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A cat’s body requires all kinds of essential nutrients in order to properly regulate body functions. It’s impressive when you think about it — cats are constantly grooming themselves and ingesting their own hair. How does that not clog up their entire system?
Well, if you’re a cat owner, you know it’s not uncommon for you kitty to throw up hairballs. It’s always such a nice surprise to find, especially when you stumble across it getting ready for work in the morning.
It’s also not uncommon to watch your cat eat a piece of grass and quickly vomit it back up. Why are they doing this? Why do cats eat grass if it just makes them sick?
In short, they’re self-medicating. There are a few reasons cats eat grass, but the main one is to make themselves throw up. Yes — they know it makes them sick! They might have a giant hairball in their stomach, or something else they know they can’t digest. What they do know is that eating grass will make them vomit, and rid their stomachs of anything hazardous.
Why Do Cats Eat Grass?
As I mentioned above, the most common reason cats eat grass is to make themselves throw up anything that’s irritating their stomach. There are also a few other reasons cats will nibble on your grass outside.
To Alleviate an Upset Stomach
This goes hand in hand with making themselves vomit, but I wanted to go a bit more in-depth as to why grass works so well for this purpose. As you might already know, cats are obligate carnivores. This means they’re built to eat and digest meat.
Cats lack the digestive enzymes needed to break down plants and vegetables, which is why it’s so important to feed them a high-protein diet. Because of this, cats can’t digest grass. They vomit almost immediately after eating it, due to the fact they simply can’t digest it. But it’s OK — that’s the result they’re looking for!
While they’re mainly throwing up the grass they just ate, they’re also ridding their stomachs of any other potentially dangerous items, like hairballs or the bones and feathers of prey (though this isn’t likely for an indoor cat).
Because it’s a Natural Laxative
Another slightly unpleasant reason cats eat grass is to help them clear out anything that’s moved past their stomach into the digestive tract. If a cat wasn’t able to throw up a hairball and it’s now being digested even further, it could cause discomfort and even blockage.
Grass acts as a laxative for cats, and helps them have a regular bowel movement.
To Increase Folic Acid Intake
Grass is rich in folic acid — an essential nutrient for cats. What does folic acid do for them? Most importantly, it increases blood oxygen levels and assists in the production of oxygen. A few other benefits include the metabolism of fat, and assisting with growth.
Is Eating Grass Bad for Cats?
It might seem a bit unnerving to watch your cat nibble on some grass and immediately throw it up everywhere, it doesn’t harm them at all. It’s likely your cat is only eating a small amount, and they need it for any of the self-medicating reasons mentioned above.
In the wild, it’s common for cats to eat grass after eating prey so they can get rid of anything indigestible, like bones or something the prey consumed.
If you have an outside cat, just keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t eat grass that’s been treated with pesticides. If your cat seems to be eating too much grass, they might have an underlying medical issue and should be checked out by a vet for safety.
Can Indoor Cats Still Eat Grass?
Just because your cat lives indoors doesn’t mean they can’t utilize the natural properties of grass. You can buy cat grass online or at your local pet store. Most of the grown-your-own cat grass is Wheat, Rye, Barley or Oat The online descriptions state it can help your cat with hairballs, while also providing essential nutrients.
You can leave the cat grass growing and let them snack as they please, or you can cut it up and offer it to them.
Growing your own cat grass could also be a great alternative if you have an outside cat — this way you know they’re eating what’s in your home, instead of turning to your neighbor’s pesticide treated lawn.
Next time you catch your cat nibbling on some grass, don’t worry — it’s completely natural! Just remember you’ll probably have a mess to clean up pretty soon: the aftermath isn’t always pretty.