Why Do Cats Love Their Own Special Grass? The Science Behind Cat Grass Cravings

Cat grass refers to a specific type of grass that is grown for cats to eat. It is a mixture of different nutritious grass varieties that are safe for feline consumption. Cat grass usually contains wheatgrass, barley grass, oat grass, rye grass, or a combination of these grasses. It provides many health benefits for cats and satisfies their natural instinct to munch on greens.

Origins

The origins of cat grass can be traced back to the fact that cats in the wild naturally eat grasses and plants. Researchers have observed wild cats like lions, tigers, and leopards eating grasses, presumably to aid in digestion and nutrition (1). Pet cats have retained this evolutionary instinct to eat grass, despite our domestic cats no longer needing to hunt or forage for food.

Though the research is not definitive, studies suggest domestic cats eat grass for some of the same reasons as wild cats – to obtain nutrients like folic acid, aid in digestion, and relieve gastrointestinal discomfort (2). Cat owners began growing pots of grass specifically for cats, now known as cat grass, to satisfy this natural instinct indoors.

Nutritional Benefits of Cat Grass

cat eating cat grass

Cat grass provides several important nutritional benefits for cats. The main nutrients found in cat grass are:

  • Fiber – Cat grass is very high in fiber, which aids digestion and acts as a natural laxative to help cats pass hairballs and food waste more easily. The fiber moves through the digestive tract, grabbing onto debris and pushing it out. This helps prevent constipation and blockages [1].
  • Folic acid – Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid helps with cell division and DNA production. It is essential for forming new red blood cells and proper functioning of the nervous system. Cat grass contains high levels of folic acid, similar to the levels found in human cereal grains [2].
  • Trace minerals – Cat grass provides trace minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These minerals support bone health, muscle function, heart rhythm, and enzyme reactions.

Overall, the fiber, vitamins, and minerals in cat grass offer many nutritional benefits for cats. The nutrients aid digestion, benefit blood health, and support vital bodily functions.

Digestive Aid

One of the main benefits of cat grass is that it helps with digestion and preventing hairballs. Cats will instinctively eat grass to aid their digestion, similar to how dogs will eat grass when their stomach is upset. The fibrous nature of grass helps move things along the digestive tract and can help cats vomit up fur balls or bits of food that are difficult to pass through the system.

According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, the roughage provided by cat grass “keeps your cat’s digestive tract moving smoothly” and “can cut down on hairballs”. Similarly, the veterinarians at VCA Hospitals state that “Grass provides roughage that aids digestion and elimination. Cats that eat grass routinely may have more regular gastrointestinal tracts, fewer hair balls, and decreased constipation.”

The insoluble fiber in grass is what gives it these digestive benefits for cats. As cats chew on and eat grass, the fibrous plant material helps move things through their system, keeping their digestion regular and preventing issues like constipation. So providing cats with cat grass gives them access to this important source of roughage and fiber.

Satisfies Instinct

Growing and eating grass satisfies a cat’s instinctual needs in a similar manner as scratching furniture or hunting prey. In the wild, cats would naturally chew on grass and other plants as part of their normal routine. Indoor cats retain this innate drive, so providing cat grass gives them an appropriate outlet to fulfill their instincts. Even though cat grass doesn’t have much nutritional value for domesticated cats, the act of chewing it serves as an important natural behavior.

As carnivores, cats have retained the evolutionary advantage of being able to eat grass and plants if no other food sources are available. According to this article, outdoor and feral cats will eat grass and plants more frequently than indoor cats. Researchers believe this showcases the instinctual origins of the behavior in felines. Just as dogs have a natural drive to dig and chew, cats feel compelled to chew grass as part of their innate nature.

Providing cat grass for indoor cats gives them a healthy outlet for these natural instincts. It serves as an alternative to chewing houseplants or other inappropriate items. Cat grass gives feline companions the ability to satisfy their chewing and grazing urges even when kept entirely indoors.

Safety Precautions

When growing cat grass at home, it’s important to take precautions to ensure it is safe for feline consumption. Cat grass grown with chemical pesticides or fertilizers can be toxic to cats. According to Hill’s Pet, cat grass should always be grown organically without the use of chemicals.

cat grass growing

Be sure to rinse the grass thoroughly before giving it to cats to remove any remaining dirt or debris. It’s also recommended to grow cat grass from certified organic seeds marketed specifically for pet consumption. This guarantees the seeds have not been treated with any potentially harmful substances. When in doubt, call the seed supplier to verify the seeds are 100% chemical-free.

Cats tend to nibble on houseplants, so check that any indoor plants are non-toxic varieties. Keep poisonous plants out of reach and provide cat grass as a safe alternative. Focus on providing pesticide-free cat grass grown just for your feline to satisfy their craving for greens.

How to Grow Cat Grass at Home

Growing cat grass at home is easy with just a few basic supplies. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need:

Seeds: Look for a cat grass seed blend at your local garden store or online. The seeds are often a mix of wheatgrass, rye, barley, and oats.

Soil: Use a high quality potting mix soil. Avoid soils with chemical fertilizers. Fill your container about 2 inches from the top with soil.

Container: Choose a shallow container like a tray or cake pan. Make sure it has drainage holes. Terra cotta pots work too.

Sunlight: Place your cat grass in a sunny spot indoors near a window. At least 4-6 hours of sunlight per day is ideal.

Water: Keep the soil moist but not sopping wet. Water daily or every other day. You may need to mist leaves if they appear dry.

Once you have the supplies, simply sprinkle the seeds evenly over the soil, gently water, and place in a sunny spot. In about 1-2 weeks you’ll have fresh cat grass ready for harvesting!

Fun for Cats

Cat grass provides cats with stimulation and entertainment.

cat playing with cat grass

Cats have natural grazing behaviors and instincts. In the wild, cats eat small prey and chew on grass and other greens. Having cat grass available gives domestic cats an approved outlet for these natural behaviors (VCA Hospitals).

Cat owners report their cats enjoy batting the grass around and rubbing against it. The grass adds visual interest and tactile stimulation. It satisfies cats’ instincts to hunt, forage, chew, and play. This gives cats a fun, healthy activity to engage in.

Without cat grass, cats may chew on inappropriate household items. Providing cat grass gives them an appealing alternative that caters to their natural behaviors. It’s an easy way to enrich a cat’s environment.

Purchase Cat Grass

If you don’t want to grow cat grass yourself, you can purchase pre-grown cat grass from pet stores or online retailers. Some reputable brands for pre-grown cat grass include:

You can find these cat grass products at many pet supply stores. Online retailers like Chewy, Amazon, and PetSmart also carry cat grass kits and pre-grown grass trays. Look for wheatgrass, oat grass, ryegrass or barley grass varieties that are safe and appealing for cats.

Conclusion

Cat grass derives its name simply from the fact that it is grass grown specifically for cats. While cats don’t naturally graze on grass, the tender green shoots provide a range of health and behavioral benefits. Cat grass aids digestion, provides key nutrients, satisfies cats’ natural instincts, and gives them something fun to nibble on. Providing cat grass is an easy way to enrich your cat’s life and support their health. The unique nutritional composition and textural properties of wheat, oat, barley and rye grasses make them the ideal choice. Growing cat grass or purchasing it fresh allows cats to enjoy it at its peak. With proper precautions, cat grass can be a tasty treat your cat will love.

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