Grass isn’t just for cows or horses—sometimes your own cat will enjoy nibbling on some vegetation if given the chance. If you witness your cats eating grass, do not be alarmed. Though it is not completely understood why cats tend to indulge on this unusual “treat,” there are some proposed explanations that may provide some insight to the question, “Why do cats eat grass?”
“Statistics tell us about 80% of cats eat plants of some kind or another,” says Susan Konecny, Medical Director of Best Friends Animal Society. Though the reasons behind this cat behavior is not completely understood, the most common theory is that cats eating grass could be linked to intestinal upset. According to Dr. Konecny, “Cats may eat grass as a way of ridding their digestive tract of something unpleasant or inedible.”
Cats are obligate carnivores—meaning the majority of their diet is protein-based—so they lack the enzymes necessary for breaking down large amounts of plant material. They will oftentimes eat grass to self-induce vomiting to expel any non-digestible material such as fur, feathers and bones and prevent obstruction of the digestive tract.
Dr. Konecny also notes that many theorize that “cats might instinctively know eating grass may provide fiber to help things progress more easily through the gastrointestinal tract.” Fiber is key to healthy digestion in pets, so if your cat’s diet lacks enough of this nutrient, they may be more likely to graze on some grass.
According to Wendy Hauser, DVM, AVP of Veterinary Relations, Hartville Pet Insurance Group, “Grass is also high in folic acid, which enhances the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. If a cat’s diet is lacking in folic acid, the cat might be more likely to ingest grass.”
Dr. Hauser warns pet parents to make sure they are taking proper precautions if their cats take an interest in eating the grass from front lawns. “If your cat goes outside, be sure to avoid fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides that are toxic to cats, and read labels closely!” Additionally, Dr. Hauser advises pet parents to cat-proof their home and yard by choosing plants that are non-toxic.
For cats that love grass, there is the SmartCat Kitty’s Garden, which provides a safe and healthy alternative to eating potentially hazardous houseplants or grass found outdoors. The decorative wood box is filled with oats, rye, wheat and barley for improved digestion and increased intake of essential vitamins and nutrients.
If you want to skip the plants altogether, you can opt for a hairball supplement. Dr. Konecny makes the point that cats may ingest grass as “a way for a cat to get rid of some hair that gets swallowed during grooming, which can result in the formation of hairballs.” If your cats have a problem with hairballs, and you want to prevent cats eating grass, you can try the great-tasting Tomlyn Laxatone Hairball Remedy Tuna Flavor Gel Cat Supplement. Laxatone is a gentle yet effective lubricant that coats the swallowed hair and allows it to easily pass through the intestinal tract.
Vet’s Best Hairball Relief Digestive Aid Cat Supplement can also give your cat hairball relief and digestive help. This product contains a soothing mix of slippery elm bark, psyllium husk and marshmallow root carefully formulated with the National Animal Supplement Council seal of approval. And you can’t go wrong with Greenies Feline SmartBites Hairball Control Cat Treats that use plant-based fibers to help minimize hairball formation and promote healthy digestion.
If your cat often engages in grass-eating cat behavior, Dr. Hauser warns that “cats can uncommonly develop grass foreign bodies in their sinuses.” She notes that this occurs when the cat vomits undigested grass and a blade goes up into the sinuses instead of being passed out through the mouth with the rest of the vomit. “If your cat is a grass-eater and develops sneezing or nasal discharge on one side after vomiting, it is recommended to have your cat examined by your veterinarian,” she says. Additionally, “If eating grass is an unusual behavior for your cat, or your cat is eating more grass than usual, your cat should receive a complete physical examination from their veterinarian.”