You have probably noticed this slightly odd behavior – your cat, well-known meat-eating predator, munching on some grass. To add to the weirdness of the scene, he or she then goes on to vomit said grass, and then nibble some more! What is going on here?
Most of us are repelled by anything that makes us regurgitate our meal. For humans, this is a well-known sign that your body does not like what you have just ingested and would really prefer that you didn’t do it again!
For some reason, cats don’t work this way. It’s not that your cat is enjoying the vomiting. It certainly looks unpleasant as they hack up balls of grass remnants, but back to the grass they go. The reason may have to do with some funny details about your cat’s digestive system and certain qualities of the grass itself.
A Bit About Grass
Cats are carnivorous – avid meat eaters and hunters. The grass doesn’t suit their system, but they also lack the capability to digest it at all. In fact, the non-digestible quality of grass for cats may be the very reason your cat is snacking on the lawn.
Consider this, why do you eat particular foods that look like grass, such as salad or sprouts? Our human vegetable, lettuce, and sprout consumption is often motivated by the fiber that those leafy plants provide. Cats may be doing the same sort of thing. Over the course of their hunting and licking day, cats may end up with all kinds of non-digestible items mucking up their digestion. Hair, bits of bug (disgusting right?), tiny bones, and more hair all add up to stoppages, blockages, and discomfort.
By adding some grass to their intake, a cat will clear their stomachs and intestines of any unwanted byproducts of their cleaning and dietary peculiarities. Cats are unable to digest grass so they will inevitably cast it from their insides, usually by throwing it up. The hair and other undesirables will all be evicted along with the tough grass.
What Is In Grass?
Another possibility is that your cat is chewing some grass so they can soak up some vitamins. Grass is full of folic acid, an essential nutrient for your cat’s health. Your cat’s mom provided tons of folic acid in the milk she fed her babies, and your cat still needs some for keeping their blood oxygenated. Cats can get folic acid from all kinds of foods we normally associate with as their diets, such as healthier cat foods, kidneys, and liver. If they’re feeling a little light in the folic acid department, however, some grass juice may do the trick.
Having low folic acid can be dangerous to a cat. Blood deprived of oxygen is more susceptible to disorders. Anemia is also a very real risk for a malnourished cat and can cause a decrease in appetite, pale gums, and stunted growth.
What Happens If Your Cat Eats Too Much Grass?
A little dietary grass is no real cause for concern. In fact, a cat who is regularly eating grass is just attending to her or his health.
Then again, if your cat ups their intake substantially, talk to a veterinarian. Cats don’t do fad diets; if they change what they eat to include more grass being used as a laxative, it may be your cat is experiencing some digestive problems.
Another theory suggests that cats may eat grass to ease a sore throat. Again, if this is why your cat likes to graze, a sudden increase could suggest a problem existing or developing. Always check with a professional.
Watch What They Eat
Cats aren’t going to know to be careful of your indoor plants, so check the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants to ensure that no tragic accidental poisonings happen in your home.
Watch out for the cat who tends to roam more. You’re going to have a much harder time monitoring what they eat while they’re away. Even if your cat avoids the toxic plants, they will not be able to tell which grass is sprayed with pesticides. People commonly spray their lawns to prevent weeds and various pests, but these sprays can be harmful to your cat.
If your cat is normally indoors, he or she will not have the savvy street smarts to know which plants or lawns they should probably avoid.
Growing Your Own Snacking Grass
One possible remedy for pesticides and other unknowns is to grow your cat their own little garden of grass.
To encourage your cat to eat at home, grow cat grass for your home. You can pick your type of grass to max the nutritional content. You can also make sure it stays organically grown.
Some particularly nutritious grass options include oat grass, barley grass, or wheat grass. Marge (the cat) at P. Allen Smith Garden Home advises oat grass in particular because it’s especially sweet and lacks the serrated edges with which some grass grows.
Marge also suggests some growing tips, such as selecting the right sized container-about 6” in diameter-and continuously plant new seeds as this will provide constant refreshing of the grass for nibbling.
Also, consider buying grass seed specifically labeled as “Cat Grass” as this is most likely grown without pesticides and with cat health in mind.
No Garden? No Problem!
If you can’t cultivate any grass where you live, talk to your veterinarian and see if they can supply you with some extra folic acid supplements. Mix these into your cat’s dinner and rest assured that your pet is getting the nutrients he or she needs. Your cat may still look for fiber elsewhere, though, for purging needed to clear hair and other such stomach irritants.
The Verdict – Why Do Cats Eat Grass?
The general consensus seems to be that grass consumption and regurgitation, as odd as it is to witness, is both a heathy and very common habit for cats. If you can maintain something organic and controlled for your cat, all the better, but this behavior – in moderation – is both healthy and normal.