Trying to solve the grass eating conundrum
Many theories are shared among the dog and cat-owning communities as to why our pets eat grass. It’s a question many of us have asked over the years and it’s something we have probably been trying to stop our pets from doing over the summer, when grass chewing is most prolific among our canine and feline friends.
Both cats and dogs lack the necessary enzymes to break down vegetable matter, so there’s little nutritional value in it for them but they’re still happy to tuck into clumps of the green stuff.
One of the many reasons put forward to try and explain this behaviour is that they do it to remedy a feeling of nausea. Other animal experts would have us believe that cats eat grass to relieve sore throats or that it acts as a natural laxative. Some vets even suggest that grass eating dogs may have evolved to help conceal their scent from prey, in the same way that rolling on foul offal is sometimes thought to mask the smell of a dog’s body.
Dig a little deeper and research from the University of California might offer further insight. A survey of dog owners found that 80 per cent of their pooches with access to plants had eaten grass or other plants with around 68 per cent of respondents stating that their dogs ate plants on a daily or weekly basis.
The researchers conclude that grass eating is a common behaviour that usually occurs in normal dogs and is generally not associated with illness or dietary needs. They go on to suggest that grass eating may reflect an innate predisposition inherited from dogs’ wild ancestors.
This theory is supported by research on droppings left by wolves. Grass was found in 11 to 47% of the stool samples studied. The usefulness of grass eating in wild canines is that it can help to purge intestinal parasites. Plant material passes through the intestinal tract and the fibrous matter increases intestinal contractions and wraps around the worms or nematodes that may be infecting the animal. A clear indicator that grass eating in dogs may be inherent.
A study of cats showed that they are less likely to eat plants than dogs but no extensive research has been conducted.
It’s worth bearing in mind that if your dog or cat is vomiting or sick and then eats grass, this will only make your pet sicker and more dehydrated, so it’s best to deny them access to grass when this is the case.
Keep an eye out for your little friend spitting up or vomiting more than just occasionally. If they are suffering a reaction to something, it’s always best to take them to a vet and get them checked over.