Cats are curious creatures that like to explore and sample new things. Sometimes this leads them to nibble on plants we may have around the house, like wheatgrass. But is wheatgrass safe for cats to eat? And what happens if a cat does ingest some wheatgrass?
What is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass refers to the young grass shoots of the wheat plant, Triticum aestivum. It is typically grown indoors or in greenhouses and harvested when it reaches about 6-10 inches tall.
Wheatgrass is often juiced into a nutritional drink or used as a dietary supplement for humans. It contains vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that may provide some health benefits. However, there is limited scientific research on the effects of wheatgrass in humans and animals.
Is Wheatgrass Toxic to Cats?
Wheatgrass is not toxic to cats. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s beneficial either. Here’s a quick look at the potential risks and considerations around cats consuming wheatgrass:
- Allergies – Some cats may be allergic to wheat or grass and develop symptoms like itching, upset stomach, or skin irritation after eating wheatgrass.
- Choking hazard – Long, stringy blades of grass could potentially pose a choking risk to cats.
- Nutritional value – Wheatgrass itself has minimal nutritional value for cats, who require certain proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals in their diet.
- Pesticides – Wheatgrass grown commercially could potentially be contaminated with pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals that could be harmful if ingested.
- Upset stomach – Significant amounts of wheatgrass may cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea in some cats.
So while a few blades of wheatgrass are unlikely to harm a cat, it’s not a substitute for a species-appropriate feline diet. It’s best to try and limit a cat’s wheatgrass consumption.
What Happens if a Cat Eats Wheatgrass?
Here are some of the potential effects that may occur if a cat eats wheatgrass:
1. Upset stomach
One of the most common adverse effects of cats eating wheatgrass is gastrointestinal upset. This includes symptoms like:
- Excessive gas or flatulence
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Loss of appetite
These signs of an upset stomach can occur shortly after ingesting wheatgrass. It’s the body’s way of expelling the irritant plant matter. Symptoms are generally mild and resolve on their own within a day or so if the cat doesn’t continue eating wheatgrass.
2. Allergic reactions
Some cats may be allergic to wheat or grass and could develop an allergic reaction after eating wheatgrass. Signs of an allergic reaction include:
- Itchy skin, ears, or paws
- Hives, rashes, or skin irritation
- Swelling around face and muzzle
- Excessive licking, chewing, or scratching at the skin
- Respiratory signs like coughing, sneezing, or wheezing
If a cat has a known wheat or grass allergy, wheatgrass should be avoided. Even small amounts could trigger an allergic reaction. If any unusual symptoms develop after a cat eats wheatgrass, seek veterinary advice.
3. Constipation or intestinal blockages
The fibrous nature and stringy texture of wheatgrass means it can potentially cause some obstructions or constipation when consumed. Signs may include:
- Difficulty defecating or strained, unsuccessful attempts to poop
- Small, hard stools
- Infrequent defecation
- Reduced appetite
- Abdominal pain
Intestinal blockages are a serious health risk and require immediate veterinary treatment. Try to prevent cats from ingesting long pieces of wheatgrass that could get lodged in the gastrointestinal tract.
4. Nutritional deficiencies
While wheatgrass has some vitamins and minerals, it is not a complete and balanced food source for cats. Feeding a diet of primarily wheatgrass could lead to nutritional deficiencies over time. Signs of malnutrition include:
- Weight loss
- Low energy levels
- Poor skin and coat condition
- Increased susceptibility to illness
- Muscle wasting
Make sure your cat’s diet contains adequate protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals from high-quality animal-based ingredients. Wheatgrass alone is not sufficient nutrition for cats.
5. Chemical exposure
Commercially grown wheatgrass could potentially be contaminated with pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals that may be toxic to cats when ingested. This is more likely to be an issue if you purchase wheatgrass from a store vs growing it yourself organically.
Look for any signs of chemical poisoning including:
- Drooling or mouth irritation
- Paw swelling or sores
- Neurological signs like tremors, seizures, or twitching
- Respiratory distress
Seek veterinary help immediately if chemical poisoning is suspected after a cat eats store-bought wheatgrass.
Steps to Take if Your Cat Eats Wheatgrass
Here are some tips on what to do if you notice your cat has been nibbling on wheatgrass:
- Remove access to any remaining wheatgrass to prevent further ingestion.
- Monitor your cat closely for any signs of an upset stomach, allergic reaction, or other side effects over the next 24 hours.
- Call your veterinarian if you notice any concerning symptoms or if symptoms last more than 24 hours.
- Bring a sample of the wheatgrass with you to the vet in case chemical analysis is needed.
- Consider restricting access to houseplants and grasses if your cat seems intent on sampling them.
- Make sure your cat’s normal diet contains all needed nutrients to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
While small amounts of wheatgrass are unlikely to be dangerous, it’s a good idea to discourage cats from eating houseplants. Consult your vet if you have any concerns after your cat snacks on wheatgrass or shows signs of illness.
Are There Any Benefits to Cats Eating Wheatgrass?
Despite some potential adverse effects, are there any potential benefits for cats consuming wheatgrass? Here is a look at some of the proposed benefits:
Wheatgrass does contain some vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. However, the small amount a cat is likely to consume provides minimal nutritional value compared to a complete and balanced cat food.
|Nutrient||Amount in Wheatgrass|
|Protein||Low quality, insufficient for cats|
|Vitamin K||High amount|
|Vitamin C||Moderate amount|
Some proponents claim the chlorophyll in wheatgrass provides health benefits. However, there is minimal evidence to support this. Any chlorophyll consumed would likely be degraded during digestion.
Wheatgrass is high in fiber, which may help with regular bowel movements. But too much could cause constipation or obstructions instead.
There is no evidence wheatgrass helps remove toxins from the body or provides any detoxification effects in cats.
Overall, wheatgrass may offer some nutritional value, but not enough to be a worthwhile part of a cat’s diet. Any benefits are unlikely to outweigh potential risks.
Healthier Alternatives to Wheatgrass for Cats
Rather than feeding wheatgrass, here are some healthy, safe alternatives to provide cats with nutrients and aid digestion:
Cat grass is grown from oat, rye, barley, or wheat seeds. It sprouts quickly and provides cats with a safe, digestible alternative to munch on. Look for organic cat grass seeds to reduce chemical risks. Grow it in pots indoors for ready access.
The Nepeta cataria herb acts as a safe mild sedative for cats. It can help ease anxious cats or provide environmental enrichment. Buy organic catnip and grow or dry it for cats to nibble on.
Look for digestive enzyme supplements made for cats. These can help improve digestion and nutrient absorption from cat food. Probiotics can also help maintain healthy gut flora populations.
High-fiber cat foods
Many commercial cat foods contain added fiber for digestive health. Look for foods with chicory root, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, peas, and other natural fiber sources.
Use citrus scents or oils to help deter cats from nibbling houseplants. Place orange peels around plants or use citrus-scented sprays made for training cats.
Focus on providing a species-appropriate, balanced cat diet. Talk to your veterinarian about any specific supplements or diet changes to optimize your cat’s nutrition and digestive health.
Here are some key points to remember about cats eating wheatgrass:
- Wheatgrass is not toxic to cats, but it provides minimal nutritional value.
- Too much wheatgrass can cause vomiting, diarrhea, allergies, and other adverse effects in cats.
- Wheatgrass is not a substitute for balanced cat food containing protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.
- Discontinue access to wheatgrass and monitor your cat closely if they consume a large amount.
- See your vet if your cat shows concerning symptoms after eating wheatgrass.
- Consider healthier alternatives like cat grass, catnip, or fiber supplements.
While the occasional wheatgrass nibble is unlikely to harm cats, it’s best to limit access and provide more appropriate plants and foods to optimize feline health.
Cats are naturally curious and may sample houseplants, like wheatgrass. While not toxic, wheatgrass offers limited nutritional value for cats. It also poses some potential risks if large amounts are consumed, including gastrointestinal upset, allergies, and intestinal blockages. Monitor your cat closely if they eat wheatgrass and remove access to prevent additional ingestion. Talk to your vet if any concerning symptoms develop. Focus on providing cats with a nutritionally balanced diet, along with safer alternatives like cat grass and catnip. With some simple precautions, cats can satisfy their grass-munching instincts without endangering their health.