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Despite what you might think, cats occasionally enjoy a green snack in the form of grass. This behavior is quite common for both domesticated and wild cats, as grass may help with their digestion and to reduce hairballs.¹ Eating grass isn’t strictly necessary if their diet is well-balanced, but many cats enjoy it and feel the benefits of chewing on grass every now and then.
Outdoor cats will naturally nibble on grass during their time spent outside, but it might be a good idea to provide cat grass for your indoor feline friend. Of course, you should always consult your vet before allowing your cat to eat something different, but the right type of grass can help maintain your cat’s health in a number of ways. So, if you’re curious about cat grass, its various benefits, and how to grow it, keep reading.
- What is Cat Grass?
- Why Do Cats Like Cat Grass?
- Benefits of Cat Grass
- How to Grow Cat Grass
- Final Notes
What is Cat Grass?
Not to be confused with catnip — which causes a drug-like, euphoric effect — cat grass refers to different types of grasses that are safe for felines to consume. While it may look almost identical to normal grass in your yard, cat grass is grown from a mixture of common grain plants, like rye, barley, oat, and wheat.²
Cat grass is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, which can be very beneficial to your cat’s diet and nutrition. It can also be used to redirect your cat’s attention away from house plants or from chewing on other objects around the house, and finally, can add some enrichment to your cat’s environment.
Cat grass is usually grown indoors, so it’s not exposed to harmful chemicals or pesticides that may be found on lawns or in public parks. While most cat grass is a mixture of different plants, there are certain flavors that might be tastier for your cat, depending on their preference.
- Oat grass tends to have the strongest flavor of all the cat grasses and is also a great source of protein.
- Rye grass is long-lasting and the most durable.
- Barley is rich in nutrients and fiber with a sweeter flavor.
- Wheatgrass is considered a well rounded option when it comes to cat grass, full of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.²
If you’re introducing cat grass to your feline pal for the first time, you might want to experiment with different types to see if they prefer certain flavors or textures.
Why Do Cats Like Cat Grass?
So why do our feline friends like eating grass? There doesn’t seem to be one, clear answer, but there are many theories derived from research studies and observations. Wild cats often use grass as a mild laxative or to trigger vomiting in order to take care of the non-digestible parts of their prey, as it’s a good source of fiber. While it’s unlikely that your house cat needs this, they might be eating grass instinctually or to help rid themselves of hairballs.
Additionally, as a plant, grass naturally contains chlorophyll, which might help keep your cat’s breath fresh and act as a mild pain reliever.³ The high concentration of fiber can also help maintain proper digestion.
Another reason is that cats seem to like the taste of grass. Although it might not seem very appealing to us, cats and many other animals often like the various flavors of (cat) grass. Considering the general digestive benefits, your cat probably realizes that grass not only tastes good, but also keeps their tummy happy.²
While cat grass is not essential to your cat’s diet, it can still provide valuable nutrients. However, if you notice that your cat is eating a lot of grass, it might be time to examine their food or even speak to a vet, as this might mean that they’re not receiving all the necessary nutrients from their food.
Benefits of Cat Grass
While most cats like eating grass, indoor felines might particularly benefit from the enrichment it provides. Unlike their outdoor counterparts, indoor cats don’t get to explore the outside world and interact with plant and animal life to the same extent. Cat grass can be a safe alternative for your furry indoor friend, because there’s no risk of them coming into contact with potentially harmful chemicals that might be found on normal grass outside. Plus, an indoor garden can encourage your cat to practice their foraging and hunting skills.
Similar to dogs, cats also like smelling new things in their environment, so a box full of cat grass can be highly interesting for your furry friend. You can also add cat-safe flowers, sticks, leaves, or rocks. This type of nature enrichment box offers a combination of interesting stimuli that even outdoor cats might gravitate toward — it’s certainly safer and tastier than grass outside. The fresh taste, texture, and smell of plants is sure to delight your cat in more ways than one.
How to Grow Cat Grass
Cat grass kits and seeds are widely available in many pet stores and even in some vets’ offices, because it’s easy to grow and maintain at home.
The easiest way to get started is with a pre-packed kit, but if you have some gardening experience, you can simply plant some seeds from typical cat grasses. If you choose the latter, there are many different types of seeds, such as rye, oat, wheatgrass, or a blended variety. You can also grow cat grass using a soil-free mix to reduce potential mess.
1. Buy cat grass seeds
The first step is to buy cat grass seeds, whether that’s in a kit or on their own. Nowadays, there are many places to find seeds, especially online, but use caution when buying seeds this way. Healthy seeds should never look dull or gray and are typically a light beige color.⁵ Pet stores will almost always offer pouches of mixed seeds, as that’s the most popular type of cat grass.
2. Sow seeds
Once you have your seeds, it’s time to sow them in your soil of choice, such as a standard potting mix. Whichever soil you choose, it should already contain an organic fertilizer. Put the seeds about a ¼-inch deep directly into the soil. They will start to germinate after about two or three days. Make sure to keep the soil consistently moist and keep the potted seeds in a warm, dark place to facilitate germination.⁶
3. Provide light and water
After germination, your cat grass will need lots of direct sunlight and water. The best place to put it at this stage is on a windowsill. Regular watering is necessary, but be careful not to overwater, as that can cause damage to the budding roots. Firm the soil lightly every so often.⁷ Once the seeds have sprouted through the soil, simply maintain it with regular watering and sunlight. The grass is ready to give to your cat when it has reached about three inches, which will take approximately 10-12 days.
What is the difference between cat grass and catnip?
Catnip is one type of plant in the mint family and is recognizable by its leafy green appearance, much like the mint leaves we enjoy in our food and drink.⁹ Usually, catnip leaves are sold crushed and dried, however, it’s also an easy plant to grow fresh, both indoors and outdoors. Cats are affected by the oil in the leaves, which stimulates certain neurons in the brain, causing them to be attracted to the plant. It triggers a variety of bizarre behaviors, including purring, rolling around, unusual vocalizations, drooling, head rubbing, hyperactivity, and feeling dazed or sleepy. These effects usually last for about ten minutes before wearing off.⁹
Cat grass, on the other hand, is derived from normal wheat-based plants, such as rye, oat, or barley and has no euphoric effect on cats. However, it can aid in digestion, be used as a natural laxative or pain reliever, and also provides beneficial vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. You can also easily grow cat grass at home.⁵
The plants differ in size, with catnip growing to about two or three feet high and cat grass only to about four inches. The latter closely resembles normal lawn grass, while catnip consists of green, heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges.
What is the best grass for indoor cats?
All cat grasses are likely to be a hit with your feline pal, but different grass types and mixtures will produce slightly different flavors.
Oat-based grass is a great choice, because its high content of fiber, vitamins and minerals makes it especially helpful as a digestive aid. Most cats will munch on the top part rather than the roots. This means that as long as you maintain a regular watering schedule, the grass will last for a while. A mixture of different plants is a common type of cat grass, as it provides even more variety for your cat.
How long does cat grass last?
The average lifespan of cat grass is 2-3 weeks, depending on environmental factors such as humidity in the room, temperature, watering schedule, and type of seeds. Healthy cat grass looks very similar to regular grass outside — standing upright with a vibrant green color. Trimming the plant and storing it in the refrigerator when your cat isn’t eating it can help extend its lifespan. You can also try re-potting it to a larger pot, which will give the expanding roots more room to grow. ⁸ You’ll know the grass has reached the end of its lifespan when it starts to wilt, turn yellow, and becomes dry.
Cat grass can be beneficial to your cat’s diet and environment. It provides useful minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that your cat will seek out naturally from time to time. One of the main benefits of cat grass seems to be that it helps cats digest their food and manage hairballs. Even wild cats eat grass, particularly after a large meal.³ You can grow cat grass indoors with minimal effort, either from seeds of a grain plant like oat, or from pre-packaged cat grass kits.
If you’d like to know more about the benefits of cat grass or how to grow it, schedule an online vet appointment with Dutch. You will be connected to one of our licensed vets who will be happy to answer your questions and advise you on how to incorporate cat grass into your feline’s lifestyle.
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