Shannon Cutts takes a look at wheatgrass for cats and answers questions including “Can cats eat wheatgrass?”, “Is wheatgrass good for cats?”, and “Are there any wheatgrass for cats side effects?”
Have you ever seen a cat eating grass? It is a weird sight, right?!
After all, cats are known as hunters and meat eaters….so the effect of seeing a cat chowing down on grass is similar to watching your normally steak-loving partner suddenly digging into a big salad!
So what is the deal with cats and wheatgrass?
Is there a difference between cat grass vs wheatgrass?
Is wheatgrass safe for cats? For that matter, is wheatgrass good for cats?
Let’s take a look at this confusing issue to find out the truth about wheatgrass for cats!
What is wheatgrass?
The question of “what is wheatgrass?” contains a clue to the answer right in its name – this plant is related to wheat!
In its natural raw state, wheatgrass is a thick-blade dry grass.
Wild wheatgrass grows fast and will mature in as little as 10 days.
Typically, the wheatgrass you will see in stores (which is where most people encounter wheatgrass) is harvested when the plant is very young.
Wheatgrass is also grown as graze for livestock, and wild animals like antelope and deer enjoy noshing on it as well.
Fun facts about wheatgrass
Wheatgrass has earned itself the nickname of “green blood” for its high chlorophyll content, which gives this grass an unusually vibrant green hue.
The nickname, however, actually refers to the plant’s cells, which are similar in structure to the human body’s own red blood cells.
Wheatgrass was initially cultivated by a chemist named Charles F. Schnabel.
His original goal in doing this was to save chicken lives!
Schnabel rescued a flock of ill chickens and began feeding them fresh grasses, including fresh wheatgrass; the chickens recovered and produced large crops of eggs.
Schnabel then began feeding wheatgrass to his family as well, and a new nutrition movement was born.
What nutrients does wheatgrass contain?
Wheatgrass’ reputation as a superfood and nutritional powerhouse took on a life of its own after Schnabel began promoting it in the 1930s.
Many claims made about the potential for wheatgrass to soothe or heal are exaggerated or based on very small amounts of evidence.
However, the benefit of wheatgrass across multiple fields of human and veterinary medicine remains an interesting area, and researchers might still find provable applications.
And none of the controversy changes the fact that wheatgrass still contains important nutrients, including iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and selenium.
Wheatgrass is also unusually high in protein for a plant. Protein content is especially high when the wheatgrass plant is young and decreases as the plant matures.
Wheatgrass also contains large amounts of insoluble (non-digestible) fiber, which can be very helpful to get a sluggish digestive system moving again.
Is wheatgrass good for cats?
To answer the question “is wheatgrass good for cats?” we need to understand why your cat would ever eat grass in the first place.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their digestive tract is extremely specialized to process animal protein.
This also means that the cat digestive system doesn’t handle vegetables, fruits or grains well.
In other words, to your cat, eating grass is like taking a fiber pill – it goes in one end and comes right out the other.
In past decades, seeing your cat chowing down on grass meant just one thing: he had an upset tummy or needed to clear out excess bones or skin, cat hair or some other potential obstruction.
Wheatgrass for cats today
Modern feline researchers are starting to rethink this theory as the sole answer for why do cats eat wheatgrass or other grasses.
Some cats may not ever touch the stuff, while others seem to make a beeline for anything green – safe or toxic, tasty or not.
One recent theory is looking at cats with an oral fixation and whether grass might satisfy a continual need to chew.
Yet another theory ponders whether cats have evolved to eat grasses to keep their digestive tracts clear, much in the same way that wild felines (lions, tigers and others) use vegetation to combat gut parasites.
Another theory is that wheatgrass for cats with kidney disease, diabetes or respiratory infection might be using their grass ingestion to flush toxins, bacteria, fungi, viral matter or poisons out of their body.
Ultimately, there is only one thing we know for sure right now: many cats seem to eat grass.
This behavior suggests wheatgrass may be good for cats in some way that has yet to be fully understood.
Is wheatgrass safe for cats?
So is wheatgrass for cats safe?
While even feline veterinarians don’t know precisely what draws cats to green growing things, the general consensus is that it isn’t anything to worry about.
If you are unsure, asking your personal vet “can cats have wheatgrass?” is definitely the way to go.
This is especially the case if you are asking is wheatgrass ok for cats because your kitty seems to be eating quite a lot of it!
Some cat owners worry about food allergies when they see their cats eating wheatgrass.
After all, wheatgrass is related to wheat, and wheat contains gluten, and many people and pets have gluten allergies.
According to the Celiac Foundation, wheatgrass does not contain gluten.
It is a pure plant fiber. The gluten proteins are only found in the seeds and not in the sprouted plant.
Is wheatgrass bad for cats?
Wheatgrass is not bad for cats, although it is always good to talk with your vet if you notice your cat suddenly starting to eat more of it.
However, many other green plants are toxic for cats and pets in general, so if you do decide to allow your cat access to wheatgrass, be sure you remove any toxic green plants that he may decide to sample next!
What about wheatgrass for cats side effects?
The main side effect cat owners report is increased vomiting or pooping.
This is due to your cat’s inability to digest wheatgrass – the fiber will either prompt what is in your cat’s stomach to come out one way or the other.
Here again, it is always smart to ask your vet if your cat seems to be vomiting a lot or his litter box habits suddenly change.
How to prepare wheatgrass for cats
If you have ever tried wheatgrass, you likely didn’t pick it from the ground and start chewing.
Most probably, you drank it in the form of wheatgrass juice – what is commonly referred to as a “wheatgrass shot.”
Your cat wouldn’t know what to do with a wheatgrass shot, but if she encountered wheatgrass growing in the ground or in a pot, she might take a nibble.
Can cats eat wheatgrass every day?
Can cats eat wheatgrass daily?
At the most fundamental level, clearly some cats do eat wheatgrass daily and seem none the worse for it.
A recent article in the New York Times points to a burgeoning market for “pet salad” as proof that some pet owners are even purchasing or growing wheatgrass for cats and other pets.
Not only do some cats eat wheatgrass daily, but other cats are using it in their litter boxes!
A newer product called Cat Country organic wheatgrass litter uses wheatgrass fibers for an all-natural form of odor control that is perfume-free, chemical and polymer-free litter box material.
Wheatgrass vs cat grass
Is wheatgrass the same as cat grass?
What is the difference between wheatgrass vs cat grass?
As it turns out, there is no fundamental difference between wheatgrass and cat grass, except that wheatgrass is just one type of cat grass.
Cat grass can also come from oat, barley, rye, flax, bluegrass, fescue and other grain seeds.
All of these grasses are commonly used to make the product called cat grass.
Can cats eat wheatgrass?
Cats can and do eat wheatgrass as well as other types of grasses.
While researchers are still working on sorting out the exact reasons why cats will eat grass when they have otherwise evolved to eat only animal protein, it is clear there is some benefit!
If your cat does not eat any grass – wheatgrass or cat grass or some other type of grass – this is fine.
If your cat seems to be eating a lot of green grass, this is something you will want to talk with your vet about, because she could be trying to clear out illness or parasites or have some other health reason for seeking out grass.
And if you would like to offer your cat wheatgrass or cat grass, this is a good way to ensure that if your cat does decide to ingest plant matter, she will be eating something you know is safe for her to eat!
Has your cat eaten wheatgrass or green plants?
Do you offer cat grass or wheatgrass to your cat?
Let us know what you think about cats eating wheatgrass or cat grass!
Has it helped your cat?
Join in the conversation using the comments box below.
Olsen, N., RD, LD, ACSM EP-C, et al, “What is Wheatgrass?,” Medical News Today, 2017.
National Plant Data Center, “Western Wheatgrass Plant Guide,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2000.
Diwakar Gore, R., et al, “Wheatgrass: Green Blood can Help to Fight Cancer,” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research/National Institutes of Health, 2017.
O’Brien, T., PhD, “Charles F. Schnabel and the Discovery of Wheatgrass,” Empowering Medicine, 2013.
Bergstrom, L., “How Does Your Cat Grass Grow? Plant a Feline-Friendly Indoor Garden,” The Humane Society, 2010.
Gaston, R., DVM, “Nutritional Management of Chronic Upper Respiratory Infection and Diabetes Mellitus in a Cat,” Whole Food Nutrition Journal, 1995.
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