Does your cat eat grass?
Even though cats are obligate carnivores and don’t usually volunteer to eat fruit or vegetables, they do tend to like to eat grass...
The reason why is something of a mystery but after researchers from the University of California, School of Veterinary Medicine surveyed more than 1,000 cat owners we might be a bit closer to an answer...
1,021 cat owners who spent at least 3 hours a day watching and spending time with their pet submitted their observations, with:
- 71% of cats seen eating plants at least six times
- 61% over 10 times - 67% of these cats were estimated to eat plants daily or weekly
- 11% were never observed eating plants
(Comparing cats seen eating plants at least 10 times with those never seen eating plants, there were no differences in age range, neuter status, source or number of cats in the household.)
It is widely thought that eating grass helps cats throw up when they are feeling ill. However, the survey results also showed:
- 1/4 grass eaters were observed vomiting afterwards
- 91% respondents said their cat did not appear sick before eating grass
The researchers disagree with the traditional theory that cats ingest grass to make themselves throw up when they are feeling ill.
Instead, they believe that regular plant-eating by domestic carnivores is a reflection of an innate predisposition of regular plant-eating by wild ancestors, which is supported by numerous reports of wild carnivores eating plants.
Their theory is that grass munching helps animals expel intestinal parasites by increasing muscle activity in the digestive tract. And, that vomiting is an occasional byproduct of eating grass, not the objective.
The scientists didn't test another common understanding that eating grass helps to move food or hairballs through the digestive tract (either up or down as grass-eating often results in vomiting).
With the mystery not yet fully solved, we will keep you updated with any new developments.
We can, however, all agree that cats should be provided with grass either from an outdoor or indoor source (in the form of a pot) to enable them to exhibit their natural grass-eating behaviour.
Study: Characterization of plant eating in cats - Benjamin L. Hart, Lynette A. Hart and Abigail P. Thigpen - University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, 1 Shelds Ave, Davis, CA 95616, USA