What is it?
Cat grass is an umbrella term for several different grass species that are grown and sold specifically to be chewed and swallowed by cats. These are the names of some of the most commonly used species, sorted by how often they are sold in pet stores:
- Oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius)
- Common Oat (Avena Sativa)
- Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
- Wheat (Thinopyrum intermedium)
- Alfalfa grass (Medicago sativa)
- Rye (Lolium perenne)
- Umbrella papyrus (Cyperus Alternifolius or ‘zumula’)
So why do cats eat grass?
Cats are carnivores, which effectively means their entire body is built to digest meat. Plants, on the other hand, are easy to digest at all. In fact, eating greens will often cause them to gag or even vomit. So why do many cats still eat grass? As we’re about to find out, cat grass may actually hold some hidden benefits.
The theory of functional vomiting
One of the most recognized theories among experts is that the act of vomitting helps them remove clogged up hairs that got stuck in the intestinal tract. These are known as hairballs; the tiny balls of fur that cat owners may discover on the floor of their house every once in a while.
Expelling hairballs is very important to prevent painful blockages in the gut.
Vomitting may also help expel undigestable pieces of food left over in the stomach, like bits of teeth and calcified bone fragments.
Vitamins & trace minerals
Another often-heard theory is that cats nibble on grass to release chlorophyll and several other nutrients that are present inside the cells of grass leaves.
A collection of green pigments found in the leaves of plants, chlorophyll is what allows plants to extract energy from sunlight to do their photosynthesis and grow, Sunlight is the main source of energy on our planet. So without this bright green substance, there probably would be no life on earth!
Chefs often use chlorophyll to color a variety of foods green. Much like the fatty acids in salmon, ingesting chlorophyll is also associated with a whole range of health benefits. And while not all of these benefits have been scientifically proven, chlorophyll is a for sure a good supplement for a large number of things:
- stimulate the immune response
- help combat skin diseases
- reduce inflammation and bacterial growth
- prevent cancer
This vitamin is essential for the production of hemoglobin (an important molecule that binds to oxygen and facillitates its’ transportation through the bloodstream in mammals).
Since folic acid is not present raw animal meat, it makes sense that wild cats needed to find a different source to get this essential vitamin in.
Nowadays, folic acid is commonly added to commercial cat food. This means that in most cases cat grass is not essential to a domestic cat for its’ folid acid content. But since many people are putting their cats on raw diets again, cat grass may still be useful as a supplement.
While grass works great as a laxative, it also contains a lot of healthy fiber. In case you’re wondering what fibers are, they are undigestible parts in food that help move food through the bowels and digest it efficiently. Like the act of vomitting, fiber may also help move clogged hairs through the intestines so that they can be pooped out
You may worry that your cat could get problems from eating too much grass, especially if it leads to frequent vomiting. But the truth is that larger quantities can be very helpful for the declogging and subsequent expelling of hairballs from the stomach.
So there is no limit to the amount of grass your cat is allowed to eat. Most veterinarians agree that cat grass can be placed in a convenient spot and that your cat should be allowed to nibble away at her own discretion.
Where to put it
When deciding on a spot, one thing to remember is that cats can easily mistake one plant for another. Many common household plants like aloe vera, ivies, and lillies are highly dangerous to cats. Do not put the grass next to such plants. In fact, you may want to move such plants to a location where they can’t be reached by your feline friend.
Multi-cat families: If you have multiple cats, consider giving each their own piece of grass. In doing so, you prevent your cats from having to compete over their resources, which causes stress.
You may be worried whether eating grass is a safe thing to do. The answer is yes, as long as you buy a species of grass that is sold by a pet store for this specific purpose, your cat should not experience any problems after chewing it.
It may in fact be more safe alternative to your neighbors’ grass, which could potentially be contaminated with all kinds of pesticides. No substance found in cat grass is toxic to felines, and there are also no known cases of cats dying from eating too much cat grass.
Frequently asked questions
All plants are dependant on their environment. If there is enough sunlight and water for growth, your grass could last up to two weeks.
Placing your grass behind a window will ensure enough sunlight gets in for photosynthesis.
If you are buying this product specifically to aid with the prevention and expelling of hairballs, any type of grass sold for cats will do.
When you’re buying grass for its potential health benefits, oat grass contains the highest amount of protein and healthy soluble fibers.
You may introduce your cat by offering them a single blade. In some cases, a little taste is all that’s needed to light the spark. But there are also cats who simply refuse to chew on grass. You may have to experiment and see for yourself.
One particular species has special properties that could be beneficial for senior cats: alfalfa grass. Scientific studies have shown that it may be useful in the prevention and treatment of chronic kidney disease, which is the most common disease among senior cats.
Cat grass is not expensive and has proven benefits. A growing kit with some soil and seeds should only set you back 5 to 10 dollars. If you think this is too much, you could also go outside and try to find some in nature.
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