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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.
Why do cats eat 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
A common theory 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.
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.
Cat grass 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)
Avena sativa (common oat, cat oat)
Hordeum vulgare (Barley)
Triticum aestivum (wheatgrass)
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
- 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