Cats are carnivores, right, so why do they eat grass?
We all know cats like to be contrary, but do they just eat grass to confound us, or is there a reason for their compulsion to chow down on greens? No-one truly knows the answer, but that doesn’t stop us having an educated guess at why grass can look greener than cat biscuits.
Here are six pawsible reasons cats gorge on grass.
1. Folic Acid
Folic acid is a water soluble B vitamin which is important for a cat’s well-being.
OK, there’s a lot on information right there in one sentence. Let’s break things down a little.
Folic acid plays several roles in the body:
- Production of haemoglobin, the vital molecule which binds oxygen in red blood cells
- Manufacturing DNA for cell repair and growth
- Assists with the metabolism of fat
An interesting point is that folic acid is “water soluble”. This means that a cat can pee out folic acid in their urine. So a cat that drinks a lot (such as kidney cats or those with diabetes) loses a lot of folic acid.
Deficiencies can potentially also arise when a cat is on treatment for infection. Antibiotics can kill the bugs in the gut that help process folic acid, resulting in lower levels in the blood. Another group needing extra folic acid are anaemic cats, with a raised requirement in order to make new blood cells.
So what has this to do with eating grass?
Grass sap is an excellent source of folic acid. A cat may instinctively know they need to up their intake and turn to chewing grass as the answer.
2. A Natural Laxative
When a cat grooms she swallows lots of hair. If she doesn’t bring this up as a fur ball then it passes down the digestive tract.
Grass is an excellent source of fibre which promotes contraction of the gut and the expulsion of hard-to-digest hair, thus spring-cleaning the system. Thus, when they have belly ache cats may instinctively recognize that eating grass helps things move along and make them feel better.
3. A Natural Emetic
An ‘emetic’ is a substance that induces vomiting. Now you might wonder “Why would a cat want to make themselves vomit?” The answer to get rid of those pesky fur balls. . . and indeed to avoid unwanted stomach parasites.
A fur ball can rub round inside the stomach like a sock in a tumble dryer. This causes inflammation and feelings of indigestion. The answer is to bring up the blockage in order to relieve the symptoms. . . enter the emetic properties of grass.
4. The Antidote to a Refined Diet
Cats like to vomit! Nature designed them that way.
Sounds odd, but it’s true.
Cats in the wild survive by chowing down the whole of their prey. They don’t just nibble away on the mouse muscle, but gobble up the fur, bones, and gut contents. The cat digests what they can and then vomits up what they can’t. It’s a cat’s answer to not letting a rival cat get their paws on vital nutrition.
However, refined cat foods are so digestible a cat doesn’t need to vomit. . . and yet their body is programed to have a good purge from time to time. The answer is to go back to nature and chew on grass.
5. Boredom Busting
Cats, and most especially kittens, are inquisitive creatures. They love to explore their surroundings and to a certain extent chew it. In itself, chewing is a repetitive activity that can alleviate boredom in a cat without other things to occupy their day. In the same way a child sucks their thumb, some cats turn to chewing grass as a means of comforting themselves.
6. It’s What They Do
And last but not least, cats chew grass. . . because it’s what they do.
In a scientific survey looking into grass eating, 80% of more than 2,500 cats that took part ate plants in one form or another. This actually isn’t a surprise as it’s well recognized behaviour in lions and other big cats.
Of those that ate grass and plants 95% were fit and well, showing no signs of intestinal disease, which disputes the thought that cats use grass as a medicine. Of the grass eaters, only one third vomited afterwards, and this was even lower (around 2%) in cats under 12 months of age.
The scientists concluded that grass eating is normal and may have some beneficial effects such as getting rid of worms. In other words, it’s just something cats do.
And finally, eating grass is a normal behaviour that even indoor cats need to express. With this in mind, grow some kitty grass or wheat grass in a tray for your cat to snack on. Not only will this benefit your cat’s mind and body, but it could save your house plants.
Of course, if your cat’s habits change or your cat is sick regularly, then it’s well worth getting her checked out by a vet. Excessive or persistent vomiting can be a vital symptom that something is amiss.
Does your cat eat grass? Do you grow potted cat grass for your cat? Please share in the comments below.