Why Do Cats Eat Grass?

Black, orange and white cat laying outside in grass

Cats are wonderful companion animals and can be a lower maintenance pet for owners who aren't home all day or who can't commit to the daily exercise many dogs require. However, to best care for your feline friend, it's important to understand normal cat behaviour and eating habits. One common behaviour that often leaves owners scratching their heads is when they see their cat eating grass. While it may seem like this would be harmful, that's not usually the case.

Can Cats Eat Grass?

Eating grass in small amounts is normal and natural for cats and not something to be concerned about. In most cases, cats are able to self-regulate when it comes to how much grass is okay for them to eat. However, a sudden change in your cat's eating habits or behaviours always warrants a check in with your veterinarian. If you find that your cat is interested in grass when she wasn't before or is starting to eat grass more often than normal, your vet can check to ensure there isn't some other underlying medical issue causing the change.

Reasons Cats Eat Grass

While it may seem unappealing to us humans, cats eat grass for a variety of reasons, and if their owners follow general guidelines, this behaviour is typically safe and normal.

One of the first reasons your cat may eat grass is to encourage regular bowel movements. Because cats groom themselves, their digestive systems can sometimes get blocked by bits of collected fur. Eating grass helps with this. Broad-leaf grass can have a laxative effect on your cat's digestive system, and grass that's narrower may help settle an upset stomach.

Another reason cats eat grass is because it can make them sick. Because cats can't naturally digest grass, they end up vomiting when they eat too much. While this may not seem like a good thing, it actually helps your cat clear other objects that may be in her stomach, such as feathers, bones or parasites.

Should I Stop My Cat From Eating Grass?

While there's no need to stop your cat from eating grass, there are some ways to make it safer. Grass outside, especially if it's not in your own backyard where you know what's been used on it, is likely to have chemicals, fertilizers or other lawn products on it that can be very harmful to your cat if she ingests it. If your cat likes to eat grass, it may make more sense to offer a safe, indoor alternative such as a wheat or oat grass kit that you can set up specifically for your cat. Check out the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) list of toxic and non-toxic plants to ensure that the plants that you have in your home are safe for your cat.

However, just because your cat loves munching on some grass, that doesn’t mean that it’s a necessity in their diet. Making sure that you choose the right cat food that provides your cat with the complete and balanced nutrition that they need is far more important than adding grass into their diet.

If you are concerned that your cat may be eating grass when outside, consider letting your cat enjoy the outdoors when you can be close by to supervise. Cats may enjoy exploring outside in a playpen — don't forget to put something on top to keep your cat from climbing out. Some cats even like to take a walk around the neighbourhood on a leash just like a dog.

Cats are known and loved for their fun personalities and quirky behaviours, and that doesn't just extend to eating grass. If you're interested in learning more of the reasons behind why your cat does what she does, Purina Canada has a library of articles available on common cat behaviours and how to best care for your pet.

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