If you peruse the internet looking for answers to why cats eat grass, and whether they even should, you will likely not find the “real answer”. That may be because there just isn't one. As a veterinarian, this is a question I am asked regularly, and although I certainly have an opinion about cats eating grass, I cannot cite any references or studies that back me up. (I am not saying there are none; I just don't know of their existence.). What I do know is that cat grass does not harm cats, so if your cat enjoys eating it, there’s no reason to prevent him from doing it. What is not safe for cats is to eat grass from lawns that have been treated with chemicals.
Why Do Cats Eat Grass?
Though no one can deny that cats eat grass, there are only theories as to why they do. Some claim it is to get extra niacin, a B vitamin abundantly available in most fresh young grain grasses. Perhaps cats eat it to make themselves vomit. Some people believe cats eat it to help pass fur balls along while others say they just need the fiber for other nutritional purposes. And some say cats eat grass because they like it or like to ‘try' things. I enjoy watching my cats eat their grass using their pre-molar teeth and wonder if it helps with calculus, in the same way, brushing them would. It is my belief that cats eat grass because it tastes good, feels good to munch on, and helps satisfy a natural instinct.
Is it Safe for Cats to Eat Grass?
Many indoor cats who lack access to greens crave it for various reasons. It is a common reason they try to dash out the door. Offering them safe grasses to eat can distract them from nibbling on other, potentially hazardous and toxic indoor houseplants and other items. It is far better for a cat to eat immature cat grass than lilies, or philodendrons, or string etc. It may also help them from attempting to bolt out the door.
My cats have a constant supply of grass in which to munch on and I recommend it for all of my furry clients as well. You may notice that your cat vomits shortly after eating grass—he or she is actually doing this on purpose. Cats don’t have the necessary enzymes to digest a large amount of grass, which is why it can make them sick. But in the process of throwing up, your cat also clears his stomach of fur, feathers, parasites or bones, which can irritate the digestive tract or even cause more lasting illness.
What is the Best Type of Cat Grass?
The safest way to provide grass for your cat is to grow your own pot of it. I recommend growing a blend of rye, wheat, oat, and barley from seed. You can often find it available on the internet and in nurseries. It is affordable, grows quickly, and should be a staple in every cat household. Tall, fresh grass is a treat all cats deserve.
When your cat eats grass, he will typically self-regulate the amount. However, if he begins to eat large amounts of grass or wants to eat grass every day, consult your veterinarian to make sure there is not something serious going on.
Dr. Lynn Bahr is a feline veterinarian and founder of Dezi & Roo. Her passion is the human-animal bond and her focus is on medicine, behavior, euthanasia, and environmental enrichment for domestic pets.