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Why Do Cats Eat Grass? 5 Reasons Behind the Behavior

Our beloved cats are quirky creatures with some habits that seem rather baffling to cat owners. One of these behaviors is cats chowing down on grass and then throwing it back up. Why? Why on earth do these intelligent and sensitive mammals eat grass only to throw it up again? Well, rest assured, we will answer this question and explore the reasons behind this peculiar cat behavior.

However, before we launch into the whys, we would like to start by reassuring you that eating grass is not harmful and is thought to possibly be beneficial for your cat.

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1. Throwing Up with Purpose

Cats are classified as obligate carnivores, which means they need to eat meat to survive. In fact, the cat doesn’t have the right digestive enzymes to metabolize vegetation, so adding vegetables to their diet isn’t doing them any favors.

Because of their inability to digest the grass, some cats may throw up, which will also expel any indigestible material – bones, feathers, hairballs, all of which might make your cat feel ill. Purposeful throwing up can remove the material that is causing your cat to feel unwell.

cat on grass field
Image Credit: Michael Berger, Pixabay

2. The Purge

Your cat might also seek out grass to intentionally dispel excess fur or even parasites, such as worms, through their other end. Grass might add extra bulk and fiber to her diet, which can act as a natural laxative and could potentially help your cat get rid of unwanted visitors.


3. Added Vitamins

Grass contains folic acid (vitamin B9) when it’s broken down (essentially, chewing grass releases the folic acid in the “grass juice”). Kittens usually receive folic acid through their mother’s milk. It’s essential for keeping red blood cells healthy, and if there isn’t enough folic acid in the body, anemia could occur.

Some experts believe that your cat will sometimes eat grass when she is deficient in folic acid, but there is no way of knowing for certain. If you suspect that your cat may be lacking in folic acid or other vitamins and minerals, speak to your vet before attempting to treat the condition at home.

cat eating grass
Image Credit: Kadres, Pixabay

4. Stress Eating

Just like when people “eat your feelings,” or partake in emotional eating, cats might be prone to the same behavior. Pica (pronounced PIE-kuh) is a compulsive eating disorder consisting of people or animals ingesting material that is considered non-food items. Pica typically occurs for a number of reasons – the cat is following the above point of adding a deficiency in folic acid to her diet, or it’s a kind of emotional conflict response. If your cat was weaned at too young of an age, is bored, or stressed, she might take to eating grass as a way of relieving stress.

If your cat regularly eats grass and other non-food items, she might be showing signs of anxiety or stress. Some cats exhibit signs of stress by over-grooming or excessive meowing, or they turn to chewing on inappropriate items as a way of self-soothing. If you have a cat that is indoors-only, be sure your houseplants are not toxic or placed in areas that your cat cannot access as she might turn to chewing on your plants.

If your cat only eats grass once in a while, it typically isn’t anything to worry about. However, if it seems to be a frequent occurrence (several times a day or multiple days a week), be sure to take her to your vet to help rule out any health issues. You can also work with your vet to help your cat if you believe she has stress or anxiety problems.


5. It’s a Matter of Taste

In some cases, it could just be that your cat is enjoying the feel and taste of the grass in her mouth. Or maybe she’s one of those cats who believes that she’s always hungry and grass is an easy way to alleviate her hunger.

a black cat eating up grass
Image Credit: zemekiss, Flickr

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Cause for Concern?

As you can observe from this list of reasons of why your cat may be eating grass, it isn’t typically something to be overly concerned about. Having said that, it is recommended that growing your own cat grass is safer as it’s organic and won’t contain any herbicides or pesticides. And of course, there’s always the entertaining catnip.

If your cat eats grass that you know has been chemically treated, or if you aren’t sure, keep an eye on her and take her to your veterinarian. She could have a mild or severe reaction, which includes the possibility of death, so it’s important that you watch her outdoor activities or keep her indoors.

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Conclusion

So, we’ve gone over the most common possibilities of why your cat might be eating grass. She might be trying to settle an upset stomach or purging herself of indigestible items. She might be looking to add folic acid to her diet, or she might be stress-eating.

Since experts can’t actually ask cats why they do these behaviors, we will never truly know or understand why they occur. However, if you are concerned about your cat’s physical or mental health, take her to your vet. Overall, grass-eating isn’t anything to be worried about, but as long as you keep an eye on your cat and what she’s eating and consider growing some cat grass, your beloved pet should be just fine.


Featured Image: mowli, Pixabay