If you live with a cat, you may have discovered it on occasion chewing herbs. They do not need to have access to the outside, they can also be interested in the leaves of indoor plants.
This behavior is surprising in a carnivorous animal and could even have negative consequences if the vegetation you choose is toxic to felines. We explain below the hypotheses about the reason for this behavior.
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Herbs for hairballs
Perhaps the main hypothesis proposed to explain the need for cats to ingest grass is the search for a laxative effect . We know that felines spend a good part of their waking time preening. In this process it is inevitable that they swallow hair. The more that ends up in the digestive system, the more likely it is for problems.
The hairs mixed with gastric juices and food form the so-called hairballs or trichobezoars. These, depending on their size and location, can obstruct the digestive system and cause various symptoms of greater or lesser severity. Cats would seek the herb for its laxative effect.
This would facilitate the removal of the hairs, expelling them by triggering vomiting . This explanation was based on the observation that cats, after ingesting grass, vomited. But if this statement were true, there would be one doubt: if the cat feels digestive discomfort due to the hairballs, it may vomit from that cause, regardless of whether or not it ingests grass.
Nutritious herbs for cats
Contrary to more widespread opinions, the truth is that the most plausible hypothesis attributes the consumption of grass to the need to obtain nutrients. Specifically, cats are believed to chew on these vegetables to supplement their diet .
They need a small amount of a vitamin: folic acid. It is an essential nutrient that they cannot get from a carnivorous diet. Its consumption is essential given its role in the production of hemoglobin, a fundamental protein in the blood.
A cat lacking in folic acid will suffer growth problems and may develop severe anemia. Providing the cat with a balanced diet adapted to its life stage is the guarantee that we provide all the essential nutrients for its health.
Plant grass for your cat
At present, diets for cats are complete, so it is very rare that they present nutritional deficiencies. But they can maintain the behavior of nibbling herbs . If our cat is one of those who enjoys this activity, we can provide herbs at home, if he does not have safe access to the outside.
We just have to plant them in pots that we will leave at your disposal. Of course, it would not be strange for the cat to end up scratching at the earth, removing it from the pot, and even defecate or urinate in it.
Why do cats like catnip?
Cats’ favorite grass is catnip, Nepeta cataria , catnip or catnip . This plant from the mint family contains an oil called hepetalactone. For cats it acts like a drug . It is not known exactly what effect it has on your body, but in many of them it causes a kind of trance state.
The cat, as soon as it smells it, licks it, bites, chews and rubs itself incessantly against it. Rub the cheek, the chin, shake the head and rub the body. He rolls on himself and even jumps in the air. It also emits purrs, grunts and meows. It also scratches the grass with its paws. These effects are seen in approximately 50% of cats .
It does not matter if they are male or female or if they are neutered or whole. The other half, on the other hand, do not react in the least to the plant. From what is known, it is explained by a difference at the genetic level. In addition, if they react, they do so after three months of life. Valerian is another plant that can trigger this reaction in cats.
Beware of toxic house plants for cats
Unfortunately, many of the plants we live with in our homes are toxic to cats . To avoid problems, they must be prevented from accessing them or, directly, without their presence.
If the cat ingests them in sufficient quantity or comes into contact with them, it can suffer symptoms locally, such as irritations, or in the gastrointestinal tract, such as abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea.
The nervous system can also be affected, appearing incoordination or seizures. Kidney, liver or cardiorespiratory damage also occurs. Any suspicion of poisoning is a reason for urgent consultation with the veterinarian. Some of the most common and dangerous plants are:
- Adam’s rib.