Which Greens Are Safe -- or Not Safe -- for Your Cat?
I have a cat -- Rama -- who adores lettuce and any dark leafy greens. His craving is so strong that I can bring home a bag of groceries and he knows instantly if there is an edible green in the bag. I can barely get the greens put away before Rama comes after them. I had a yoga student once with the same kind of cat -- she had named him "leafy greens" because he loved green leafy vegetables.
These cats made me wonder just why cats love greens so much. Why does my Rama crave leafy greens? Which greens are and are not good for your cat? I did some checking and here's what I found out about cats and greens.
Why cats love and need (some) greens
Grass is a green which many cats love. There's a lot of information out there about cats and grass, and why grass eating can be good for your cat. Cats eat grass because it provides a digestive enzyme that allows them to better digest vegetables. Cats may also throw up after eating grass, but this isn't a bad thing. Theories suggest that the throwing up can eliminate stuff in the digestive tract that the cat wasn't able to digest. Also, grass contains folic acid, an essential vitamin for cats. And grass may serve as a laxative, causing things like hairballs to move more easily through the digestive tract.
So grass seems to be a good thing for your cat, if you can deal with the throwing up that may come with it. If you're feeding your cat grass, and you're taking the grass from outside, make sure the grass hasn't been treated with lawn chemicals. Remember that some chemicals can travel by air, from nearby treated lawns. You may be best off growing your own grass for your cat to eat. At least you'll know it's chemical-free.
As with anything, there's another side to this story, and there seems to be a possibility that a blade of grass could potentially cause choking. A blade of grass can get caught in the back of your cat's throat. Be aware of this. If your cat craves greens, maybe you want to try something with a wider leaf, like lettuce.
Lettuce and dark leafy vegetables
If your cat loves lettuce and greens, these can be a great source of water, bulk, and nutrients. In my experience, some cats crave these greens and some couldn't care less. Again, use caution. Lettuce is okay; dark lettuce and organic lettuce might be better. Don't indiscriminately feed greens without checking them out first. For instance, are carrot greens or turnip greens safe for cats? I just searched and found nothing conclusive, though one New York Times article suggested that carrot greens had bad effects on humans. So be cautious and check with your vet first, or stick to greens like lettuce. You might also, if feeding the cats greens like parsley, remove stems if they could cause choking -- though I've never had this problem.
Avoid the "greens" of certain houseplants
Many cats love houseplants, and some houseplants are toxic for cats. Because my cats love greens, I have few houseplants, and the ones I do are out of reach of the cats. Here's a video on houseplants that are toxic to cats. This article also mentions common houseplants (and many other things in a home) that are toxic to cats. And this Catster article contains links to an extensive list of poisonous and safe houseplants for your cat.
If you have houseplants that are not toxic to cats in your living space, be sure that you're not using chemicals on the plant or in the soil (some cats love to dig in dirt) that your cat could accidentally ingest.
Around the holidays, experts suggest that you keep a Christmas tree away from cats, or abstain from having a real tree altogether. Pine needles can perforate a cat's intestine, and some say that water that a Christmas tree sits in can be toxic for a cat (as well as fertilizers or chemicals that some folks add to Christmas tree water). Expert opinion varies on whether Christmas tree water is toxic for cats; Dr. Eric Barchas of Catster says that he's never seen an adverse reaction when cats drink Christmas tree water. Use your good judgement, and obviously, keep tinsel, ribbons, and any other potentially harmful tree decorations out of reach of your cat.
More on cats, greens, and safety:
- How to Decorate Your Place with Plants without Killing Your Cats
- Can a Blade of Grass Kill a Cat?
- 11 Tips for Cat-Proofing Your Home This Fall
About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of a short story collection about people and place. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.