Even though our cats are obligate carnivores designed to eat a meat-based diet, sometimes they have a craving for something green. Many cats will show a preference for searching out and eating grass regularly, if they can find it!
Surprisingly, this can have health benefits that you might not be aware of.
While an outdoor cat might just end up chewing on grass from your lawn, an indoor cat without access to any grass might start eyeing up your houseplants instead.
In both cases, it’s much better to provide your cat with a safe and non-toxic variety specifically designed for cats. Yes, cat grass is an actual thing!
In this article, we’ll take a look at five health benefits of cat grass, all backed up by science.
First, though, let’s see what makes a cat want to eat grass in the first place.
Why do cats eat grass anyway?
There are many possible explanations as to why domestic cats might eat grass. You’ve probably heard quite a few of them. We’re only focusing on the ones that have scientific backing, though!
One thing to get out of the way is the myth that eating grass means your cat is sick. This theory has been disproven by research focusing on how often cats who ate grass were subsequently sick.
In a survey of cat owners, 71% of cats were seen eating grass, but only 11% to 27% of these cats (the percentage varied with age) actually vomited after eating the grass.
The researchers who conducted this study concluded that actually most cats eat grass as a way of stimulating their gastrointestinal tract, which can help remove worms from their intestines. Of course, your cat most likely doesn’t actually have worms, but their grass-eating habits are an instinctual throwback to their days as a wild species.
What grass is best for my cat?
Not the grass on your lawn! You can buy kits that allow you to sow and grow non-toxic grasses that your cat can happily munch on at home.
There are many different varieties of cat grass available, and your cat might show a clear preference for one or another! Cat grasses include mixes containing wheatgrass, as well as grasses from oats, flax, barley, and rye.
Offering your cat grass on a regular basis is a great idea. Let’s take a look at those health benefits.
1. Grass is a great source of fiber
As obligate carnivores, our cats should be eating a primarily protein-based diet, but a small amount of fiber is helpful in your cat’s food.
Fiber makes up only 0.55% of the natural diet of cats and would be gained from sources such as the fur and bone collagen of their prey, as well as any undigested fiber that happened to be in the prey’s intestines.
Insoluble fiber, like the cellulose in cat grass, can help maintain a healthy digestive system and prevent both constipation and diarrhea.
As some cat foods contain higher levels of fiber than your cat needs, it’s best to choose a high-protein, low-fiber cat food and offer a supplement of cat grass that your cat can choose to eat when they want to. The amount of cat grass that your kitty needs to eat is small, but you can still give them the choice to eat it!
2. Grass contains vitamins and minerals
As well as containing beneficial fiber, cat grass also contains folic acid, chlorophyll, and vitamin A and D, all of which are great news for cats.
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9 or folate, helps metabolize fats, increase oxygen levels in your cat’s bloodstream, and helps synthesize new DNA. These all help your cat’s growth and development from a tiny kitten into a healthy mature cat. A deficiency in folic acid can lead to anemia, so adding a supplement in the form of cat grass is a great way to make sure your cat gets enough folic acid.
Chlorophyll gives grass its bright green color. It can also help freshen your cat’s breath, and although this probably isn’t the reason that your cat’s eating grass, it’s a benefit for us as their owners! Chlorophyll has been shown to be effective as another way to increase oxygen levels in your cat’s bloodstream.
Cats cannot synthesize, or make, vitamin D themselves, but unlike us humans, they also can’t make vitamin D in response to sunlight. So, whether your cat lives indoors or outdoors, they’ll need to obtain 100% of their vitamin D from their diets. Cat grass is rich in vitamin D, so offering a tray of grass to your cat is a great way to supplement the level in their cat food.
Vitamin A is another essential nutrient to help your cat maintain a healthy immune system, including their skin. It also aids with night vision. Vitamin A has antioxidant properties and can help your cat fight the effects of air pollution and is even thought to have cancer-fighting properties.
3. Grass can help control hairballs
Indoor cats spend more time grooming themselves than their outdoor counterparts, with the result being that they’re also more likely to suffer from hairballs. This is especially true for long-haired indoor cats.
Some cats will pass these hairballs out with their poop, and others will yak them up on your carpet.
You can get specific types of cat food to help prevent the formation of hairballs. But providing your cat with some grass can also help control hairballs by adding fiber and improving the health of your cat’s digestive system, making it easier for them to poop out a hairball rather than vomit it up.
4. It can help stop your cat eating other, unsafe plants
If you don’t provide your cat with greenery in the form of a safe and non-toxic grass designed to be ingested by cats, they might start taking a look at your lawn and house plants. Cats are known to try and ingest more non-grass plants than dogs, so it makes sense to offer an alternative!
Many of us treat our lawns with pesticides or fertilizers, which can be toxic to your cat if they happen to ingest some grass after it’s just been treated. A surprising number of house and garden plants are toxic to cats, and the last thing any of us want is to make our cat ill if they happen to ingest these as a way to get some greenery.
Lilies, cyclamen, azaleas, daffodils, sago palms and more are all toxic to cats, so providing a tray of non-toxic cat grass can act as a great deterrent if your cat is showing signs of interest in other greenery around your house and garden.
5. It’s a great enrichment activity for indoor cats
Indoor cats naturally get less environmental stimulation than outdoor cats. Spending time outdoors can be physically and mentally beneficial for cats, but many of us do choose to keep our cats indoors, and that’s fine too!
But it does mean that means we need to provide our indoor cats with plenty of enrichment opportunities so our cats can maintain the natural behaviors we’d see outside. This includes scratching, investigating, and of course, chewing on grass!
Adding a tray or two of cat grass around the house allows our indoor cats to indulge in a behavior that they won’t get the chance to do if we don’t provide a form of roughage for them to investigate.
We’ve covered the benefits of cat grass, so what about any disadvantages?
It’s true that some cats will vomit up after eating grass, and if your cat does, then yes, you’re going to have to clean it up!
If you want to offer your cat a selection of grasses regularly, then you’ll need to invest in a kit and take the time to water this until the grass grows, and then re-seed the tray or replace it entirely. Some kits come in sets, so you can always have one starting to sprout as the old one dies.
There really aren’t that many disadvantages to providing your cat with the option of yummy grass to nibble on.
But if your cat seems to be eating excessive amounts of cat grass, then you should get them checked out by your veterinarian. Excessive vitamin D in your cat’s diet can cause problems, as can vitamin A. Your veterinarian will want to check your cat over to make sure they’re not suffering from either deficiencies or excessive levels of nutrients.
Offering your cat an appropriate type of non-toxic grass designed for cats is a great way to give them a supplement to their meat-based diet. Of course, not every cat will appreciate the offer of greenery, but it’s definitely worth a try to see if your cat likes it.
Before offering your cat some grass, you should speak to your veterinarian to make sure they’re happy with this addition to your cat’s diet.
Buying a kit designed specifically for cats is the best way to introduce the option of greenery into your cat’s diet, and be sure to monitor your cat’s habits as you offer them this new supplement.
- Why do cats eat grass anyway?
- What grass is best for my cat?
- Bottom line