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Is wheatgrass and cat grass the same thing?

Wheatgrass and cat grass are two types of grasses that are commonly grown for health and dietary purposes. Though they look similar, they are actually quite different plants. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between wheatgrass and cat grass, looking at their botanical classification, growth habit, nutritional profile, and uses.

Botanical Classification

Wheatgrass and cat grass belong to different botanical families:

  • Wheatgrass belongs to the Poaceae family, which includes cereal grasses like wheat, barley, and rye.
  • Cat grass belongs to the Poaceae family in the genus Dactylis, which includes orchard grasses.

So while both are grasses, they are taxonomically distinct plants.

Growth Habit

Wheatgrass and cat grass also differ in their growth habits:

  • Wheatgrass grows erect with stiff, upright stems that can reach 1-2 feet tall when mature.
  • Cat grass grows in a low, spreading tuft, with soft, bending stems that typically reach 4-6 inches tall.

So wheatgrass has a much larger, vertical growth pattern compared to the low, horizontal tufts of cat grass.

Nutritional Profile

While both wheatgrass and cat grass are nutritious plants, their nutritional profiles differ significantly:

Nutrient Wheatgrass Cat Grass
Protein High Moderate
Iron High Moderate
Magnesium High Low
Vitamin C Low High
Vitamin A Low High

As shown, wheatgrass is higher in protein, iron, and magnesium, while cat grass provides more vitamins A and C. Both offer a range of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that make them healthy additions to the diet.

Uses

Due to their nutritional differences, wheatgrass and cat grass are used in distinct ways:

  • Wheatgrass is most commonly juiced or powdered to make supplements and smoothies that provide concentrated nutrition.
  • Cat grass is primarily grown as a digestive aid for cats, who chew on the leaves to vomit hairballs and aid digestion.
  • Wheatgrass may also be fed to cats, but cat grass is specifically tailored to their nutritional needs.

So while wheatgrass is grown for human consumption, cat grass serves a specialized role as feline greens.

Growing Conditions

Wheatgrass and cat grass require similar growing conditions:

  • Both do best in loose, fertile soil that is kept moist but not soaked.
  • Partial sun to light shade is ideal for both grasses.
  • Indoors, they can be grown from seed in trays or pots in a bright window.
  • Outdoors, sowing seed directly in the ground after frost has passed works well.

However, there are a few key differences:

Wheatgrass Cat Grass
Water Needs Moderate High
Soil pH Preference Neutral Slightly acidic
Time to Maturity 10-14 days 5-8 days

Cat grass requires more frequent watering, thrives in slightly acidic soil, and grows to maturity faster than wheatgrass. But both can work well in home growing conditions.

Appearance

At first glance, wheatgrass and cat grass look very similar – both have slender green leaves. But there are some subtle differences in appearance:

  • Blade shape: Wheatgrass blades are flat and ribbon-like, while cat grass blades are more curled and wavy.
  • Color: Wheatgrass is a deeper green, while young cat grass has a pale lime green color.
  • Size: Wheatgrass leaves grow much longer – up to 8 inches compared to cat grass’ 2-3 inches.
  • Density: Wheatgrass forms dense bunches, while cat grass grows in a more sparse, spreading habit.

So when examined closely side-by-side, the differences in leaf shape, color, size, and density set wheatgrass and cat grass apart visually.

Availability

Both wheatgrass and cat grass are widely available:

  • Wheatgrass seeds, trays, and kits can be found at most garden stores, as well as online retailers like Amazon.
  • Cat grass seeds are commonly sold at pet supply stores and websites focused on pet care products.
  • Pre-grown wheatgrass shoots and cat grass trays are sold at many grocery stores, health food stores, and farmers markets.
  • Wheatgrass and cat grass can both be grown easily at home from seed with minimal equipment.

The main difference in availability is that cat grass products are often marketed for pet health, while wheatgrass is aimed at human consumption.

Cost

Wheatgrass and cat grass seeds are both very inexpensive. A packet of seeds for either typically costs $5 or less. Pre-grown trays usually range from $10-20 for both types of grass. Between the two, cat grass trays tend to be slightly cheaper than wheatgrass when purchased pre-grown.

However, growing either one from seed at home is highly affordable. A $3-5 packet of seeds can provide months of wheatgrass or cat grass. So the cost difference is negligible when home grown.

Taste

For humans, wheatgrass is known for having a distinctive, grassy flavor that can be overpowering in large amounts. It has a tough, fibrous texture. Cat grass is not commonly consumed by humans. But for cats, both wheategrass and cat grass taste pleasing, which encourages chewing and digestion.

Conclusion

In summary, while wheatgrass and cat grass share some surface similarities, they are distinct plants that differ in their taxonomy, growth, nutrition, uses, appearance, and other attributes. Key points of difference include:

  • Wheatgrass belongs to the Poaceae cereal grass family, while cat grass is in the Dactylis orchard grass genus.
  • Wheatgrass grows erect and tall, while cat grass forms low horizontal tufts.
  • Wheatgrass contains more protein and minerals, and cat grass provides higher vitamin levels.
  • Wheatgrass is used for human nutrition, while cat grass serves as feline greens.
  • Subtle differences in leaf shape, color, size and density set the grasses apart visually.

Both can be grown easily and affordably at home, but are tailored to different species’ nutritional needs. So while they may look alike at first glance, wheatgrass and cat grass are definitively not the same thing!