Cat eating cat grass

Cat Grass – What Is Cat Grass And How Do You Grow It?

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What is cat grass?    Why do cats eat grass?    Where can I buy cat grass?    How to grow cat grass

What is cat grass?

Cat grass (catgrass or kitty grass) is a name used to describe several different types of grass which are popular with cats. It is completely safe for cats to eat and enjoy some non-toxic greenery.

Why do cats eat grass?

Three cats eating cat grass
Norman, Monty and Melody enjoying cat grass

We still do not know why cats eat grass, researchers from the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine ran a web-based survey asking 1,021 pet owners to observe their cats for three or more hours each day. The full text can be found here (page 106).

  • 71% of cats were observed eating plants at least six times
  • 61% of cats ate plants over 10 times, and 67% of these cats were estimated to eat plants daily or weekly, when asked about how the cat seemed prior to eating plants, 91% of respondents said their cat appeared normal beforehand
  • Among young cats, 3 years of age or less, 39% engaged in daily plant eating
    compared to 27% of cats 4 years or older
  • 11% of cats were not observed eating plants at all
  • Only 27% of the cats vomited afterwards

Parasites

A common belief is that cats eat grass because they feel unwell and ingestion helps them to vomit, which may help the cat to feel better. The researchers concluded that this is unlikely, and a more logical explanation is that grass consumption is an instinctive behaviour to purge the gastrointestinal tract of parasitic worms.

Hairballs

When cats groom themselves, they inevitably ingest fur which can build up in the stomach. Adding to the vomiting theory,  another possible reason for grass consumption is to assist with the passage of hairballs out of the body either through vomiting or via the feces.

Grass acts as a laxative

The indigestible fibre adds bulk to the feces which makes them easier to pass out of the body which can help speed up the passage of feces.

It contains nutrients and micronutrients

In particular, cat grass contains folic acid (vitamin B9) an essential vitamin which performs several roles such as helping with the formation of hemoglobin and the synthesis and repair of DNA.

Types of cat grass

There are several types of cat grass which are safe for cats to eat, which are at their best as young shoots, mature grass plants are not as soft and will go to seed.

Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass or cock’s-foot)

Cock's foot

Avena sativa (common oat, cat oat)

Common oat

Hordeum vulgare (Barley)

Barley

Triticum aestivum (wheatgrass)

Wheatgrass

Most garden centres, hardware stores (such as Bunnings for Australian readers), and pet stores sell containers of cat grass. It is also easy to grow from seed and can be grown in pots, which makes it an ideal snack for indoor cats.

Some pet owners plant cat grass seeds in a large, shallow tray (such as the one used to grow seedlings), which not only provides the cat something to munch on but also cool greenery to lie on.

How to grow cat grass

Cat grass is an easy plant to grow from seed which should be available from your local garden centre.

  • Add potting mix to the pot
  • Add seeds evenly over the top of the soil, press down lightly. Do not over-crowd the seeds
  • Water the seeds in
  • Place on a sunny windowsill
  • Check daily and water if the soil dries out,  seeds should start sprouting within 5-7 days.
  • Once the grass is an inch or two long, move to a spot easily accessible to your cat.
  • Water when the soil becomes dry, but be careful not to over-water.

It is also a good idea to have some growing outdoors in an enclosure if your cat has access to one.

Most cats prefer to nibble on the fresh shoots, but will often lose interest once the grass matures.

Cat grass FAQ

Do indoor cats need cat grass?

No, cat grass is not essential for cats. Some enjoy it; many don’t.

Is cat grass harmful if my cat eats it?

Cat grass doesn’t harm your cat unless the grass has been treated with garden chemicals such as pesticides or insecticides.

Is cat grass good for my cat?

Cat grass may contain micronutrients which can be of benefit, it also contains fibre, which can assist with the passage of hairballs either by inducing regurgitation or by adding bulk to the stool.

How long does cat grass last?

This depends on the number of cats as well as how much they ingest, but typically it can last several weeks to months if well cared for.

Is cat grass edible for humans?

Some types are, many people enjoy the nutritional benefits of wheatgrass which is consumed as a juice.

Is cat grass the same as catnip?

No, they are different plants. Catnip is a perennial herb which contains the essential oil nepetalactone which gets some cats high. Cat grass does not induce a high in cats.