Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Why do cats eat grass?

The reason why cats sometimes eat grass (and other plants) is not completely understood. There are several probable theories as to why they do:  

For the nutrients
Cats are carnivorous,  they need to consume meat to live. When cats hunt, they consume almost all parts of their prey including the stomach and its contents. This may include small amounts of plant matter and their nutrients. Your pet cat probably doesn't hunt and therefore won't get to ingest those small amounts of plant material obtained from prey.  They may try to obtain these vitamins/minerals by eating grass if there is a nutritional imbalance in the diet.
To help them vomit
We all know what happens after our cats consume grass, they come back inside and vomit all over our favorite bed or rug.  Spiteful?  Maybe.  It is believed that grass acts as an irritant to the stomach, and cats don't have the ability to digest grass in the way herbivores do. This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view because when hunting, cats eat their entire prey.  Vomiting helps rid the digestive tract of unwanted feathers, bones, etc.
To bring up hairballs
Adding to the vomiting theory, it is speculated that another reason cats consume grass is to assist with the passage of hairballs. When cats groom themselves, they inevitably ingest fur which can build up in the stomach. Eating grass can help with the passage of hairballs either from regurgitating or as a laxative.

Because they can
They may simply enjoy the taste of grass. Cat-loving friends tell us that their own feline friends enjoy a variety of greenery--cucumber and broccoli are just two.  Now if we could just get them to eat their spinach!

What kind of grass
If you want to grow a tub of grass inside for your cat to nibble on, common types include:

·         Wheatgrass
·         Barley
·         Common oat

Is there a difference between cat grass and catnip?
Yes, catnip is a member of the mint family. They are completely unrelated. Catnip can also induce a "buzz" in some cats; cat grass doesn't have this effect on cats.
Cat grass and catnip are perfectly safe for your cat to eat.  However, mind there are a large number of plants that are toxic to cats. It is recommended you don't have indoor house plants that are poisonous as they can in some cases lead to death.   The ASPCA includes the following plants on their toxicity list:
·         Aloe Vera
·         Asian Lily
·         Asparagus Fern
·         Begonia
·         Baby's Breath
·         Calla Lily
·         Corn Plant
·         Cycads (Sago Palm, Fern Palm
·         Daffodil
·         Geranium
·         Jade Plant
·         Pencil Cactus
·         Ribbon Plant (Corn Plant, Cornstalk Plant, Dracaena, Dragon Tree)
·         Tulip

Safety precautions
Note that grass grown outdoors may have been sprayed with chemicals such as weed killers or fertilizers that can be toxic to cats.  If you have an outdoor cat, take care if your cat has a tendency to nibble on the greenery.

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