By Cheryl Lock
Just because your cat loves her chicken, beef, and tuna meals doesn’t mean she wouldn’t also love to sink her teeth into something a little more green and leafy. That’s where cat grass comes in. “I like it as a micro nutrient source for cats,” says Mark Waldrop, DVM, of the Nashville Cat Clinic. “It can add insoluble fiber, which can help with hair balls, and it’s a good environmental enrichment for cats.”
Although some people use the terms catnip and cat grass interchangeably, cat grass typically refers to a mix of oat, rye, barley, and wheat grasses, according to the Humane Society.
Keep in mind that if you will be growing cat grass indoors, it can be hard for kitties to distinguish the difference between what they can and should eat (the cat grass you’re so lovingly growing), and other plants and flowers that may be toxic to them (like these). Never keep poisonous plants or flowers in an area where your cat can easily get to and ingest them.
How to Grow Cat Grasses
If you like the idea of growing your own cat grass, fear not — you don’t necessarily need to have a green thumb to do so. “Cat grass is pretty simple to grow,” said Waldrop. “Drop the seeds in soil and add water. Keep the soil moist and in ten days or so offer it to your cat. I recommend [growing in] a low, heavy container, as they will be less likely to get knocked over.”
To start your garden off on the right foot — and to keep it thriving — the Humane Society suggests the following specific tips:
- Fill your heavy container about ¾ full of loose potting soil and sprinkle your seeds of choice evenly over the surface, then cover with about ¼-inch of soil.
- Cover the container loosely with plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature and away from direct sunlight, ensuring to keep the soil moist with a spray bottle as it feels dry.
- When sprouts appear in a few days, remove the covering and move the pot to a sunny spot, continuing to water as the soil feels dry to the touch. They recommend offering the grass to your cat when it’s approximately 3 to 4 inches tall.
- As the grass wilts (typically in a few weeks), pull out the shoots and plant more seeds. To keep the rotation steady for your cat, try planting several pots a week or two apart.
Which Grasses Are Best for Cats?
While you can’t really go wrong with any of the different types of cat grass you’ll find available in pet stores, Waldrop says he prefers to see his clients grow alfalfa grass, as it’s been shown to help with preventing and treating kidney disease in cats.
Oat is also a great choice, he said, because it acts as a digestive aid to calm the intestinal tract, is high in protein and soluble fiber, and contains levels of iron, manganese, zinc, and B vitamins. (Learn more about the power of oats here.)
For specific questions about your pet’s diet, always consult with your veterinarian.
What to Watch Out For
Cat grasses grown inside are an easy and safe way to provide your cat with healthy treats that you can monitor, but be aware that over time these types of plants can develop mold, said Waldrop, especially if they’re overwatered. “I recommend starting a new batch from scratch if this occurs,” he said.
In terms of quantity, most cats will just nibble at the tops of the grass, says Waldrop, so if you keep it watered the plant should continue to come back and last for a while.
An additional concern Waldrop mentioned is that if your cat appears to be devouring your cat grass at every opportunity, or you notice that your garden is vanishing after only a week or two of being made available to your kitty, you may want to consult your vet to determine if additional changes need to be made to your cat’s diet.