Why Do Cats Eat Grass?


It is not an unusual experience for cat owners to witness their feline friends vomiting hairballs that are sometimes accompanied by a few blades of grass. Even cats that are safely kept indoors are tempted to try out their garden trimming skills on houseplants, which can be a deadly hobby if the plant in question is poisonous. Why are these meat connoisseurs sampling the local vegetation?

The Grass Is Always Greener

You keep your kitty well fed, but she may occasionally crave a grassy snack simply because it is enticing to a cat. Captivated by the subtlest of movements, a cat finds those blades of grass attractive as they flicker in the breeze. An indoor plant with unusually shaped foliage excites a cat that is on the verge of play mode.

Not only are plants and grasses fun for rolling on in sheer delight, they are amusing playthings to cuff with an inquisitive paw and they are also rather tasty. If your cat has made this discovery, the grass may always beckon her attention, no matter how much she enjoyed the breakfast that you offered her.

Craving a Taste of the Wild

In addition to the entertainment factor, other theories have been pursued to explain why cats eat grass, especially since cats are obligatory carnivores. Although the primary component of a cat’s ideal diet for optimal health is a digestible protein source, a well-balanced cat food also contains fatty acids, taurine, grains and fruits and vegetables for vitamins and antioxidants.

As carnivores, cats are not designed to digest plant material. Thus, indoor cats that are fed balanced nutrition do not require additional nutrients, and they do not crave grass as a means to take in fiber or nutrients that are lacking in their diet.

Some cats, however, sense an occasional craving that may be ingrained from their ancestral roots. Historically, wild cats that were required to hunt for their meals consumed the plant material from the gastrointestinal tracts of their herbivorous prey. When a yearning for that taste of the wild strikes today’s satiated housecat, she turns to a leafy snack to fulfill that craving.

Evicting the Hairball

Gossamer1013 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/gossamerwings/192246375/sizes/o/

Gossamer1013 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gossamerwings/192246375/sizes/o/

As any seasoned cat owner knows, hairballs are a part of feline life. They spend hours preening, gulping down dead hairs in the process, and the hair can accumulate and mat inside the intestinal tract. What goes in has to come out, in one direction or the other.

When these hairballs do not pass easily, they can leave your cat feeling uncomfortable. Her instinct is to evict that offending hairball once and for all, and she turns to grass grazing as a remedy. Since cats lack the necessary digestive enzymes for breaking down plant material, a dose of grass incites regurgitation. This instinctual behavior kicks in when cats ingest anything indigestible. This stems from their traditional eating habits of consuming their entire prey, including feathers and bones that are not digestible and need to be expelled.

Satisfying Her Oral Fixation

Some cats may eat grass as a result of behavioral issues. One such instance is known as pica, a condition in which cats are compelled to chew on, and often ingest, foreign materials.

Typically, these cats crave a hazardous menu of snacks that may include rubber bands, strings, small children’s toys and poisonous houseplants. Another behavioral condition that can prompt cats to continuously chew on grass, plants, wool, fabrics and other substances at every opportunity is obsessive-compulsive disorder.

When Grass Grazing Becomes Hazardous

Although outdoor grass itself is not dangerous for cats that like to graze occasionally, the habit should be discouraged. The use of chemical herbicides and pesticides can turn a natural snack into a toxic one. While you may opt for organic products, your neighbors may not be so environmentally conscious. This is one of the many reasons why cats fare much better when kept strictly indoors. If your indoor cat turns to nibbling on your houseplants, it is vital to keep only non-toxic flora in your home.

Grow An Indoor Salad Bar

The natural intrigue for nibbling on grass and other plant material can be diverted away from your houseplants by providing your feline friend with her own edible garden. Many pet supply retailers carry cat garden kits, which consist of pots, trays and the seeds to grow safe plants that attract cats, including wheatgrass, oat grass and catnip.

Once the plants have grown to four inches in height, place them in an accessible location for your cat. When she discovers that the salad bar buffet is open, she will play and graze to her heart’s content and suffer no toxic effects from her indulgence