Have you seen your cat eating grass? It is unsurprising for cats to be seen happily chomping on blades of green grass even when well fed. It is apparently known that felines can be finicky when it comes to food. But then, why do cats eat grass? Answers remain theories until a study in 2008 gave us a better understanding.
Before we demystify the matter, let us decipher a more salient question: Is eating grass bad for cats? How much grass should a cat eat? Though loud gagging from your cat is typical, it is less likely for her to develop health complications from grass intake alone. Expert’s theory is that it can be beneficial even for a carnivore.
What nutrients do cats get when eating grass?
- Laxative appeal
Why do cats eat grass? Undoubtedly, it is not for the purpose of making themselves sick. For a pet prone to over-grooming, your feline may have ingested bulks of hair whilst cleaning herself. Such action can block her digestive tract resulting in uneasiness or discomfort. Eating grass may have been a method to self-medicate, possibly to induce a sense of vomit to eliminate ingested inedible substances such as bones, hairballs, and feathers from any kinds of prey.
- B vitamin
Why do cats eat grass? Grass contains folic acid which is vital to a cat’s well-being. Folic acid, one of the B-complex vitamins, aids oxygen production in the cat’s bloodstream. Cats that have a deficiency in folic acid can develop anaemia.
- Clearing digestive tract
Why do cats eat grass? Considering that a feline’s digestive system cannot digest well with plant matter, it is usual for cats to retch or regurgitate after eating grass. On the positive side, it expels other indigestible materials that she may have consumed.
- Aids gastrointestinal issues
Why do cats eat grass? It is believed that grass intake helps cats in dealing with underlying gastrointestinal issues including inflammatory bowel disease or food intolerance. As mentioned above, their digestive system has no particular enzymes that will aid in digesting grass. As such, it results in cat vomiting, eliminating indigestible items or others that might be causing gastric problems.
Why do cats eat grass: theories
Your feline friend may not be able to tell you directly why she enjoys doing such baffling behaviour. However, there are theories as to why she does it.
- She purposely does it to help her deal with underlying gastrointestinal diseases. It is believed that instinctively, cats know that grass can make them vomit. It is their way of soothing their stomach.
- Your cat finds grass as an oral fixation. Similar to other cats, she enjoys chewing on things—like electrical cords, blankets, shoelaces, or plants—when bored. Beware as it can be a sign of anxious behaviour. It helps to provide her with activities to keep her mind busy. Prevent her from accessing dangerous items that she might be interested in chewing.
- It might be her way of coping with stressors. In some cases, a cat that constantly eats grass or plants can be exhibiting a sign of displacement behaviour or anxiety disorder. Signs include over-grooming, excessive vocalisation, and excessive chewing.
The real answer to why do cats eat grass
According to research done by the University of California, ‘preliminary findings suggest that plant-eating is less common in cats than in dogs.’ It mentioned two mistaken beliefs:
- Dogs and cats are sick, thus they find the need to vomit.
- They have a dietary deficiency.
The study suggests a third option wherein the trait may have been inherited from their wild ancestors.
This means that they were able to retain the innate predisposition from wild felid ancestors. Plant intake may have a biological purpose which plays a role in coping with intestinal parasites in the wild.
Upon digesting plants, the plant material makes its way through the intestinal tract. This increases intestinal motility, which eventually purges the tract of intestinal nematodes.
The study has seen a significant number of younger animals eating plants than older ones. The pattern presents the possibility that young animals eat plants more often because they may be less immune to intestinal parasites. This is believed to be the true answer to why do cats eat grass?
Things to remember
If you have a cat that adores eating grass and plants, here are some helpful tips:
- It is important that you know all the plants around your house. You should be able to identify the types of plants from what is safe to eat to what is dangerous. Remove all plants that can be poisonous to cats.
The following are some plants that are harmful to felines:
- Castor bean
- Sago palm
- Tulip bulbs
- Do not give her access to grass or plants that are chemically treated. Instead, ensure that the lawn uses pet-friendly treatments or fertilisers.
- There are pet stores that offer a variety of grass made exactly to accommodate your cat’s needs. It can be placed all around the house for grazing purposes or can be given as treats.
Still have more questions? Check out more tips in our pet blog.