Why Do Cats Eat Grass?

And is it good or bad for your kitty?

Why do cats eat grass?

Turns out, there isn’t a lot of research on why cats eat grass, says Dr. Pete Lands, DVM, director of emergency and critical care at St. Francis Veterinary Center in New Jersey. But there could be a few different reasons to answer the question “Why do cats eat grass?”

Cats commonly have a number of underlying gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome. So eating grass may be a way for them to calm down their GI tract either to help move things along a little bit faster or help them vomit up hairballs, Lands says. Curious about other cat behaviors? Find out why cats purr.

Grass has plenty of fiber, which can help with constipation. “Cats are notoriously poor water drinkers, and sometimes adding fiber to the diet just helps them poop a little bit easier,” says Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT, a holistic veterinarian based in Boulder, Colorado.

And some cats may eat grass to make up for nutritional deficiencies in their diet, such as folic acid, which helps form hemoglobin. “If the diet they have at home is devoid of certain vitamins, minerals, or nutrients, they may be trying to find those elsewhere,” Lands says. “So one place they may be able to find folic acid would be by eating grass if that was something that their diet might be missing.” You’ll also want to be sure not to make these dangerous mistakes as a cat owner.

Is eating grass related to stress?

That said, eating grass may also be a sign that your kitty is stressed out. Find out the things you do that your cat secretly hates.

“Some people say if a cat is in a stressful environment, they may stress eat, similar to the way humans stress or emotionally eat to kind of help relax them or calm them down,” Lands says. That may be the case with feral cats.

Is it good for cats to eat grass?

Eating some grass may help your cat’s digestion. But too much could result in medical complications. “In America, most of our cats are indoors all year, so if they’re going outside and eating grass, you should probably get on the phone and talk to your vet,” Lands says. In some cases, if a cat eats too much grass, it can get stuck in the stomach and require surgery to remove. A visit to the vet will help identify any underlying conditions that could be causing your cat to eat grass. Some cats may also enjoy the taste of dog food–we asked experts if that’s safe. 

Some cats just like the taste of grass, and in small amounts, it can provide valuable fiber. Krause has a cat with GI issues, and she grows cat grass for her cat to eat. “He’s the one who will eat grass until he vomits, no matter what kind of grass,” Krause says. “And so with him, when I grow grass for him, I watch how much is available to him, because he’ll just mow [it] down if I grow a ton.” Now that you know the answer to the question “Why do cats eat grass?” find out 17 things your cat would love to tell you.

Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.