Like dog owners everywhere, you’ll have seen your dog wolf down a mouthful of grass some time or another. And cats are the same. They’re just as keen on tearing up grass blades too. What’s going on? Why do our dogs and cats eat grass?
Well, it seems there’s no one answer. There are plenty of theories, based on detailed animal science and on plain old observation. Let’s have a look at some of the answers that are out there. It’s certain that grass has no nutritional value for a dog. They don’t have the means to digest grass. They lack the enzymes needed to break down the fibres.
So the usual explanation, understandably, is that eating grass may be due to a feeling of nausea. Grass may help dogs purge their systems. Just like us, dogs can suffer from gastrointestinal issues such as upset stomach, nausea, bloating and illness from pathogenic microbes. Perhaps, somewhere, somehow, dogs picked up the grass eating habit as a temporary solution for stomach irritation. A sort of natural aspirin.
There’s another theory, one related to their evolutionary past. It goes like this. For dogs to have survived successfully aeons ago, they would have needed good hunting abilities. They needed the advantages of surprise. It’s possible, so this theory runs, that grass eating may have evolved to help conceal their scent from their prey. The habit of rolling in anything particularly mucky is thought to have the same origin. It’s not quite like a dab of Chanel behind the ears.
Another theory has it that dogs will eat indigestible matter if their nutrition is poor. Possibly a grass eating dog may be searching for nutrients missing in processed commercial diets. Well, that rules out dogs fed on ZIWI Peak!
Cats too may eat grass for a variety of reasons. Like dogs they lack the necessary enzymes to break down vegetable matter. But there’s no evidence to suggest that grass will harm your cat. It’s suspected, based on observation, that they’ll seek out grass when suffering from some digestive upset. We know that ingesting grass may stimulate purging or vomiting for a cat. Presumably it’s a help to get rid of any toxins in the digestive tract.
So an occasional chew on succulent long green blades may be beneficial to managing its own health. After all, even the best fed cat will go out and find its own takeaways now and again. And they’ll eat their prey whole, including both the edible and inedible parts, such as fur, bones and feathers. So grass may act as a natural laxative, dealing with feline indigestion. Certainly they need to rid themselves of fur balls, and when the fur’s deep into the digestive tract, a cat may seek a little help to break it down and pass it through its system.
Some scientists wonder if there’s another, precise reason for a cat’s occasional taste for grass. They reason that the juices in grass contain folic acid. This is known to be an essential vitamin for a cat's bodily functions. It also assists in the production of hemoglobin, the protein that moves oxygen in the blood. So grass eating, in this theory, may be like a trip to the health store, or a fresh juice bar.
So, after all this talk, what’s the answer? It seems to be, simply enough, that there are some things that animal natures know to sort out for themselves. It’s worth making sure, though, that your dog or cat isn’t dining on grass heavily treated with pesticides or harsh chemicals. Otherwise, there should be no health problems.