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What is cat grass and how is it used? Benefits, drawbacks and effects

cat grass
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat meat to survive, they also like to munch on plants. Cat grass is a grass that's safe for cats to eat. 

Eating grass is a natural behavior for cats. In the wild, these felines eat grass in order to regurgitate parts of their prey that they haven’t been able to digest. 

As well as an aid for digestion, cat grass has a number of other benefits including providing your kitty with minerals and vitamins. Not all felines love cat grass, but if they do, it’s definitely worth exploring as a healthy treat for your cat.

If you’re wondering if it’s safe to feed an indoor cat cat grass, this handy guide has everything you’ll need to know from what it is, to its benefits and how to grow your own. 

What is cat grass? 

Cat grass is not one type of plant, but a mixture of grasses grown from wheat, barley, oat and rye seeds. It is grown indoors specifically for pets as unlike the grass on your lawn it will not contain toxic pesticides.

If you are planning to buy or grow your own cat grass oat grass is known to have the most flavor as well as being a good source of protein and fibre, barley is the sweetest and packed with nutrients, rye is durable and wheatgrass is the best all-rounder.  

cat grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do indoor cats need cat grass?   

Cats do not need cat grass. In fact, not all cats like it. However, it is an affordable, low maintenance snack for your pet and it has numerous benefits so if they do enjoy it it’s worth giving it a go.   

Cat grass benefits  

As well as being a tasty treat for your cat, cat grass has a number of health benefits. It is full of nutrients and vitamins including vitamins A and D. 

Cat grass also contains folic acid which helps produce hemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body, and chlorophyll, which helps relieve pain, heal infections and acts as a breath freshener.

This leafy green also helps with digestion. It not only acts as a laxative pushing out hairballs, but it helps cats rid their stomachs of undigested bits of food when they vomit it up. 

Unlike the grass in your backyard, you can guarantee it won’t contain toxins and if your cat is eating the cat grass you’ve bought or grown, they’re less likely to eat other dangerous, non cat-friendly plants or ruin your houseplants entirely.

cat grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Any drawbacks? Can cat grass make a cat sick?  

While eating cat grass is perfectly safe for your cat and they will naturally vomit to aid digestion, cats do have a tendency to overeat if they are sick so if you do find your pet is vomiting too much visit your vet.

The other drawback is that if they’ve got cat grass to snack on, they may also try to nibble your other houseplants or lawn, which could not only be unwelcome by you, but toxic to them. 

Keep your houseplants out of reach and make sure you’re not treating your grass with any product that contains pesticides or use a sprinkler so your cat avoids the area.  

How do you keep cat grass alive indoors? Will cat grass keep growing?  

Cat grass will grow for 2-3 months if you’re looking after it, keeping it in a sunny spot and watering it around twice a week. After this it will die. 

If you’re growing it yourself, give it to your cat when it’s around 3-4 inches (7.62-10.16 centimeters) tall. Once it has started to wilt pull out the shoots and plant more seeds.  

Is catnip and cat grass the same thing? Does cat grass make cats high?  

While catnip and cat grass sound similar and are both tasty treats for your pet to enjoy, they aren’t the same thing. What's the difference, you ask? Catnip is a member of the mint family and contains Euphoria nepetalactone, which gives cats a euphoric feeling and may even make them sleepy when they nibble on it, smell it or even rub themselves in it. 

Cat grass, however, is generally only eaten by cats and is grown from a mixture of wheat, barley, oat and rye seeds. It has many benefits, but does not give them the same high. 

catnip

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How much cat grass should I give my cat? Can I feed my cat grass every day?  

There is no set rule for how much cat grass you should give your cat. Cat grass is safe for them to eat and has lots of benefits, but like everything else they should eat it in moderation so no more than 10% of their diet. 

If you’re growing it yourself try planting a handful of seeds at a time. If you have more than one cat, perhaps give them each their own pot. Cats often overeat when they’re ill so make sure to monitor them to make sure if they’re eating excessively that they’re not vomiting too often and that they’re not ill. 

Don’t worry if there’s grass in their vomit as often this just means something in their digestive system needed unblocking. 

How to grow cat grass 

Cat grass is relatively easy to grow. You’ll need a small, shallow container such as a pot plant, seeds, soil and water.

Fill the container with 2/3 soil, then scatter the seeds and add the last 1/3 soil. Finally add 50ml water and put the pot in a sunny area. 

The grass should start to sprout in a few days and will be ready for your cat to eat after around two weeks or when it is 3-4 inches (7.62-10.16 centimeters) tall. Make sure to water your cat grass about twice a week. 

Where to buy cat grass 

Cat grass kits are available online, at pet stores or even at your veterinary practice if you want to buy them. If you are planning to grow your own cat grass, you can purchase seeds from a garden center.  

Zara is Editor on bookazines and covers a range of topics from cookery to travel and animals. Her latest first edition, What Your Dog Wants You To Know, is the ultimate guide to understanding your dog’s body language. 
Former editor of World of Animals magazine, she has over 8 years of experience in publishing inspiring children and adults about the wonders of the animal kingdom as well as teaching them about their pets. She also has over 5 years experience working with vets, wildlife experts and animal behaviourists in her comms roles for various animal charities. 
A keen animal lover, Zara can often be found researching her next wildlife destination to travel to. Having just moved into a bigger house she is currently looking at which dog and cats breed would suit her new family so she can fill her house with pets.