Wheatgrass for cats has become popular in the past few years. Since cats are obligate carnivores, it may seem odd that they like to munch on grass. However, there are many potential health benefits cats receive when they chew on and ingest wheatgrass.
Wheatgrass is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it a nutrient-dense food. But what exactly is wheatgrass and is it truly safe for our feline friends?
What Is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is a variety of grass that is used like an herbal medicine for its therapeutic and nutritional properties. It is the young, fresh shoot of the wheat plant, Triticum aestivum, that is harvested before the grain sprouts.
Due to the concentration of nutrients, wheatgrass is considered a superfood. Fresh wheatgrass contains iron, calcium, natural enzymes, magnesium, chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins A, C, E, K and B complex. Because of the rich variety of nutrients present in this plant, wheatgrass is commonly used to help with detoxification and as nutritional support to provide additional nutrients that complement the diet.
Cat Grass Vs. Wheatgrass
Is cat grass the same thing as wheatgrass? While wheatgrass is commonly marketed as cat grass, cat grass can actually be any plant ranging from barley, oats, flax, rye, fescue, or bluegrass. When a company makes cat products that contain any of these grasses, they are all labeled as cat grass.
When shopping for wheatgrass for cats, look for organic products to make sure that they are not sprayed by herbicides which are toxic to cats – whether it is the seed or the actual plant that is being purchased.
Can Cats Eat Wheatgrass?
Yes, cats can eat wheatgrass. While it may seem like a strange behavior – especially since cats are obligate carnivores – they can benefit tremendously from eating wheatgrass. Many cats will naturally self-select and choose to eat it on their own due to the high nutrient concentration.
Benefits of Wheatgrass for Cats
There are many reasons why wheatgrass can benefit cats. Some of the potential benefits of wheatgrass for cats include:
Detoxification. Wheatgrass contains high chlorophyll content. The chlorophyll helps cleanse the blood and supports detoxification in the body to help remove heavy metals, reduce inflammation, and provide additional antioxidants to heal the body.
Enrichment. Wheatgrass is also a great environmental enrichment option to provide something different for your cat. Most cats do not have access to the outdoors to graze on natural foliage and experience this type of stimulation. By offering cats the option to self-select wheatgrass in the home, it is a great way to bring the outdoors inside safely without worries over pesticides or herbicides being sprayed on the grass.
Digestive Aid. Many cats will eat wheatgrass to help their digestive system. Wheatgrass contains fiber from the plant material and can help with clearing hairballs that cats can naturally build up from grooming. For cats prone to constipation, allowing cats to eat wheatgrass may help resolve or at least improve the constipation. Cats may vomit after eating a large amount of wheatgrass, but this is usually due to not being able to break down the cellulose in the plant walls.
Weight Loss. Due to the higher fiber content, another benefit is that it can help with weight loss. When cats eat natural prey in the wild, they are ingesting the intestinal tracts of animals which many times contain fermented fibers and vegetable matter. Wheatgrass is another beneficial way to provide this type of vegetable matter that is phytonutrient rich to cats, especially for overweight cats.
Joint Benefits. Because of the vitamin A and other minerals and amino acids present in wheatgrass, this grass can be helpful for aging cats and joint health. Studies in humans have shown a reduction in pain from osteoarthritis inflammation when they ingested wheatgrass. Allowing cats access to wheatgrass to choose what their bodies need can be helpful for healthy aging by reducing inflammation, supporting eye health, and a healthy skin and coat.
Wheatgrass for Cats Side Effects
If cats consume too much wheatgrass at one time, it may cause gastrointestinal upset like vomiting since cats do not possess the same digestive enzymes to break down plant material like people.
For cats with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts, start by offering only small amounts or letting your cat eat wheatgrass for a minute or two to keep them from creating an upset gastrointestinal tract.
Powder forms of wheatgrass are more concentrated. Giving too can cause gastrointestinal problems or even imbalance the diet. So, if a supplement form of wheatgrass is being used, like wheatgrass powder or juice, only give it a few times a week or ask your veterinarian to provide the proper dosing for your cat.
There are no known health problems where a cat should not be allowed to choose if they want to ingest some wheatgrass. If the cat vomits after eating it, limit the time and amount of wheatgrass given to the cat.
Eating wheatgrass outside may create a problem regarding the chemicals that may be present. Herbicides and pesticides are commonly used in neighborhoods and can drift onto the grass in your yard. If there is any concern with neighbors or the city spraying chemicals near the house, it is best to purchase organic wheatgrass from a local store, online, or gardening center or grow it at home with organic seeds.
How to Use Wheatgrass for Cats
There are a few ways to provide wheatgrass to cats. Wheatgrass can be easily grown at home in a pot or container inside. You can purchase kits online or in pet stores. It’s ideal to leave it on a sunny counter and keep it moist. Within a few days the shoots of the fresh wheatgrass will come through for your cat to chew on. The wheatgrass can stay fresh for about a week until it starts to wilt.
Allowing cats to self-select what they need and want is the best option. Most cats will have a little nibble and feel satisfied due to the fiber and nutrient density of the wheat grass. But if there are any concerns about the cat having gastrointestinal upset, a few blades of the wheat grass can be cut off and fed to the cat each day for enrichment.