You have probably heard the adage that cats eat grass because they want to throw up, but is that necessarily true? Do cats know when they need to throw up?
The housecat’s wild ancestors consumed plants as part of their diet. One of the primary reasons cats eat grass is to aid in their digestion. Grass is a natural source of fiber that helps to stimulate the cat’s digestive system and move food through their intestines. Another reason why cats eat grass is to help them regurgitate hairballs. Cats are self-groomers and ingest a lot of hair. When the hair accumulates in their stomach, it can cause discomfort and lead to the formation of hairballs. Eating grass is an instinct cats developed through their evolution to vomit up their hair and relieve the discomfort.
While instinct is the main drive for grass eating, some cats simply like the texture. Cats are fond of chewing on things and are attracted to food specifically based on texture. While eating grass and other plants is derived from the housecat’s wild ancestors that consumed plants as part of their diet, it is important to note that plants are generally not safe for cats to consume. Many plants are toxic to cats, including many house plants, and will cause serious health problems including death if ingested. Furthermore, plants and grass are irritating to the stomach and intestines and cause vomiting. While this process was important for wild cats, today’s housecats will develop inflammation in their intestines and pancreas because of eating plants and grass, which can lead to irritable bowel problems and other digestive disorders.
New England Cat Care recommends weekly hairball prevention to help your cat eliminate hair from its digestive tract. Hairball aids come in flavored gels and soft cat treats. While there are diets that claim to provide hairball relief, many of them contain insoluble fibers that promote constipation. A high-quality cat food with protein and a blend of whole grains in conjunction with hairball supplements is the most effective way to ensure your cat maintains healthy digestion.
If your cat has consumed a plant, or if you have plants in your home, please follow the link below to identify the species of plant to determine toxicity levels.