Cats require a meat-rich diet in order to thrive and stay healthy. Vegetation offers none of the proteins (amino acids) that cats need to thrive. So, a feline’s dietary interest in grass and plants confuses many owners.
The most common reason why cats eat grass is to settle an upset stomach by inducing vomiting or diarrhea. Your cat may be drawn to a unique scent or taste within the greenery. It is possible that the cat is compulsively eating to manage stress or anxiety.
Cats eating grass and plants is very common, but shouldn’t be encouraged. Grass could be treated with pesticides, and many wild plants are toxic to cats. Your cat will instinctively engage in this behavior, so always check for signs of prolonged ill health after your cat has finished eating green plants.
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Why Do Cats Eat Vegetation?
As obligate carnivores, eating greenery isn’t beneficial to a cat’s health. Felines derive the nutrition they need from meat. Protein is critical to a cat’s development and wellbeing. Fiber, which is found in grass, is non-essential.
Despite this, many cats have an interest in eating foliage. This has nothing to do with sustenance, though. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, even feral cats are carnivorous. No cat will thrive by eating greenery.
Most cats vomit after eating vegetation. A cat’s digestive tract is unable to break it down, which means that the grass will quickly be regurgitated. Your cat is intentionally trying to induce vomiting.
A cat will force itself to vomit if it feels a blockage in its throat. For example, cats cannot easily get rid of a large, stubborn hairball by coughing alone. Induced vomiting will purge the hairball from the cat’s body and it will feel much better afterwards.
It’s not just hairballs that could have this effect. If your cat hunts live prey, it may have bones or feathers trapped in its throat. These will become increasingly painful and intrusive. Cats do not enjoy vomiting, but it is the lesser of two evils in these instances.
As grass is so high in fiber, it can also act as a laxative. This, too, can provide relief to a feline. Your cat may deliberately eat grass to speed up digestion. Some cats eat grass to clear up constipation and feel more comfortable.
If your cat has not eliminated in over 24 hours, it is likely to be constipated. Its abdomen will feel swollen, and the cat may try and fail to relieve itself. If your cat eats grass, the fiber will increase the likelihood of elimination.
Grass and plants can carry a wide range of scents that capture feline attention. Countless humans will walk through grass, leaving their scent. Wild animals will also eliminate in the grass.
Tall grass can also home to a range of prey animals. This, in turn, leads to tantalizing aromas. Your cat will grow excited by the smell of prey. In a cat’s mind, a good smell usually means a great taste will follow.
Various plants also have an enticing smell for cats. Plants and flowers with the most enticing scents include:
- Indian nettle
- Silver vine
- Valerian root
It is fine for your cat to eat these plants. None are toxic and will not cause harm if eaten. However, some plants are toxic to felines.
A cat intrigued by a unique scent will investigate further. This involves licking and eating the plant or flower. Common toxic plants include:
- Castor beans
As the Journal of the South African Veterinary Association explains, plant poisoning isn’t always fatal. This depends on what plant was consumed. Even without mortality, swallowing some plants can have bad side effects.
Taste and Texture
If a cat eats a mouse, it eats what is inside the mouse’s stomach. So, it may associate the taste of grass with prey.
Your cat could have found something tasty in the grass before. Insects, for example, often set up home in the grass. Crunching down on an insect may have been a pleasant surprise while eating grass.
Insects are an acquired taste for felines. For some, though, bugs provide a welcome protein boost. If your cat enjoys eating insects, it will try to find them. Helping itself to grass may lead to finding more live prey.
There are also certain plants that taste good to cats. Plants that most cats enjoy the taste of include:
- Spider plants
- Wheat grass
And, of course, catnip. Cats will gleefully eat this plant for a prolonged period of time. Just ensure your cat does not overdose.
The texture of a plant may also appeal to a cat. This is likeliest in artificial houseplants. These have no taste to speak of. Your cat may enjoy chewing the tough material, though. Cats enjoy chewing plastic bags. Artificial plant leaves can provide the same level of stimulation.
Artificial plants can contain toxic materials that will make your cat unwell. Chewing on these materials can also become a compulsion. Issue a strong, stern command that discourages your cat from continuing.
Vitamins And Minerals
Your cat may be eating grass and plants because it lacks appropriate nutrition. Your cat should receive all the vitamins and minerals it needs from food. Relying on grass or plants for nutrition is dangerous.
One vitamin that cats seek in grass is folic acid. Folic acid is found in the milk of a kitten’s mother. If a cat was weaned too soon, it is likelier to feast on grass. The cat will do whatever it takes to find this vitamin.
Deficiency in folic acid is bad for cats. It creates hemoglobin in the body, a protein that ensures steady blood flow. This, in turn, ensures that a cat’s internal organs function appropriately.
According to The American Journal of Veterinary Research, a lack of folic acid means a low blood cell count. This can eventually lead to anemia, renal failure or feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
Folic acid is not the only vitamin that is found in grass, either. Grass is typically rich in vitamin A, vitamin D, and chlorophyll. All of these nutrients can boost a cat’s natural immune system.
The protein found in grass and plants is not sufficient to sustain a cat. Felines require animal proteins, as these contain taurine. Some plants do contain polyunsaturated fat, though. By eating plants, a cat will enjoy the same benefits as consuming vegetable oil.
Stress And Anxiety
Sometimes, a cat will eat grass due to stress. This is known as displacement behavior. The cat is afraid or anxious and does not know how to react. As a result, it engages in an action unrelated to the source of stress. This could include compulsive eating.
Stress can eventually lead to a condition called pica. Pica is the compulsive desire to chew and eat non-food items. This could include wild grass, or it could be the plastic leaves of an artificial plant.
Stress-related grass-eating could also be linked to comforting scents. If something in the house is making your cat nervous, it may hide outside. If the cat finds a hiding place that makes it feel safe, it will calm down.
This hiding place will be identified by scent. Cats feel encouraged to eat something that smells good. In this case, that means grass or a bed of plants and flowers.
If your cat is nervous by nature, invest in calming sprays for the home. A cat that feels compelled to eat grass and plants opens itself to health risks.
Is It Safe for Cats To Eat Grass and Plants?
if your cat wanders outside, it will eat grass and plants. The only way to avoid this is by keeping your cat indoors at all times.
You can grow and cultivate indoor grass for your cat to nibble on. This will satisfy your cat’s instincts while minimizing the dangers associated with greenery. Many pet shops sell cat-safe grazing grass, too.
If your cat does roam, be aware of the risks involved with eating grass and plants. When your cat returns home, keep an eye on it. If your cat shows signs of toxicity, it may have eaten pesticides or herbicides. As already discussed, several wild plants are also poisonous to cats.
Poisons And Toxicity
Toxins are a danger when a cat eats wild grass or plants. This is likeliest if you live in a rural territory. Your cat may wander into a local farm. The owners may treat their grass to kill off weeds or deter insect life.
Similarly, a range of plants will make a cat unwell if ingested. Some of these grow naturally, and others inside gardens. If your cat is prone to entering neighborhood yards, block access. This is for your cat’s own safety. Generic symptoms of the consumption of toxins in a cat include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Shivering and shaking
- Dilated eyes
- Pale gums
- Low body temperature, leading to shock
- Drooling and salivating
Eating grass and plants comes naturally to most cats. As long as your cat stays away from toxic plants and pesticides, it’ll be OK. Be vigilant about managing the risks involved, and do not let it become a compulsion.