23 February 2021
Firstly, cats are known as ‘obligate carnivores’, which means their nutritional needs are met by eating only meat. However, one theory is that they do need other nutrients, one being folic acid. This can’t be sourced through eating meat but is found in grass. It’s thought folic acid may help them flush through any fur they have ingested while grooming.
As a little kitten, your cat would have received folic acid from their mum. But, when they are no longer suckling, another source is needed. Folic acid helps to prevent anaemia, and perhaps this is why they eat grass on occasion.
Another theory is that cats consume grass to help with their digestive system. Grass is a source of fibre, and it may be that your cat needs some additional fibre to keep their digestive system moving along nicely, just as humans do. Some cats appear to eat grass and throw it up soon after, which may be their way of ‘getting rid’ of any harmful food they have ingested. They may also need to make themselves sick to get rid of hairballs they have swallowed.
Eating grass could, however, be the result of a behavioural issue. Some cats, when unhappy or stressed, can be prone to emotional eating. While anxiety in cats can present itself in many different ways, it’s been suggested that eating grass can relieve feelings of anxiousness.
A report published in 2019 by the International Society for Applied Ethology in Bergen, Norway, suggests another reason. Eating grass helps your cat expel nasty internal parasites, making the digestive tract muscles work harder to move along the parasites. Most cats today don’t have the same parasites in their bodies they used to, however, the scientists involved in this study think the habit evolved many years ago, in the ancestors of today’s cat.
While it doesn’t do your cat any real harm to eat grass, it is worth remembering that some gardeners use pesticides and fertilisers on their lawns and plants. These chemicals are not designed to be ingested by cats and could be harmful. If you know your cat enjoys eating grass, switch to more natural gardening methods. Alternatively, you can buy cat grass, also known as pet grass. This is indoor grass for cats! You can easily grow cat grass plants on a window sill. Cat grass is great for indoor cats too, so they get to eat grass if their instinct tells them to, even if they haven’t got access to the great outdoors.
It is worth noting, if your cat seems to be eating excessive amounts of grass, they may have a problem with their digestive system. If you suspect this is the case, it’s worth getting your cat checked out by your vet.
If you have an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.