(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 1, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
I have never really found a consensus opinion as to why cats like green stuff. Our vets have suggested a tiny amount of vegetables in a cat diet does not seem to be a problem. The occasional ingestion of houseplant leaves has never led to larger issue than gastric distress and vomiting in our house. Some sources suggest that the cats may be seeking out the greens to purge their system, a natural fur-ball remedy. I have read other mentions that greens provide the elements of complete nutrition, however, I have never seen any particular mention of nutrients that cats may need from the greens. My own cats seem healthy enough without them, but they like them. No fallen leaf of lettuce from a salad plate is to be left on the floor for Miss Kitty. She will gobble it up in a second flat and seems to digest it well.
So with Miss Kitty liking lettuce, and Boo Boo Kitty no longer able to go outside to eat grass (after a bought of lymphoma, which she has survived) – I decided to garden for my cats and bring it inside. In the spring I grow a very wide variety of lettuce, and it is much more tender than store bought lettuces – Miss Kitty jumps up and begs at the baskets of lettuce that come through the door from the garden on a spring day! It is the greatest treat for her to grab a leaf as it floats down through the air to her!
Cat Grass as the seeds are often labeled is usually wheat, rye, barley or oat seed. They all germinate very quickly, and any of these seeds are available for sprouting inexpensively from a health food store. With warm air, moist soil and some humidity, these seeds will sprout in just a few days, and mature within a week or two. Cat grasses make beautiful, modern houseplants in contemporary style containers. In the spring, when Boo Boo Kitty gets “spring fever” and really wants to go outside, I start pots of cat grass for her. Since they mature quickly, I start a new pot every few weeks and keep it in the same container, in the same spot on the porch. She knows she can chomp away on it, and has learned to keep out of other houseplants and just eat the grass.
The photo above shows both rye and wheat grass. The rye is very fine, perfect for kittens, older cats or those like Monkee who are fussy about the texture of his food. Boo Boo prefers something she can really dig her teeth into and pull on. She prefers the wheat grass and likes the thicker texture of the leaves. It has taken awhile for our cats to get the hang of eating the grass from containers. They were trained NOT to eat houseplants and will often leave the cat grass alone unless encouraged to partake.
Our pets are very much a part of our lives - however with work, we don't have as much time as we would like to spend with them. Combining my passion for gardening and my love of our cats means I get to spend time with two things I love at once.