—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸
If you let your cat outside or you take care of an outdoor cat colony, you might notice them gnawing on some greens. The good news is that this is normal and many cats definitely like to eat grass.
But why does an obligate carnivore that doesn’t have the correct enzymes to properly digest plants want to treat itself to grass? The reasoning behind it is still a bit of a mystery, but we’ll review some of the most popular hypotheses, and wrap it up with safe grasses for your cat.
Hypothesis 1: Natural Laxative - Most Likely
Green contains fiber, which could act as a natural laxative. This could help pass items that are having a difficult time in the GI tract, like furballs, worms, or even bones and feathers from prey that made it past the stomach and are in the intestines.
Based on research done in 2019, scientists feel the ability to get parasites out of the intestines is the main reason why cats eat grass.
Hypothesis 2: Induce Vomiting
Ever notice how a cat may eat grass and then throw up? One hypothesis is that grass can be consumed based on instinct to induce vomiting and expelling any indigestible parts from a recent catch, like bone and feathers.
It could also be a way to get out a furball that’s hanging out in a cat’s stomach, or even parasites like roundworms, which can hang out in the stomach in bad infestations.
Hypothesis 3: Folic Acid
Kidney and liver contain folic acid, but so do veggies and grass. Folic acid is also in a queen’s milk, so kittens start getting plenty of it immediately. It helps with growth, digestion, DNA synthesis, and even helps produce hemoglobin (transports oxygen in the cat’s bloodstream). A kitten without enough folic acid may have a stunted development.
Most cats get enough folic acid in their food, but some do not, and run the risk of becoming anemic. It’s possible cats instinctively eat grass to increase their folic acid levels when needed. Indoor cats with a folic acid deficiency may need a prescription diet or folic acid supplement.
Hypothesis 4: Texture
Whenever a cat chews on anything, it can be for a variety of reasons, but they do seem to enjoy certain textures. It’s possible the texture of grass is just something they enjoy nibbling on.
Eating Grass: Is It Safe?
Although a little grass every now and then is no problem, it can be dangerous if the grass has been treated with pesticide or fertilizers. If you treat your lawn, use pet-friendly fertilizers; if you take your cat on walks, don’t let them eat the grass on properties you don’t know.
Also, eating grass in excess could indicate another issue, like something digestive, anemia, or even obsessive compulsive disorder. Try to video the behavior and share any concerns to your vet.
Instead of taking the risk and allowing your cat to eat anything outside, add some safe indoor plants for your cat to munch on:
- Cat grass - All great for digestion, and often found at checkout of pet supply stores:
- Wheat grass
- Oat grass
- Barley grass
- Catnip - Non-toxic, and causes stimulation in 50% of cats
- Valerian - Has a strong odor, and causes aroused state like catnip
- Cat thyme - Another feline stimulant
- Licorice root - Serves as a natural anti-inflammatory; great for arthritis, digestion, and liver health
While we still don’t really know why cats like grass, it’s clear they do, and in small quantities, it’s really nothing to be concerned about. It’s safer to allow your cat to indoor grass, but if your cat chews on a few pieces in your backyard, they’ll more than likely be just fine. Remember that the fiber can help with digestion and be a good thing for your kitty’s gut.
Animal Plant, Why Do Cats Eat Grass?.
Greencross Vets, Why Do Cats Eat Grass?.
Millburn, Naomi. The Nest, Folic Acid Deficiency in Cats.
PetMD Editorial, Why Do Cats Eat Grass?.
Purina, Why Do Cats Eat Grass?.
Schultz, David. AAAS, Mystery Solved? Why Cats Eat Grass.
Telkamp, Mick. HGTV, 7 Plants to Grow for Cats.
Article by Elizabeth Italia 🙋♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist