If you have lived with or live with one of these adorable felines, you would have noticed the somewhat bizarre behavior. Cats chewing away on fresh grass as though there were herbivores.
I have seen this about a couple of times and on each occasion, the only explanation I was given was: “Oh, the cat has constipation and it knows what herbs can best handle the situation.” Eeii! Really?!
Most people would buy this but not me. I thought it was a very bogus theory and I wasn’t accepting it. ‘Since when did animals become practitioners of herbal medicine? Impossible,’ I remember thinking to myself.
Thankfully, scientists at the University of California’s School of Veterinary Medicine have offered us a more logical reason as to why cats eat grass, even though it often makes them vomit.
In a study conducted to understand this strange phenomenon, they found that the habit is a hangover from their early stages of evolution where the cat’s ancestors consumed roughage to cleanse their bodies of intestinal parasites, which they’d caught from eating rodents.
Doing this, they say, sparked muscle activity in their digestive tracts, and effectively led to the unwelcome worms being flushed out.
With today’s generation of cats still continuing this behavior even with the advent of animal medicine, the researchers, in their bid to get to the bottom of this organized an online survey of 1,021 cat owners who spent at least three hours a day observing their pet’s eating habits.
A total of 71 per cent of those cats were seen eating grass; and it wasn’t because they were unwell.
Also, ninety-one per cent didn’t vomit as a result of their grass-chewing, debunking the notion that cats consume such greens to self-induce vomiting.
Instead, they seemed to do it instinctively, suggesting the behaviour is natural.
This was re-affirmed by the fact that nearly half of all kittens (39 per cent) voluntarily eat grass without having to pick the habit up from older animals.
The authors of the study explained: ‘Given that virtually all wild carnivores carry an intestinal parasite load, instinctive plant-eating would have an adaptive role in maintaining a tolerable intestinal parasite load, whether or not the animal senses the parasites.’