Sunday, 5 August 2012

Why do cats eat grass?

If you have done any research into what you should and should not feed your cat you will know that feeding her a vegetarian diet is definitely under the “should not” heading. All cats are true carnivores and they can only get the proteins they need from meat. They also have little need for fibre in their diet, so why is it then that you will often see your cat sat outside in the garden chewing intently on a blade of grass?

Grass has very little nutritional value for a cat, although the juice in grass does provide cats with a much needed source of folic acid.

The main reason a cat eats grass is to assist them in cleaning out their digestive system. At some point during the day a cat will inevitably consume small amounts of matter which she cannot digest. This could be as a result of the cat using her little rough tongue like a comb to constantly clean and groom herself, leading to a build up of fur in her stomach over a period of days/weeks. Likewise it could also be due to the cat swallowing the fur, bones or feathers of any prey she may have eaten, which also cannot be digested. To ease discomfort the cat purposely eats grass to induce vomiting.

Some cats make a terrible noise when they are regurgitating unwanted matter, and you could be forgiven for thinking they are suffering terribly,  but if all they are doing is bringing back undigested fur balls etc mixed up with blades of grass, then it is absolutely nothing to worry about (albeit unpleasant for you to clean up!). Your cat knows exactly what she has to do to empty all the unwanted content out of her stomach, and once she has done so she will probably walk away as if nothing has happened, feeling happy and comfortable once more.

In the same way, if any unwanted matter ends up buried too deep into the cat’s digestive tract, she may eat sufficient grass for it to act as a laxative.

Another theory as to why cats eat grass is because they are self medicating. Not only does grass contain chlorophyll that has been used to treat pain in humans over the years but it is also a natural antibiotic.

It is natural for cats to eat grass, so if you do not want your cat to chew on the grass in your garden for what ever reason, or your cat does not venture outdoors, or have access to grass a good alternative is to plant some grass in a pot indoors exclusively for your cat to eat. In the absence of grass, your cat may decide to start nibbling on the leaves of your houseplants some of which can be toxic to cats. A full list of plants that are dangerous to cats can be found here.

So the conclusion is that even though grass has no nutritional value for your cat, it is certainly not harmful. If you see your cat chomping on a blade of grass you should not try to stop her – she will more than likely be trying to cleanse her system in some way or improve her overall well being.

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