although the reasons behind this cat behavior is not completely understood, it’s commonly thought that grass eating in cats is linked to intestinal distress. In a study, Dr. Benjamin Hart and other researchers found out cats generally do not appear to be ill before eating plants nor do they regularly vomit afterward.
Hart concluded that grass-eating is a normal cat behaviour and it reflects an innate predisposition inherited from wild felid ancestors. One explanation is that plant eating played a role in the ongoing purging of intestinal parasites (nematodes) in wild felid ancestors that were always exposed to intestinal parasites. Perhaps young cats eat plants more because they are less immune to intestinal parasites and are actively growing.
Is Eating Grass Harmful?
According to petMD, there’s no evidence to suggest that grass will harm cats. Eating grass is typically not harmful but you should make sure that your feline friend is not consuming chemically treated grass or toxic plants. Grass grown outdoors may have been sprayed with chemicals such as weedkillers or fertilisers that can be toxic to cats. If you are worried about your cat, the safest way is to buy a pot of catgrass or grow from seed. For a few reasons, it’s also a great idea to provide your cat feline-safe plants or grasses. According to The Nest, common cat-friendly grasses are wheatgrass, barley, oat and rye grass.