I’ve seen the question, Why do cats eat grass? asked a few times. Not as much as some of the other ones we have addressed here, but because it’s one that I have wondered personally, I thought I would dress it.
I am convinced that one of my cats has pica. He eats anything and everything and one particular habit of his is sneaking into a room where we keep our pet rabbits, eating some of the hay and then promptly vomiting it up. He only ever eats a strand or two and he vomits it within seconds so you think he would have learned his lesson. But he hasn’t and he continues—when he gets the chance.
I have also seen neighborhood cats eat fresh grass from the garden. So just what is going on? Why do they suddenly assume the tastebuds of rabbits and decide they are going to nibble on a little fresh or dried grass?
Why do Cats Eat Grass?
Cats can actually safely consume a very small amount of grass and on occasion they do this because they are desperately looking for a dose of folic acid, which is contained in the grass but may be lacking in their diet. They may also be looking for a little fiber and for the laxative effect that grass can provide.
However, in the vast majority of cases, the vomiting is not the product of their reckless and stupid mistake, but the reason they are eating the grass to begin with. They know that they are not supposed to eat it and they know it will make them sick, so they consume it as a way of triggering the vomiting reflex in order to get rid of fur, fluff, bones and other detritus that may be sitting on their stomaches.
It’s basically their way of sticking their fingers down their throat and they do it because they want to vomit in order to feel better. Unless it’s my cat we’re talking about, who I’m pretty sure thinks he’s a rabbit and has yet to find the correlation between eating hay and vomiting, regardless of how intertwined the two events are.
Why Does Grass Make Cats Sick?
This is a simple one: they don’t have the stomaches to digest it. Mammals that eat grass have unique enzymes that are needed to digest it. It’s a tough, fibrous substance and you need a tough gut. Cows have several of them and it’s because they have evolved to survive on a diet of grass.
Cats, however, have evolved on protein alone and just don’t have the necessary tools, for wont of a better word, to ensure the grass they eat is digested. And when something can’t be digested and is promptly rejected by the stomach, it goes back up and, if you’re unlucky, goes all over your newly washed bedsheets.
Because like a buttered slice of toast, cats always manage to take the messiest option when something goes wrong.
Should I Let my Cat Eat Grass?
If you cat is not stupid like mine, then you can let it do its own thing. Unless there is a psychological issue at play and it’s eating grass because it’s not right in the head (again, I refer you to my cat) then it’s something that will only happen every once in a while and something that may even help it.
But, and this is a big but, you should make sure that the grass it eats has not been treated with pesticides or chemicals of any type, including fertilizer. So, if your little feline friend is prone to eating grass then try and keep it away from treated lawns, or simply avoid treating your lawn and keep it away from neighboring lawns.