What is cat grass?
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’)
Why cats eat grass
Cats are carnivores, which effectively means their entire body is suited to digesting raw meat. Naturally, they have a very hard time digesting plants. In fact, eating greens will often cause them to vomit. So why the hell do cats eat so much grass? We are about to find out that grass actually has some sneaky benefits.
One of the most recognised theories is that vomitting is very helpful for removing hairballs stuck in the stomach. Hairballs are the little balls of clogged hairs that cat owners find lying around their house every once in a while.
The act of vomitting may also help your cat to expel undigestable pieces of food from the stomach like teeth and calcified bone fragments.
Vitamins & trace minerals
Another often-heard theory is that cats nibble on grass to release some chlorophyll and several nutrients from the cells inside 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 photosynthesis. Without this bright green substance, there would probably be no life on earth!
Chefs often use chlorophyll to color a variety of foods green. It is also associated with a whole range of benefits when eaten. And while not all of these have been scientifically proven, chlorophyll is a very good supplement to help with 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 the intestines move everything through the bowels and digest it efficiently. Fiber can also help move clogged hairs through so that they can be expelled.
-> Tip: From all the grasses, oat grass has the highest amount of protein and healthy soluble fibers
So which is the best one?
All cat grasses are fine for consumption, but one particular species has special properties that could be beneficial for older cats: alfalfa grass. Scientific studies have shown that it can be useful in the treatment of renal diseases and even possibily help prevent them.
How much grass is my cat allowed to eat?
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 how much cat grass is too much?
There is no limit to the amount of grass your cat is allowed to eat. Veterinarians generally 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.
There is just one caveat: if your cat is vomiting every day, something is wrong and you should bring her to a vet immediately.
-> TIP: If you have multiple cats, consider giving each their own piece of grass. They will thank you for it: cats don’t like having to compete over their resources.
Is Cat Grass Safe?
The answer is yes, as long as you buy a species that is sold specifically for cats, your cat should have problems eating grass. No substances found in grass are toxic to felines, and there are fortunately no known cases of cats dieing from eating too much cat grass.
But other plants cán be dangerous..
One thing that should definitely not be overlooked is the fact that many other common household plants like aloe vera, ivies, lilies and carnations are highly dangerous when eaten by cats.
Your cat could easily mistake one for the other. If she needs additional fiber and the grass is almost gone, she could also try to nibble on another plant that is extremely poisonous too. We therefor highly encourage you not to place your cat grass right next to other household plants.
Is cat grass worth my money?
That depends how you look at it. Our perspective is that a patch of grass can easily be pulled from the soil for free,. If you do not want to go through the hassle of finding a good looking patch and taking it home, then a kit with some soil and seeds from the pet store may be a sold investment.
Cat grass is not very expensive in most stores anyway, going for roughly 3-7 euro or dollars per kit. You can’t really go wrong there!