Why Do Cat Eat Grass?

cat eating grassIf there’s one thing that cats love, it’s most probably feeding time. The quest for food ranks as one of the most important things in a cat’s life, and if you’re a cat parent, you’ve surely seen your cat running around and running to you when they hear the treat packet rustle or when you take their food bowl to fill up with their favorite meals.

The modern cat’s diet has changed completely from the days of their wild ancestors, with all kinds of scientifically formulated and nutrient rich foods that you can easily get off the shelf at the supermarket or at specialty pet food stores. Back in the days before modern civilization, the ancient cats had to go hunting for their food, much like all other animals they shared the land with. And with that being said, let’s also establish the fact that cats, both modern and ancient, are “obligate carnivores”, which means that they need a steady diet of meat in order to survive and have their bodies work at 100% efficiency.

Because of the sometimes extended periods between hunts where prey are few and far between, ancient cats developed the proper bodily enzymes required to process vegetation – and one of the most common forms of vegetation found in the untamed wildlands is of course, grass.

How does grass help cats?

Unlike humans, cats don’t have frequent guilt trips where after spending a few days on vacation binging on cheat day meals and gastronomic delights, they go back to a strict diet of salads for the next week to make up for the calories they gained. However, there is a slight similarity as to why cats eat greens – they do so because it helps to remove non-digestible materials in their gut such as fur or other things they may accidentally ingest, and it gives them a myriad of nutritional benefits such as folic acid. Stress relief is also one of the more common reasons that cats much on the green stuff. Let’s explore more about these reasons below.

Grass for cat digestion

Your cat’s digestive system is built to withstand a beating, thanks to the genetic advantages passed to them via their wild ancestors, who eat raw meat and other assorted edible, organic items they find in the wild. However, this doesn’t mean that they never face issues such as constipation or the feeling of being blocked up after overeating. When this happens, the natural instinct is to obviously try and get all of that blockage out of their system with fiber. And one of the favorite forms of fiber for cats? It’s grass (or even chewing on toilet paper roll, in some situations!).

Chewing and consuming grass allows them to settle their stomachs, much like how we humans pop an antacid when we’re feeling bloated and our digestive system goes out of sorts.

Another reason why your cat eats grass is the fact that grass contains nutrients that are good for them. How do they know that? Well, cat researchers haven’t fully figured that out yet, but it probably has something to do with the active genetic memory of your cat since the days of her earliest ancestors. Nutrients such as folic acid and vitamin B9 support cat cell growth, and they get a lot of it as kittens through their mother’s milk. Adult cats who don’t get enough of these vitamins and nutrients may be at risk of developing anemia, which is why some experts believe that cats seek out grass to supplement this deficiency. This is still unconfirmed however, so if you feel like your cat is suffering from any nutritional deficiencies, it’s always best to consult your vet before treating the issue on your own.

Cats use grass to alleviate anxiety

When cats get anxious or stressed, they tend to partake in binge eating or chewing random things in or outside the house. This is not because they are hungry, but because they need to relieve their anxiety or a natural instinct to chew – and oftentimes when outside, grass or plants are the most accessible outlets for them to satisfy their chewing urges. This is perfectly natural behavior and may even be healthy for them in most cases.

However – if you find your cat eating more grass than usual, combined with excessive vocalization, over-grooming and generally anxious behavior, note that these are signs of displacement behaviors and should be looked at by your vet as soon as possible to see how you can help your little fur baby calm down and live a happier life.

Vomiting after eating grass

Sometimes you may witness your cat throwing up after a long grass eating session – this is absolutely normal and there is nothing for you to worry about. Cats aren’t naturally engineered to digest grass (but they do absorb its nutrients), so expect it to come out one way or another, either through vomiting or in the litterbox. Because pre-domesticated cats used to consume prey whole, vomiting has become a necessary part of their digestive process to remove unwanted hair, bones and other inedible material, and in the case of your domesticated feline furball, she uses the help of grass to remove any offending material stuck in her digestive tract, and removes them as she would a hairball or when going to the toilet.

Final thoughts

Essentially, cat eating is perfectly normal behaviour for cats – the only thing you need to look out for is if the grass or plants she is eating has been treated with pesticides, herbicides or if they are naturally toxic to cats. Do your research and ensure that she doesn’t consume greens from any patches that you know have been treated with harsh chemicals, as this might cause some severe medical issues for your feline companion.

If you keep your cat indoors all the time, you can actually purchase some cat grass from your local pet store. Try placing it in a little patch in your home and see if she enjoys it. You’ll be surprised at how happy she’ll be to have a part of her natural instincts being put to use every day!

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