Cats are quirky creatures with habits that can seem rather baffling to their owners. One of these behaviors is cats chowing down on grass and then throwing it back up. Why on earth do these intelligent and sensitive mammals do this? Here, we answer this question and explore the reasons behind this peculiar cat behavior.
First, however, be reassured that eating grass is not harmful to cats and may even be beneficial for them.
The 5 Most Common Reasons Cats Eat Grass
1. Throwing Up With Purpose
Cats are classified as obligate carnivores, which means they need to eat meat to survive. In fact, they don’t have the right digestive enzymes to metabolize vegetation, so adding vegetables to a cat’s 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 materials they consumed—bones, feathers, hairballs, etc., all of which might make your cat feel ill. Purposeful throwing up can remove the material that is causing your cat to feel unwell.
2. The Purge
Your cat might seek out grass to intentionally dispel excess fur or even parasites like worms through their other end. Grass can add extra bulk and fiber to their diet, which can act as a natural laxative and 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 they are 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.
4. Stress Eating
Just like when people partake in emotional eating, cats can be prone to the same behavior. Pica (pronounced PIE-kuh) is a compulsive eating disorder in which people or animals ingest materials that are considered non-food items. Pica typically occurs for a number of reasons: The cat has a deficiency in folic acid in their 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, they might take to eating grass as a way of relieving stress.
If your cat regularly eats grass and other non-food items, they 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 are placed in areas that your cat cannot access, as they might turn to chew 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 them to your vet to help rule out any health issues. You can also work with your vet to help your cat if you believe that they have stress or anxiety problems.
5. A Matter of Taste
In some cases, it could just be that your cat is enjoying the feel and taste of the grass in their mouth. Maybe they’re one of those cats that believes that they’re always hungry, and grass is an easy way to alleviate their hunger.
Cause for Concern
As you can observe from this list of reasons that 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. 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 out, and take them to your veterinarian if you suspect that they might be sick. They could have a mild or severe reaction, which includes the possibility of death, so it’s important that you monitor outdoor activities or keep them indoors.
So, now we’ve gone over the most common possibilities of why your cat might be eating grass. They might be trying to settle an upset stomach or are purging themselves of indigestible items. They might be looking to add folic acid to their diet, or they 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 them to your vet. Overall, grass eating isn’t anything to be worried about, and as long as you keep an eye on your cat and what they’re eating, your beloved pet should be just fine. In fact, you can consider growing some cat grass yourself!
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Featured Image: mowli, Pixabay