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MCV FAQ: "Why does my cat like to eat grass?"

Updated: 2 days ago

Have you ever caught your feline friend nibbling on grass during outdoor adventures or chomping on your houseplants? It might seem odd that your carnivorous pet is munching on greens, but this behaviour is common among cats.


Plant eating among domestic cats is not just a random act but has been the focus of scientific study. Inspired by observations of wild relatives and the ancestral behaviours of cats, researchers have delved into why our domestic felines might be drawn to the green stuff (1).



A British shorthair cat on a leash in grass
Many cats enjoy interacting with plants while out on a walk


Debunking the Myths

One of the main questions researchers aimed to answer was whether cats eat plants because they feel ill or to induce vomiting. Interestingly, the findings suggest that very few cats show signs of illness before eating plants. However, about 27 to 37 per cent of cats in the surveys ended up vomiting after their green snack, indicating that while it might induce vomiting for some, it's not a general rule for all cats.


Another common assumption is that cats eat plants to help expel hairballs. The studies found no significant difference in plant-eating behaviour between long-haired and short-haired cats, suggesting that dealing with hairballs might not be the primary reason for this behaviour.


A Natural Behavior with Deep Roots

The research aligns with studies on wild carnivores, who often consume plants. This behaviour in the wild is thought to help with the expulsion of intestinal parasites, a benefit that could still resonate with the domestic cat's instincts. Regular plant eating could be an adaptive behaviour inherited from their wild ancestors, serving a purpose we are only beginning to understand fully.



A leopard chewing grass
Many cat species enjoy munching on plant material


Should You Worry About Your Cat Eating Grass?

While it’s normal for cats to eat grass, and it can even be good for them, there are some precautions you should take. First, ensure the grass your cat has access to hasn’t been treated with pesticides, herbicides, or fertilisers. These chemicals can be harmful to your cat’s health.


Some houseplants can be toxic to cats - for a comprehensive list, visit this website https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/livestock-and-animals/animal-welfare-victoria/cats/health/toxic-plants-for-cats.


You might consider growing cat grass in a pot, which is safe and likely more appealing to them. Cat grass is typically a mix of grasses like wheatgrass, barley, and oat grass, which are easy to grow and safe for your cat to chew on.



A ginger cat eating cat grass
Fresh cat grass cat be a great enhancement to the indoor environment.


When to Consult A Vet

If your cat eats grass frequently and vomits every time it does, it's a good idea to let us know. Although occasional vomiting is normal, frequent or violent episodes can be a sign of a more serious condition.


In summary, while not all cats eat plants for the same reasons, and not all will vomit afterwards, the behaviour is widespread and natural. Whether it's a holdover from their wild ancestors or simply a quirky trait of your beloved pet, providing safe, suitable greens might make your cat's day a little brighter.


Reference

  1. Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH. Characteristics of Plant Eating in Domestic Cats. Animals. 2021; 11(7):1853. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11071853

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