What are Eating Grass?
Cats enjoy eating grass for many reasons, but mostly just because they can. Your cat may also be eating grass because of a health condition such as vitamin deficiency or worms. However, the truth of the matter is that it is not completely understood why cats eat grass. In fact, there are a great deal of things that cats do that are mysterious or weird. But, some veterinary experts believe that the most common causes of eating grass include:
- To bring up hairballs
- Vitamin deficiency (folic acid)
- To vomit up non-food Iiems
Why Eating Grass Occurs in Cats
Although experts are not certain exactly why cats eat grass, there are many who believe that these are the reasons most cats practice this weird activity:
To Bring Up Hairballs
All cats have hairballs once in awhile, but some cats with long fur may have constant hairball issues. Many times, these cats may have trouble coughing up those hairballs and they may eat something (like grass) that will make them vomit to help them bring up the hairball. Grass makes cats vomit because their digestive system is not equipped to digest vegetable matter such as grass. Eating grass and vomiting in this way is not dangerous or harmful to your cat in any way and is no reason for a trip to the veterinarian if you know that your cat is just doing it to get rid of hairballs.
Vitamin Deficiency (folic acid)
Grass contains folic acid (which is a B vitamin) as well as other nutrients, so if your cat is lacking in any vitamins he may decide to snack on some grass. Folic acid is important in producing oxygen and proper growth. Lack of folic acid can also lead to anemia.
Anemia in cats is a lack of red blood cells in the circulatory system. These red blood cells contain iron and help pick up and transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. This can be caused by many different issues such as poor nutrition, blood loss, or the destruction of red blood cells due to an underlying illness. Some other symptoms besides eating grass include eating other non-food items (pica), lethargy, loss of appetite and weight, pale gums, weakness, and jaundice (yellow skin inside ears).
To Vomit Up Non-Food Items
Similar to hairballs, some cats will eat grass because they need to vomit up something in their system such as bones from prey they have eaten. The grass is not tolerated by the digestive system and will produce an almost immediate urge to vomit in most cats.
Cats do strange thing sometimes, just because they can. They may like the way the grass tastes or maybe just playing with it because it moves around. There is no harm in this activity.
What to do if your Cat is Eating Grass
Eating grass is usually not a serious issue and will most often not need to be treated unless it is accompanied by other symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, and weakness.
If your cat has a vitamin deficiency, you will need to take him to see your veterinary care provider. The veterinarian will examine your cat and run some tests to determine why your cat is vitamin deficient and what you can do about it.
The veterinarian will also need to see your cat if you believe he is anemic. A complete physical will need to be done as well as blood and urine tests to find out the cause of the anemia.
If your cat is eating grass just to vomit up hairballs or other non-food items or just because he can, you do not need to do anything.
Prevention of Eating Grass
Preventing hairballs can be done by brushing your cat on a regular basis. If you have a long-haired cat, you should brush him every day. In addition, you can provide your cat with more fiber in his diet and ask the veterinarian if you should try a hairball ointment that can help the hair come out easier.
Make sure your cat is eating a high quality cat food with enough vitamins for his breed, age, and size. Doing so will prevent nutritional deficiencies and will also provide your cat with a more palatable diet.
There is no way to prevent anemia, although one can try to prevent the cause. For example, make sure your cat is safe against parasites and preventable illnesses by bringing him to the veterinarian once per year for flea and tick prevention, vaccines and an annual wellness check.
Cost of Eating Grass
The cost of hairball treatment for eating grass is about $75 for an office visit. A vitamin deficiency will set you back about $100 to $200 for tests and vitamin supplements. Anemia costs range from $500 to $3,000 depending on the severity and how easy it is to determine the cause. The costs of tests can be expensive so be sure to tell your veterinarian about any other symptoms you have seen, even if you think they are not related. The average cost of eating grass in cats is approximately $800.