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My Cat Eats Plants!

Updated on May 2, 2016
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about family, home life, parenting, money-saving tips, and many other topics, as well as essays and occasional humor pieces.

What Makes Cats Eat Plants?

Here's why cats like to eat grass | plants.
Here's why cats like to eat grass | plants. | Source

Does Your Cat Like to Eat Grass and Plants?

Many cat owners groan in frustration to find a treasured houseplant chomped to bits because Fluffy took a liking to it.

And owners of indoor/outdoor cats have often seen Kitty cough up the remains of grasses or other plants they've eaten while roaming around the yard.

The problem with cats eating houseplants is almost universal (show me a cat that doesn't eat your potted plant, and I'll show you a suspect feline!).

But what should you do, if anything, if your beloved kitty eats your indoor plants? And how can you protect the plants from being chewed and frayed by those sharp little teeth?

Here's the dirt on why fluffy's preferred snack has leaves and resides in a clay pot. Oh yes, don't forget to take the quiz below to see how your kitty's diet plan stacks up with the late-night snacking other cat owners observe!

Cat Video | Cute Cat Eats a Plant!

Is It Normal For Cats to Eat Plants?

According to the ASPCA, it's quite common and normal for cats to chew on the greenery, at least to some degree.

Perhaps the cat is being playful, and those leaves bobbing about in the breeze from the air conditioning vent are oh-so-tempting to bat around and chomp.

Some cats figure out which of their behaviors annoy you and try to get your attention by doing exactly what you don't want them to do. Sound familiar?

Kittens are playful by nature, and the fronds and vines hanging from the pot on the floor or the planter on the shelf are natural attractions for them to explore. Since plants are not stationary (their leaves and blossoms can move), their attraction is different from hard objects and can entertain them for hours. Or at least until they've finally gnawed off all the leaves.

But cats that are persistent in eating plants could be suffering from various types of disorders that should be investigated. If your cat won't stop eating your plants, she might need a trip to the vet to see if she has other problems.

Feline Diseases | Health Problems That Cause Cats to Eat Plants

There are a few conditions that could be causing your pet to eat the wrong things:

Compulsive Cat Behaviors:

Do you know people who tap their fingers, crack knuckles or can't resist fidgeting around? Cats are no different.

A cat with a compulsive disorder might exhibit it through movement, or through other behaviors, such as eating the wrong things.

Eating Disorder - Pica:

If your cat regularly eats inanimate things such as pieces of toys, string, rubber bands or other non-food objects, the kitty might have 'pica.'

Sufferers of pica (whether human or feline) eat unusual things that are generally not food-related. Some humans chew on pencils (and swallow the bits), or pick at their skin flakes and consume them (not pleasant to watch, by the way).

Since cats can't determine what is harmful to eat compared to harmless nibbling (not that any of it is harmless), this can cause problems if your kitty ingests something that creates a blockage in their digestive tract.

What Does Your Cat Do?

Does Your Cat Eat Plants?

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How to Stop a Cat From Eating Plants

If your cat habitually chows down on plants in your yard or house, let your vet know. The first thing they may want to do is run a few tests to see if there are nutritional deficiencies that can be adjusted through diet.

The vet might also suggest that you contact a pet behavior specialist. This sounds a bit extreme, but a person trained in animal behavior can give you strategies for retraining the cat.

Preventative Measures:

If possible, move plants out of the cat's reach (or at least to a less-appealing place).

Put the plants in an area the cat is not permitted to enter, or on a shelf beyond leaping range.

If you see your cat headed for a plant, and you haven't yet dealt with their behavior effectively, distract them with another activity to help them stay away from harm.

Watch for Poisonous Plants:

Check to make certain your house or yard does not contain poisonous plants. The list of plants that can be toxic is pretty extensive, and many common plants or flowers are on the list. in come cases, the harmful effects might be more slow-acting than an outright toxic reaction, such as through causing organ damage that takes time to develop.

Schefflera, for example, can cause oral irritation, inflammation in the mouth, vomiting and other reactions.

Chrysanthemums, while very common in floral arrangement and almost universally popular, also cause gastric irritation.

If you have English Ivy (or one of its many variations) growing around your yard or on your walls and fences, your kitty can get diarrhea and severe intestinal pain.

Lilies are particularly toxic, so check carefully for those plants in your environment. Your cat can get kidney damage from eating these beautiful plants.

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  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 2 years ago from Planet Earth

    That seems to fit with what the experts say, to a degree, doesn't it? I still can't figure out why cats are not very discriminating about which plants they eat. But dogs might be worse - I saw a story on CNN that listed the things they'd found in dogs' stomach (through Xrays). Needles, skewers, socks, you name it.

    Thanks for coming by to read and comment, Peach Purple!

  • peachpurple profile image

    peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    i think cats eat plants because it is like a medicine for them, ingidestion

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 2 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Besarien - and I am laughing at the visual image you painted of your cats partying it up when you bring out the good stuff!

  • Besarien profile image

    Besarien 2 years ago

    I keep potted plants expressly for my cats to chew. Mine like wheat grass (my husband too but doesn't mind sharing,) oat grass, and mint. They seem to leave my other kitchen herbs alone. I grow catnip, cat thyme, and valerian in a window box upstairs but save them for occasional kitty drug parties. I don't keep any house plants that are harmful to us or to them. I don't grow chives because of my cats. It is one of the few herbs I regularly use that I buy from the store.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth

    I know the feeling, DDE! After seeing my kitty destroy that poor bamboo plant, I researched it a bit. It was a hoot to capture a photo of him chomping on the leaf!

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Why Do Cats Eat Plants? Hmm interesting I have seen cats eat plants and just wondered why? Now Know so much more about these fascinating creatures.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Bob - it's great to meet you here; you've written some terrific hubs! I appreciate your comments, and I look forward to erasing more of your work.

  • Bob Bamberg profile image

    Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

    Good hub, Marcy! A lot of people think animals eat grass and plants in order to purge. If they were intelligent enough to connect those dots, they'd be smarter about a lot of other behaviors, too. The bottom line is we don't know why they eat plants any more than we know why they eat sticks, buttons, pantyhose, and a host of other items. Voted up, useful and interesting.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Lurana! You are one good Cat Mommy for pampering your pets with special grass. At least you know they're less likely to be harmed by what you get at the pet store. Thanks for commenting here!

  • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

    Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

    I have indoor cats and occasionally buy that "cat grass" at the pet store.

    Wheatgrass (which also can be found in grocery/health food stores) is supposed to be safe for pets too. I figure the pet grass can safely fill any real need for greenery with that, and I keep my other houseplants out of their reach!

    It's always good to consider why our pets might exhibit undesirable behaviors, so I thank you for this insightful article. :-) ~Lurana

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    That's great to know, Dreamhowl - at least we know where pet owners can get grass that might be safer than the blades outside or in potted plants, especially if the plants have been exposed to fertilizer or other chemicals. Thanks for letting us know about that!

  • Dreamhowl profile image

    Jessica Marello 4 years ago from United States

    This is straightforward and to the point! I don't have cats, but at my job we sell "pet grass" both alive and in seed packets. I don't know if that would stop them from eating other plants, but there are a few cat customers who buy the grass every week or two. Voted up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Lol! Wow - I guess that's a testimony to how well catnip works, Alison! I hadn't thought of buying catnip - but based on the beating my bamboo plant took, I'd probably have been picking up dirt and shards, too. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  • Alison Graham profile image

    Alison Graham 4 years ago from UK

    Interesting article Marcy, I really enjoyed reading it. I bought my son and daughter in law a Nepeta plant (catnip) for their garden - unfortunately they made the mistake of planting it in a nice pot which their cat had smashed by the following morning trying to get at the cat nip! Voted up and pinned!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Peggy - so glad you enjoyed the hub and found it useful! You're fortunate that your cats have never been plant-predators! Especially since there's no need for them to eat plants, and it can harm them. Thanks for your comments and for sharing!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Marcy,

    We have never had our indoor cats eating plants. Guess we are lucky. Our dogs have occasionally eaten grass and then purge. It does not happen often so we have never worried about it. Interesting hub. Voting it that as well as up and useful. Will also pin.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, peachpurple! I appreciate your comments and vote!

  • peachpurple profile image

    peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    my cat eats grasses not plants. Yes, she coughs up the whatever that is and seems to be healthy and strong. Guess she knows which grass can be eaten or not. Thumbs up !!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    The point of the article is that it may or may not be harmful - they can chomp on plants and grasses in a harmless manner, or, if they're obsessed with eating those things, it can be a sign of Pica or an obsessive behavior. Pica is when people or animals eat non-food items. If a cat eats plants, and also eats (not just chews) toys, plastic, whatever, have it checked out. And never let your cat gnaw on plants that are toxic, or have chemicals.

    The best thing to ease your mind is just bring it up when your cat or cats go in for their next shots or another visit. The article is meant to expand on the topic without diagnosing anything. All plants are different, all plant foods (fertilizers, etc) are different, and all cats are different. Fiber is not the main cause of or reason for cats to eat plants. So watch their behavior and make sure they're not throwing up too much or showing other signs of having ingested poisonous plants or plants that have been exposed to chemicals.

  • sleepylog profile image

    Sleepylog 4 years ago from Australia

    Yes that just tells me what it could be a sign of, but if it's not harmful to a cat does it really matter? I mean how do we know it's harmful? I mean grass and plants aren't inanimate things so this can't really be classed as Pica. Does eating plants and grass actually harm cats? I always thought that, like dogs, cats eat grass to get fibre to help keep their digestive tracts working properly. They are mammals after all and do need fibre.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    It can be a sign of Pica, or other problems (see the information in the hub). It may not always be a problem, but it's worth observing and asking your vet about, next time you take your cat in for a check-up.

  • sleepylog profile image

    Sleepylog 4 years ago from Australia

    Ok, but what how does eating grass actually harm a cat?

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    The same issues can happen with grass - especially since there are so many types of grasses. If you see behaviors like those listed here, ask your vet, in case there are problems. You can also just bring it up at your next routine visit - even take a sample of the grass for the vet to see, and let them know how often you observe the behavior. Definitely, though, take care to keep your kitty away from grassy areas treated with pesticides or fertilizer.

  • sleepylog profile image

    Sleepylog 4 years ago from Australia

    What about grass? My cats love it and I don't see any harm in letting them eat it to their heart's content.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Yes, that's an evil cat. Or else you resemble a potted plant, Will. We had a cat that liked to chomp our hands and arms now and then, too.

  • Will Apse profile image

    Will Apse 4 years ago

    I have one evil cat and one good cat. Am I projecting? Or are there evil cat deities that can possess our furry friends?

    ps. The evil cat bites me.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Moonlake - Oh, I am so sad to hear your poor cat passed away suddenly. Yes - I would wonder about whether he ate something, too. Certainly, with his habit of licking the wrong things, that could have happened.

    Thanks for reading and for voting!

  • moonlake profile image

    moonlake 4 years ago from America

    We have three cats that don't eat plants but we had a cat that not only ate plants he ate anything he could find. I couldn't leave a cleaning bottle on the floor he would lick it. He died suddenly and he never acted sick I often wonder if he got into something.

    Voted up on your hub.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, nArchuleta! Yes - cats can get carsick (I guess the motion gets to them, as it does to us, too!). They're such interesting creatures - I love their independent nature! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • nArchuleta profile image

    Nadia Archuleta 4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

    I had a cat once that sat on the mantle, clawed the dangling tail of my hanging planter, and just munched away to her heart's content. I had wondered how a plant 10 feet off the ground could get gnawed... Thanks for the great info! Check out my hub: Cats get carsick, too (something I didn't know until dear Lindemann came into life...)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Many thanks, livingsta - so glad it answered your questions!

  • livingsta profile image

    livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

    Thank you for this hub. I have always wondered why cats ate plants and grass. Now I understand why.

    Votes up and sharing!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Victoria - the only thing I can think of regarding chewing but not eating is the sensation it would give them, like a teething ring. Or perhaps the taste of the plastic. Just so they're healthy & happy! Many thanks for reading, and for the votes!

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    HI, Marcy! My cats don't seem to mess with my plants much, but I don't have many good places for plants, so I don't have very many. I have one cat who chews on non-edible plastics--anything that has a plastic-like texture. Weird, huh? but she doesn't eat it, so I don't know why she does it. Interesting hub, as I love my cats so much. Why do they do what they do? :-) Voted up and more!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Nettlemere! I have wondered whether my cat would leave houseplants alone if he were an indoor/outdoor pet. But he has always been inside, and I don't want to put him at risk & try to get him to survive out there!\.

  • Nettlemere profile image

    Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

    My cat seems to leave plants well alone, but I had a dog who ate all sorts of plants outside until he finally twigged that grass did the trick!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Melovy! Until I got a cat who loved to chomp on plants, I hadn't paid attention to it, either. Now I know to watch for signs that it's become a habit! Thanks for reading the hub, and for the nice words about Kinky, the cat!

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 4 years ago from UK

    This is a very nteresting Hub Marcy. We've never had a cat that ate indoor plants, but most have eaten grass occasionally. I thought it was normal for cats to eat a little grass and in the UK you can even buy "kitty grass" for indoor cats.

    Your cat looks cute!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Bravewarrior - I had to give up on my plants, too! In the long run, my cat was the better company. The poor bamboo plant sure took a beating, though. I appreciate your reading and commenting!

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Marcy, my cats are indoor cats. I gave up on keeping plants in the house a long time ago because they would shred them. At least I have my outdoor gardens that they can't mess with!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Torrilynn - thank you for reading and commenting! Hope all the kitties you know and love are healthy and happy!

  • torrilynn profile image

    torrilynn 4 years ago

    Hi Marcy,

    I've always wondered why cats ate plants

    but I never fully investigated the reason why

    thanks and voted up

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, drbj! Maybe your dog understood what she would get that reaction? Animals are indeed smart - we just need to watch for those times when they don't understand they're hurting themselves. I appreciate your comments, and the shares!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

    I don't have a cat, Marcy, but I once owned a poodle who used to eat grass occasionally. Like Izzy, I always thought she did that as an emetic so she would throw up. Which she did. Thanks for this interesting info which I will share with cat owners I know.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, RealHousewife - thanks for commenting - yes, it's puzzling to see our kitties crunching plant leaves. Be sure to have her checked out if you see unusual symptoms, or if she becomes obsessed with those plants. Cats are so interesting . . .

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    I do see my cat eating plants at times! I wondered if it meant she was sick or something but she always seemed fine. I planted catnip so I wondered if that was why.

    Interesting...thanks! Least now I know it's not necessarily a bad thing:)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Lol! I think I had the wrong idea, too, Izzy! We tend to think animals are wise about plant life and nutrients, but that's not always true.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • IzzyM profile image

    IzzyM 4 years ago from UK

    I always thought cats ate greenery to help them sick up hairballs and stuff. Shows how much I know! lol Voted up and useful!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I've heard of that, too - and also mothballs. The poor plant in the photo I posted didn't have a chance. RIP!

    THanks for reading and commenting, Marntzu!

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    Marntzu 4 years ago

    I've used hot sauce to keep cats (and dogs for that matter) from eating all sorts of things from electric cords to plants to furniture. It doesn't really hurt the plant but the cat will only try the plant once.