If you have a cat who is allowed access to the outdoors, I’m sure that at some point you’ve probably seen her nibbling on a few blades of grass in your yard. I’m also sure that immediately afterward you’ve probably seen her throw that grass right back up. It might seem odd that kitty would enjoy eating something that obviously makes her sick, but there are a few theories that seem to indicate grass nibbling actually serves a valuable function.
It Must Be Something I Ate
Cats may eat grass as a way of ridding their digestive tract of something unpleasant or inedible. Grass nibbling may be of particular importance to outdoor cats who eat prey in order to get rid of any inedible parts that get swallowed (feathers, bones, etc.). It can also be a way for a cat to get rid of some hair that gets swallowed during grooming which may cut down on hairballs.
Speaking of Hairballs
Hairballs that don’t get vomited back up, go through the intestinal tract. Sometimes those hairballs don’t pass so easily out the other end. Cats might instinctively know that the added fiber from eating grass may help lubricate things in the south end so hairballs and fecal matter pass more easily.
Another theory is that cats may eat grass for the nutrients it contains. Typically, when a cat eats prey such as a mouse, she would also be consuming the contents of the prey’s stomach. The prey’s tummy typically contains grasses and grains.
Is Eating Grass Harmful?
Eating grass is typically not harmful. If you have an outdoor cat though, you wouldn’t want her eating grass that has been chemically treated. The safest way to provide grass for your cat is to grow a pot of it for her. You can either purchase a “kitty greens” kit at your local pet product store or grow your own using rye, wheat or oat seeds. In fact, providing your cat with some safe kitty greens may help prevent her from nibbling on dangerous houseplants – which ARE toxic to cats.
Don’t confuse grass-eating with plant-eating. All houseplants are toxic to cats and most are poisonous. Keep plants out of your cat’s reach.
Want More Information?
For instructions on how to grow grass for your cat or how to safeguard your cat from the dangers of houseplants, refer to the book, Think Like a Cat. If you’re experiencing a cat behavior problem and would like a consultation with cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, contact our office.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.