Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Characteristics of plant eating in domestic cats.

Abstract

Plant eating by domestic cats is of interest to veterinarians and cat owners, especially with the current trend to keep cats totally indoors. Feline grass gardens are commonly provided to such cats as a reflection of cat owners believing in the need or desire of cats for eating plants. Two surveys with 1000 to 2000 returns from cat owners were launched over 10 years to test different hypotheses regarding plant eating. These hypotheses are that plant eating: (1) is a response to the cat feeling ill; (2) induces vomiting; (3) is a means of expelling hair balls from consumed hair. Additionally, a perspective acquired from observations of wild felids is that plant eating reflects an innate predisposition acquired from the ancestral cat. In this study, very few cats showed signs of illness before eating plants. However, 27 to 37 percent of cats, respectively in the two surveys, frequently vomited after eating plants, indicating that gastrointestinal disturbance may be related to vomiting in some cats. Young cats consumed plants more frequently than older cats and appeared ill and vomited less frequently in association with plant eating. Short-haired cats ate plants as frequently as long-haired cats, arguing against the hairball expelling hypothesis. Some guidelines for cat owners with indoor cats are provided.