Why Do Cats Eat Grass, and Is It Safe?

Kit Arbuckle
June 20, 2017

Have you caught your kitty nibbling on grass and wondered, "Why do cats eat grass?" especially when it makes them vomit? Find out why these little carnivores eat grass and whether it is safe or not.

It's no secret that cats have some pretty unusual behaviors that defy explanation. Among those odd things cats do, nibbling blades of grass and then puking ranks pretty high on the weirdness scale. Plus, finding a pile of cat-grass vomit is quite gross, especially if you step in it. So why do cats eat grass when they are true carnivores? And why do they repeat the behavior when it makes them sick?

Why Do Cats Eat Grass?
You've probably caught your cat sniffing, batting, and tasting grass blades. At first, it looks like the kitty is just playing around with something that moves and bounces back when she paws at it. Before you know it, though, she's chomping on it like it's a juicy piece of meat. Dr. James Speiser of IndyVet in Indianapolis, Indiana says cats eats grass "because they like the taste of it. They usually eat the long green shoots of grass that will have flavor from the shoot."

This and other theories abound but there really isn't a definitive answer or supporting scientific evidence to back it up. Some say that it's to induce vomiting, but Dr. Speiser disagrees and stresses that "they do not eat it because they have worms or want to vomit something up."

According to the ASPCA, there are several conditions that might motivate a cat to eat grass and other things he shouldn't consider food (e.g., rubber bands). Pica, an eating disorder defined as the persistent consumption of non-nutritional items, can be a problem in cats. If you notice your cat eating other strange things, you might want to have a vet check him out and talk to a behavioral specialist.

Some cats obsess over chomping on items that are not food, like cloth. Excessive grass eating combined with other chewing and eating problems could signal a compulsive disorder. Again, a vet check will help rule out any problems if you have concerns over the amount of grass your cat eats.

Is It Safe?
If eating grass makes your cat sick, you're probably concerned about her safety. A cat occasionally eating grass doesn't cause any real harm. According to Dr. Speiser, "They do vomit it up since it can be irritating ... it is not very digestible in the cat's GI tract. In fact, many times it comes out practically looking like it went in."

 

 

 

The real safety concern arises over cats eating toxic plants or grass treated with pesticides or other chemicals. Don't let your cat eat grass that has been treated. It's a good idea to provide safe plants for your cat to eat, such as pet grass or catnip.

Read 25 Plants Poisonous to Cats and 25 Safe Plant Suggestions to know what you can give your green-eating kitty.

Are There Any Benefits?
Cats almost always vomit any grass they eat and don't consume enough for it to be nutritionally beneficial. For kittens, it might help relieve tooth eruption, like anything else they chew on as their teeth emerge. Otherwise, you just have to chalk it up to inexplicable cat weirdness. If you have concerns about how much grass your cat eats, talk to your vet and make sure no other issues exist.

Kit Arbuckle works as a freelance writer covering parenting, education, health and pet care topics.

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