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Why Does Your Cat Eat Grass?

Nadiia Iatsun/Shutterstock

Although many of us do like to have cats at home, they are still  a deeply mysterious creature to. Do they really dislike  humans? Why are they afraid of cucumbers? Why do they eat grass only to puke it back up a few minutes later?

As for this last question, it is the subject of  research taken by scientists  at the University of California‘s School of Veterinary Medicine. Recently the team has released their findings at the 53rd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology in Norway. In their study, researchers questioned over 1,000 cat owners all over the United States about their feline companion and their plant-eating habits.

They collected the cat-puking data as follows: more than 60 percent of cats had been spotted eating plants on at least 10 separate times, while only 11 percent had never been spotted doing so. Most of the time, the plant-eating did not affect the cats, although around 27 percent of cats tended to vomit shortly afterwards. There was no obvious  difference between the grass-munchers and the non-grass-munchers, except for their age. Among the group of  young cats, 3 years of age or less, nearly 40 percent of them have the habit of plant-eating on the daily basis in comparison of  27 percent of cats 4 years or older.

The widely accepted explanation for grass eating is that the cat feels ill beforehand and plant-eating could cause vomiting, then they would feel better. However, the team of scientists wonder that there is  a different motive. According to their explanation,  it’s an “innate predisposition” shared by wild ancestors. Based on research targeted out on primates, the team think that wild animals often eat non-digestible grass so as to purge the intestinal tract of parasites. 

When summarizing their study, the team suggest that in reality all wild carnivores carry an intestinal parasite load, so regularly natural plant-eating would have an adaptive role in maintaining a tolerable intestinal parasite load, whether or not the animal senses the parasites.

The team didn’t study further more about one common anecdote-based hypothesis: cats eat grass to help hock up hairballs that have gathered in their guts from incessant self-grooming. While a gagging cat isn’t the most pleasant sight, the scientists strongly hold that it’s actually a natural part of feline life and shouldn’t cause too much concern.