Why does my cat eat grass and is this OK?
Ever wondered why your cat likes to eat grass?
Basil is OBSESSED with getting outside to nibble some grass. He’s is an indoors cat and only goes outside under supervision. He loves getting outside and my long term plan is to build him his own special outdoor cat enclosure when our renovation is finished so he can spend more time outside.
I digress… You would think that getting out into the garden would give Mr Baz the opportunity to lounge about in the sun, hunt lizards, climb tress and do all those things that cats love. But no. He goes straight for his favourite patch of longer grass next to the fence and starts to nibble on the long blades.
Does your cat do this too? This is very normal cat behaviour, which is a bit strange considering cats are carnivores and therefore are not really equipped to eat vegetable matter. In fact, cats actually lack the enzymes required to break down grass, so why do they eat it? What need does grass eating satisfy for our feline friends? The good news is that there is no evidence to suggest that nibbling on grass does any harm – as long as the plant species is safe for cats (more on this later). In fact, eating grass may even be beneficial.
So why do cats eat grass then? There are a couple of different schools of thought and the information below is a summary of the advice I have given to my cat-owning clients over the years.
Why Your Cat Eats Grass – Common Reasons:
1. Cats need to regurgitate from time to time. Most cats will throw up after eating grass because they don’t have the enzymes they need to break down vegetable matter. The thinking here is that it helps cats clear out any indigestible food from their stomach. Undomesticated cats (and even domesticated ones that can hunt outside) will eat their entire prey – muscle, bones, feathers, skin etc. Not all of this can be digested, so they have developed a very effective regurgitation reflex to clear all this out of their stomach. Interestingly, Basil does not regurgitate after eating grass at all.
2. Grass acts as a natural laxative for cats, especially those with longer or thicker fur that are prone to hair balls. We all know that cats are fastidious groomers! Because they lick themselves to keep clean, they also ingest a lot of hair. This can cause hair balls within the digestive tract (sometimes cats will throw up wet, soggy clumps of hair also). Eating grass may help clear out this hair by moving it through the digestive tract and out the other end.
3. Grass contains folic acid, one of the B vitamins that is essential for all animals (even us!). Folic acid is important for the production of haemaglobin in the body. Haemaglobin lives in red blood cells and carries oxygen around the body in the blood.
So don’t be too concerned if your cat likes to eat grass. If you have an indoor cat, then I would recommend that you have a small container of wheat grass (or other non-toxic grass) that your cat can access when they feel the need to nibble on some. You could even go one step further and create a potted garden with a variety of plants for your cat like I did (DIY Indoor Cat Grass Planter). Here’s a pic of the one I made for Basil, inspired by this great blog post by Regan at The Anti-June Cleaver.
Which Plants Are Suitable For My Cat (and Which Are Toxic)?
For a list of suitable non-toxic plants for cats, check out these sites:
And here’s a list for household plants and cut flowers to avoid if you share your home with cats:
Where Can I Go For More Information?
If you would like more information on why cats eat grass, then check out the following useful websites:
Is your cat as obsessed as Basil? I’d be interested to know which plants your cat loves to eat. Any questions – just ask!