cat eating grass

Be Wary: Serious Trouble may Lurk

Question:
What is your view of “cat grass?”

Dr. Nichol:
I have never used cat grass. I don’t eat it, smoke it, grow it or mow it. On the other hand, the two Nichol family cats, Tony and Gaston, are rather fiendish about it, almost like catnip. But they’re adults so I mind my own business.

From a scientific perspective, there isn’t much known about cat grass. Ingested plant material tends to alkalinize the body but veterinary internists and nutritionists don’t believe that most cats would eat enough to predispose them to urinary disorders like bladder crystals and stones. Consuming cat grass is most likely a harmless feline behavioral oddity.

The more interesting question may be why an obligate predator like a cat would be interested in a vegetarian side dish in the first place. Through my many years in veterinary practice I have known a whole lot of cats who’ve experienced frequent stomach and intestinal upset. Not all of them vomit but eating grass appears to help many of them feel better.

Home remedies are popular these days but you should never make assumptions with frequent feline hurlers in part because there is a long list of possible causes, some of them outside the GI tract. Kidney and liver disease often result in persistent puking. Pancreatic disorders and even brain lesions can be responsible. Your cat relies on you to look out for him.

Be observant; kitties are way too good at hiding their illnesses. It’s not rare for them to swallow string-type foreign material, wreaking havoc on their stomach and intestinal tracts. I have surgically removed junk from many cats who would have died had their caring people not recognized their distress early. Rather than offering cat grass to a kitty with a belly ache you should take him to see his doctor. An accurate diagnosis would allow potentially life-saving treatment.

Incidentally, last week my wife and I attended a performance of Cats at Popejoy. Not a single blade of grass was injured in the making of that musical. I’ve been a closet cat my whole life but I had salad than night.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.