Cats are known for their strictly carnivorous diet, based on animal proteins. However, it is common to see them eating grass and various plants. Why do these carnivores have this need?
Expulsion of hairballs
The most obvious reason is to get rid of hairballs. Cats often vomit after eating grass, as this helps them to get rid of the hair that has accumulated in their stomach, as well as food residues.
Outdoor cats usually have access to fresh grass, while indoor cats may be tempted by houseplants. Be aware that some plants and flowers are toxic to cats. To avoid the risk, place these plants out of reach and provide your cat with a small tray of specially designed grass. If the grass is not vomited, it will pass through the stomach and carry the hair with it, which will be eliminated in the stool.
Balancing the diet
Domestic cats eat a complete and balanced diet, but feral cats must hunt to survive. This meaty diet does not fully meet their nutritional needs, especially for minerals and fibre. By eating grass, the cat benefits from its emetic properties (which induce vomiting) and its nutritional intake. Although they cannot digest grass like a herbivore, they can extract some minerals from it.
When a cat suffers from digestive problems, it may eat more grass than usual to relieve abdominal pain. However, the relief is temporary and prolonged vomiting can irritate the stomach and cause acute gastritis.
Eating grass is a physiological need for cats, and they can spend time choosing and chewing it. To ensure their well-being, offer them suitable grasses. There is also a variety of catnip called catnip, which has euphoric effects on felines and relaxes them simply by breathing it in.
It is important to note that eating grass does not eliminate intestinal worms. The worms are lodged in the small intestine, while the vomiting comes from the stomach. Therefore, the herb will not help to eliminate the parasites.
Signs of excessive grass intake
It is important to monitor your cat's intake of grass. If you see excessive consumption, it could indicate an underlying health problem. Signs of excessive grass intake include binge eating, repeated vomiting or weight loss. If you observe these behaviours, consult a vet to assess your cat's health.
Alternatives to grasses
For cats that cannot consume grass or do not have access to it, alternatives can be offered. Cooked greens, such as spinach or green beans, can provide similar fibre and nutrients to grass. Be sure not to add salt, spices or other seasonings that could be harmful to your cat.
Consult a veterinarian in case of unusual symptoms
If your cat's ingestion of grass is accompanied by unusual symptoms, such as frequent vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy or a change in stool, it is essential to consult a vet. These symptoms could indicate a health problem that requires medical attention.