In an effort to be the best pet owners we can, we sometimes try to keep our pets from doing things we think may be harmful to them, or that don’t make sense to us. One example of this is when we see our cat eating grass, which is often followed by them vomiting it up a short time later. Before cats were domesticated, they grazed on grass in the wild. This is actually a normal behavior by your cat, and something they do with a specific purpose in mind, so we should allow it to happen.
Why does a cat eat grass? There are a couple of reasons felines do this. Many people think eating the grass will make their cat sick or upset their stomach. Although it may appear this is the case, the opposite is actually true. Because a feline is incapable of separating fur and hair from meat or bones, they must consume whatever they are going to eat in its whole form. After eating, their digestive system will process what it can, but the hair and fur, which will not pass through its intestines, needs to be removed. Eating grass causes your cat’s stomach to convulse and expel whatever contents can not be digested thoroughly and pass safely through the intestines without causing a dangerous, even deadly obstruction.
Anyone with a cat is familiar with the countless hairballs that their cat vomits up on a regular basis. It is normal for felines to spit up a hairball, and in fact, if this stops, and your cat begins to refuse eating or seems to be in pain, it is possible that a hairball may have passed into the intestinal tract and is causing an obstruction. If you think this has occurred, make sure you see your veterinarian immediately to avoid serious consequences.
Although it is okay for your cat to nibble on grass, you need to make sure they do not nibble on other plants, as this does not serve the same purpose as grass, and some plants are toxic to animals. A feline’s digestive system does not produce enzymes, which are necessary to break down plants into a form that will pass through their intestines. Even if you processed vegetables or plants into a mush so that they would move through the cat’s intestines smoothly, their digestive system would process absolutely no part of it. The plant or vegetable mixture would be expelled from your cat’s body without anything being extracted from it. This is not harmful to your cat as a process; however, if digestible food was also consumed and mixed with this content, your cat would suffer from indigestion and a stomachache, resulting in more serious consequences.
Since eating grass is a natural behavior for cats, they will attempt to eat your houseplants, if any are available. This is dangerous, as some houseplants are toxic, and will make your cat ill, and may even be lethal. Because eating grass is actually beneficial to cats (to help keep their intestines clear of unwanted fur and hair), it is a good idea to make sure you provide a regular supply of potted grass for them to nibble on; particularly indoor cats who do not have access to a regular supply, like outdoor cats. This will not only serve the purpose of helping him regurgitate what his stomach cannot handle, but will also help deter him from your houseplants, even the non-toxic ones.
For cat owners who may be concerned with their cat eating grass, keep in mind that along with the benefit of clearing the stomach, grass does hold a considerable amount of moisture, some beneficial trace minerals and small amounts of vitamins A and D. Chlorophyll is also found in grass, which has been shown to be a natural remedy for pain, ulcers and anemia. Although cats eat grass mainly to empty their stomach of undigestible matter, there is a second reason they may do so, and that is simply because they enjoy the taste of grass, which to a cat may seem very palatable.