Why Do Dogs and Cats Eat Grass? Three Theories

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Several years ago, I used to wonder why our family cat always ate grass. Did the cat simply find the grass tasty, or was there a specific reason behind this habit?

In addition, I noticed our family dog doing the same thing. I never saw the cat or dog vomiting as a result of eating the grass; however, I have heard of other dog and cat owners noting that their dogs or cats vomit after eating grass.

Several studies have been carried out to determine the reasons why felines and canines eat grass. However, feline and canine experts disagree on the findings from the studies. As a result, one cannot be certain as to the real reasons. Some dog and cat owners do not agree with each other.

If cats and dogs were able to speak to us, we would know why they eat grass. In the meantime, we are left only with the theories that have been posited by the scientific community.

In this article, we will explore three theories:

  1. Learned habit—pica
  2. To purge out inedible contents
  3. Natural laxative

We will also consider whether humans can eat grass and then turn our attention to understanding how cows are able to digest this substance.

Theory 1: Learned Habit—Pica

This is particularly attributed to dogs. Pica can be termed as a habit of eating non-food stuff. It’s not limited to animals; it can also be present in human beings.

It might be, according to the studies, that animals have formed the habit of eating grass. They find themselves eating grass for sheer enjoyment or satisfaction. It is as if they enjoy the taste of eating grass.

Furthermore, in the case of puppies, it might be that they resort to eating grass because of the impending boredom. In regards to this, Natural Dog Health Remedies states, “Therefore, if you have a young puppy who is kept outside in the yard all day while you are at work, and he is eating grass, it is likely that he is bored.”

Theory 2: To Purge Out Inedible Contents

We do know cats and dogs end up eating weird things at times. In addition, when they eat their dead prey, they eat up all of the prey, sometimes including bones that might be hard to crush. When the cat eats the prey and the prey's fur, the fur might irritate the stomach and cause discomfort.

As a result of eating grass, they vomit in order to purge out the inedible content(s) in the stomach. Thus, it aids in reducing the irritation if you consider the inedible matter might end up clogging the digestive tract.

Dogs and cats lack the enzymes responsible for breaking down the cellulose, a type of fiber in grass, which can cause them to vomit the contents of the stomach.

Theory 3: Natural Laxative

Experts who base their argument in this line of thought state that the eating of grass assists in bowel movement. Thereby, it enables the indigestible matter to pass through the normal wastage passage.

As any cat owner knows, cats regularly throw up and leave lovely, wet little fur balls present around the house. But when the fur moves deep into the digestive tract, kitty needs a little help to break it down and pass it to the outer end. —PetMD

The only possible way for a cat to pass a furball, based on this theory, is by the kitty eating the grass blades.

Can Humans Eat Grass?

They can, but it is not recommended. It might be possible that early humans did eat grass, but nowadays, we are unable to digest the grass properly. This is because we lack the necessary enzymes to break down the cellulose, a type of fiber found in grass. This is the reason why cats and dogs vomit after eating grass. They don’t have the enzymes which can dissect the fiber so that it can be used by the body.

Growing up, I used to chew on grass. Rarely did I eat the grass blades by swallowing them after chewing. I only chewed to derive the pleasure of sucking the grass dry of the juice contained therein. However, as noted by News24, it is not advisable to eat grass.

Grass contains a lot of silica, which is abrasive to human teeth. Grazing animals have teeth that can re-coat their own surfaces continually, so the silica does not affect them. —News 24

How Do Cows Digest Grass?

Cows don’t have the same enzymes responsible for breaking down cellulose. In contrast to humans, felines, and canines. Cows have a specialized digestive system which enables them to break down the cellulose into finer pieces. A cow has four digestive compartments. When the grass is swallowed, it is digested partially in the first and second stomach compartments then returned to the mouth. The teeth further grind the grass whereby it’s finally broken down into finer pieces by the third and fourth compartments of the stomach.

Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Kenya on February 07, 2018:

Hahahaha, Rydog. Yesterday at evening (February 8, 2017) I saw a dog struggling to vomit as it had eaten some grass blades. I bet it was high. Hmm...cats aren't stupid as I have lived with cats since I was young. Thanks for stopping by.

Rydog on January 12, 2018:

Hi I am a dog myself, and these accusatations are simply ruff around the edges. I eat grass to get high. Thats it. Tastes like crap but sure tickles my tail. Change this video now! Or ill send my puppy friends on you!!!!!!!!!


Mr. Bork

P.S.- Cats are stupid AF!!!!!!!! #dogos

Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Kenya on October 30, 2017:

That is a perfect mix.

Jeanette Harris from 11996 Valley Falls Loop Spring Hill Florida, 34609 on October 30, 2017:

I let my cat have some grass with her cat food; she would eat lots of if I let her.

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass

Why do dogs eat grass? Wonder no more. The reasons why dogs eat grass are different. Each dog may nibble on grass to suit their needs as may be necessary at the moment. The reason for grass consumption may not always be the same in a specific dog. Here are some pointers to help you decode the reason for their indulgence.

This is a condition in which dogs eat non-food items. Your dog could be eating grass simply because they can. They could be attracted to it by the taste or the texture. The condition could become obsessive with time and the dog may be seen nibbling on grass blades any time they are out in the yard.

Other strange things your dog may indulge in when they are suffering the condition may include general dirt, soil, other plants and paint chips as well as. In most cases, pica is driven by a dietary deficiency or boredom. You could alleviate this by exercising your dog more and leave him with toys whenever he is alone.

Upset Stomach

A general point of concern among dog owners usually is whether dogs eat grass to vomit or if they vomit because they have eaten grass. Experts claim that less than 25 percent of grass eating dogs vomit as a result while only less than 10 percent of those eating grass appear sick prior to engaging in the act.

Dogs that eat grass to induce vomiting may simply do so instinctively. The fact that they do not have the necessary enzymes meant to digest the grass means that a reasonable amount, when consumed, will result in puking.

Investigate Territorial Invasion

According to petful.com, some dogs will sniff and eat grass that has been marked so as to taste whom it is that has been invading their territory.


Just like humans have preferences, so do dogs. Some of them may simply crave the taste of grass and derive pleasure from grazing. Where this is the case, the dog does not just eat any type of grass. They will appear to only eat some blades that suit their taste while leaving those that are not out.

Nutritional Supplement

Dogs with nutritional deficiency may eat grass to get additional nutrients that they may be lacking. Grass has additional nutrients and a dog suffering mineral imbalance or nutritional deficiency could seek to supplement by eating grass. Where it is suspected that this could be the reason why your dog is eating grass, you could supplement the inadequate nutrients by giving them vegetables.

Potatoes, cauliflower, and carrots go well with dogs and are a source of much-needed nutrients. Add these to their regular diet and see if your dog stops eating grass. If you feed your dog a premium diet, you may have to consider changing to a higher quality food that has all the nutrients.

So, Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

There are many reasons why dogs eat grass. They range from simple boredom to serious health issues like pica.

Pica is a psychological disorder in which a dog has an appetite and eats non-edible, non-nutritive substances (grass included). This compulsive behavior is mainly caused by psychological issues such as separation anxiety, depression, and lack of socialization. However, pica can also be a result of poor nutrition or underlying health issues like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, anemia, or stomach tumor.

In case your dog suffers from pica, the vet will first need to determine if the cause is physical or psychological before determining the proper treatment.


Lack of physical activity, exercise, and mental stimulation can cause a dog to eat grass. Your dog may be eating grass simply because he is bored and has nothing better to do. This can be especially pronounced in puppies.

To prevent your dog from becoming bored, provide plenty of physical exercises and mental stimulation. Regularly change toys and add new ones to keep your dog engaged.

Dogs Eat Grass To Compensate For Diet Deficiencies

One of the more popular assumptions is that dogs eat grass to compensate for a nutritional deficiency. There is a well-known case of mini poodle eating grass and vomiting afterward every day for seven years. However, three days after the owner put her on a high-fiber diet the dog stopped eating grass entirely.

Of course, this is just one case, and it’s simply not enough to conclude that dogs eat grass to compensate for nutrient deficiency. On the other hand, it shows that a dog may eat grass to improve fiber content in his diet.

Eating Grass Is An Instinct?

By analyzing the stool samples of wolves, the researchers have determined that between 11 and 47% of wolves eat grass. Eating grass seems to be an instinct that was passed on from wolves to modern dogs.

Therefore, grass-eating may not be problematic at all. It’s simply the need of modern dogs to satisfy that scavenger instinct.

Dogs Like Grass?

It may be that your dog is eating grass simply because of the taste. We think of it as strange behavior, but your dog may just like the texture and taste of the grass.

Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?

Have you ever taken your dog out for a potty break and turned your back, only to discover them chomping on a large mouthful of grass? While you might panic and think about the vomit you’ll be cleaning off the carpet later on, this behavior is not always cause for alarm. But why do they do it and how do you know when it is actually a problem?

Does Your Dog Eat Grass?

Homegrown sprouts are a whole lot safer for your dog to eat than possibly contaminated outside grass. They're also easy to grow, inexpensive, and nutritious for your dog.

Throughout the ages, veterinarians have developed theories to explain why dogs sometimes eat grass. Many believe that dogs are instinctively attempting to treat an upset stomach with the grass shoots the fact that eating grass sometimes causes a dog to vomit lends some credence to this theory.

The fact is, fresh young grass shoots – like most fresh, young, green plant sprouts – taste good and are packed with nutrients. Why wouldn’t an “opportunistic omnivore” like the dog be attracted to eating grass?

Due to the environmental pollution and contaminants – not to mention the larval form of some intestinal parasites – that can be found on outdoor grass, we wouldn’t recommend allowing your dog to eat just any grass. However, you could do him a big favor by adding some healthy sprouts to his diet. There are dozens of seed and grain sprouts that are inexpensive to buy and easy to grow, as well as beneficial and easy to digest for any dog.

Sprouts are Full of Nutrition

If seeds are considered the first stage of life for a plant, sprouts are stage two, the tiniest stems of plants emerging from wet seeds. Most edible sprouts are ready to eat as soon as three days after germinating, although some are grown for as much as 10-12 days. At this stage of life, the little plants are loaded with nutrients pound for pound, many plants contain far more digestible vitamins, minerals, protein, and enzymes in their sprout stage than they will as adult plants.

For example, by weight, alfalfa sprouts contain more vitamin A than tomatoes, green peppers, and most fruits. Thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin are abundant in alfalfa, wheat, rye, and sunflower sprouts. All the sprouted grains – especially wheat, oats, and rye – contain about three times as much vitamin E as in the dried grain form of the food.

The minerals in sprouts are absorbed from the water used to rinse them while growing, and are “chelated” by the plant – that is, bound to amino acids in such a way as to make them maximally bioavailable to the body. Sprouts are good sources of calcium, potassium, and iron, as well as vital trace elements.

While the plant proteins found in sprouts cannot be used to replace animal proteins in a dog’s diet (they lack the complete amino acid profile needed for canine health), they can augment diet nicely, especially if the dog already receives fresh meat in his diet.

Because they are so rich in enzymes – the catalysts that help break food into simpler, more usable forms – sprouts are considered practically “predigested.” Some people who feed vegetables to their dogs add digestive enzymes to the food to help the dog digest them this is unnecessary with sprouts. During sprouting, much of the starch contained in a plant seed is broken down into simple sugars by amylase. The proteins are converted into amino acids and amides by protease, and fats and oils are converted into more simple fatty acids by lipase.

In addition to these well-understood nutritional benefits, sprouts contain a wealth of chlorophyll, a protein compound found in green plants. Numerous nutritionists think that some dietary chlorophyll benefits humans and other mammals and the supplement makers have responded to the opportunity there are a number of canine nutritional supplements that include chlorophyll from various sources (blue-green algae, wheatgrass, barley grass, etc.) on the market. Chlorophyll advocates claim the substance is unrivaled in its ability to stimulate the body to repair body cells damaged by wounds or abrasions. These effects are largely unsubstantiated – but if you’re a believer, eat some sprouts! The green ones offer chlorophyll in spades.

And, finally, sprouts contain a lot of fiber and water and, therefore, are helpful in overcoming constipation in man or beast.

Will Your Dog Eat Sprouts?

Most dogs who are accustomed to eating fresh foods will readily try sprouts of different varieties, although, like people, dogs do display personal preferences. Radish sprouts have a zesty, spicy flavor that some dogs love — and sends some dogs away to a corner, licking their lips and looking at you suspiciously. Alfalfa sprouts and clover sprouts are among the mildest and easy-to-grow sprouts, and most dogs lick these up with relish, even if they are simply stirred in with the dog’s food.

Many people who feed sprouts to their dogs prepare the sprouts in a blender or grinder along with the other components of the dog’s homemade meal. Kathleen McDaniel, of Burbank, Illinois, uses sprouts of organic red clover, radish, and peas in her four dogs’ meals, preparing the raw sprouts in a food processor along with other vegetables. “I first noticed sprouts while shopping for organic vegetables for the dogs — always paying attention to their health before mine! Very sad!,” she jokes. “I figured that I would buy some as well as try to find out some information about them. After some investigation and discovering that they do pack a vitamin ‘punch’ as well as being high in saponins, I do put them on salads for myself.”

McDaniel’s dogs range from 1 1/2 to 11 years old, but they all seem to like sprouts well enough. She comments that it’s difficult to say how much she feeds to each dog, since she makes food for her entire pack at once.

“I put about one to two cups of sprouts into the veggie mix that I feed my dogs, and I divide that between four dogs,” she says. Once they are processed, a cup or two of sprouts condenses into about a half-cup of juicy pulp that McDaniel describes as a baby food consistency. For the record, McDaniel says she has never tried to grow the sprouts herself, claiming she is “terrible with green things.” She buys her sprouts ready to eat “and always organic.”

Patty Smiley, of Pine Grove, California, also feeds sprouts on a regular basis to her pack of three dogs: a 13- (or so) year-old Border Collie/Springer Spaniel rescue, a seven-year-old male Flat-Coated Retriever who is a show/performance dog, and a two-year-old female Flat-Coated Retriever, also a show/performance dog.

Smiley says she has been feeding sprouts to her dogs for about seven years. “I first learned about sprouts years ago when the health food movement began. I eat them myself, although I like them only in salads and on some sandwiches. I don’t eat them daily like the furkids do!” she says.

Smiley does grow her own sprouts, rotating between alfalfa, various clovers, broccoli, radish, and mung bean sprouts. She adds the sprouts to the dinnertime veggie mix that the dogs get with their meat-based diet. “A typical meal might include a clove or two of garlic, an organic carrot, five or six dandelion leaves, about 1/4 cup of sprouts, and maybe a small bit of fruit with some water,” she describes. “I put all the ingredients into my blender, whirl them until well pulverized and then this mixture gets divided between the three dogs. It comes out to about a tablespoon, possibly two, for each dog.”

Sprouts are Easy to Grow

I’ve eaten my share of sprouts through the years, and though I thought they were “just okay,” I never enjoyed them until I grew and sampled some. Wow! What a difference! These three-day-old sprouts were sweet, crunchy, and fresh-tasting, not “grassy” or sour like some sprouts I’ve eaten. Now that I know first-hand how easy it is to grow them and how delicious they are, sprouts are definitely going to be added to the family diet – my Border Collie included, of course!

Though all sorts of specialized sprout-growing gear exists, all you really need to grow sprouts are seeds and water. There are all sorts of trays and growing boxes that allow for perfect drainage – but jars work just fine. Experienced sprouters use wide-mouthed gallon or half-gallon jars – but easier-to-find quart jars work well, too. I would suggest using what you have at hand until you see how easy the process is and how well your dog (and you!) like the sprouts before you go looking for sprout-growing kits.

I had to call a few health food stores before I found one in my area that carried various sprouting seeds they also carried plastic-meshed jar lids that allow the sprouts to breathe and keep insects out of the jars. I tried in vain to find the wide-mouthed gallon or half-gallon jars and ended up using quart Mason jars – ones that my new plastic lids did not fit onto. I made do by covering the jars with cheesecloth fastened with rubber bands this worked just fine!

Every source of information I had for growing instructions seemed incomplete – until I tried the process and found it really is that simple. Basically, you soak about a tablespoon or two of the seeds you have selected for a few hours (small seeds like alfalfa and clover only require 3-4 hours larger seeds like wheat can be soaked overnight) in a jar filled with plain water. Then, strain the water off through the cheesecloth or meshed lid gently slosh the seeds around as you pour so that the seeds settle more or less evenly across the side of the jar. Then, set the jar on an angle so any excess water drains out. I put my jars in the dish drainer next to my sink.

About two to three times a day (more in hot weather, less in cool), runs some cool water into the jar, allowing it to fill. I found it helpful to jiggle the jar so that empty seed husks floated out. Then, drain all the water out, and replace the jar on its side. It’s important to keep the jars angled so that the seeds are not lying in a puddle of water, which can make them rancid.

Avoid draining the seeds so quickly that you bash them about the jar damaged sprouts will stop developing and begin rotting, wreaking your crop. In retrospect, I was excessively gentle with the tiny sproutlets on days one and two. By day three and four, I realized the resulting sprouts were sturdier than I had thought. Just don’t bang them around.

You don’t need to put the sprouts in a dark place, nor should you place them in direct sunlight the heat tends to make the jars steamier and wetter than is good for the sprouts (they decompose before they are tasty). I smelled the jars each time I rinsed the sprouting seeds, and was encouraged by the fresh, clean odor emanating from the growing seeds. If I had smelled an “off” odor, I was prepared to dump that batch, but it didn’t happen.

Taste a few sprouts every day as they mature, and “harvest” them out of the jars when they taste good. For me, this happened on day three, when the clover, alfalfa, and radish sprouts tasted perfect. I gave them a final rinse, pulled them out of the jar with a pair of tongs (I didn’t use wide-mouthed jars), and put them in a crisper in the refrigerator, where they remained quite edible for a couple of days. After three days in the refrigerator they began to taste like store-bought sprouts, and I threw the rest out I was spoiled by fresh-grown sprouts already!

I didn’t like the taste of the wheatgrass sprouts at all, not on day three, or five, or eight, when it had grown far too tall for my little quart jars and began to decompose. I’ll try wheat again in a bigger jar and wait the recommended 12 days before I pass judgement on wheatgrass.

But it’s what your dog thinks of the taste that’s important! For his part, my Border Collie was indifferent to little piles of sprouts in his food dish, but cleaned up all four types of sprouts when I ran them through the blender along with the dressing of vegetables and cottage cheese that I’m putting on his food these days.

Sprout Buying Tips

Are you convinced you have a “black thumb?” We truly believe that even you can grow sprouts – but it’s okay if you really don’t want to. Sprouts are available at many grocery, produce, and health food stores.

When buying mung bean sprouts, (the crunchy white sprouts often used in Chinese cooking), select white, unbruised sprouts. Brownish rootlets or signs of wilt indicates that the sprouts are past their prime.

When buying sprouts that are sold pre-packaged in a plastic container, go ahead and pop open the container and have a good look at the sprouts inside. Sometimes the sprouts look fine from the outside of the container, but when you look inside, you can see saggy or soggy-looking sprouts, or fuzzy white mildew growing between the sprouts. Don’t be disappointed at home, after you’ve paid for and hauled those sprouts back to your kitchen! Go ahead and take a peek at them in the store! Pass on any sprouts that look less than perfect.

Concerns Sprouting Up?

It’s interesting that Dr. Andrew Weil, author of many books on natural health as well as an enormous website of information on complementary health care, has single-handedly caused a huge rift in the sprout-eating community most sprout advocates are familiar with the dispute.

Several years ago, Dr. Weil began citing a study conducted in the early 1980s that involved a toxic substance called L-canavanine, a precursor of the amino acid arginine that is found in the sprouts of legumes such as alfalfa and clover. In the study, monkeys were fed L-canavanine sulfate tablets, as well as biscuits made from raw, unsprouted alfalfa and immature (not-yet green) sprouts. The diet contained amounts of L-canavanine that far exceeded amounts that any human or dog could ever obtain through eating green alfalfa sprouts, and the test subject monkeys exhibited health problems similar to lupus, an autoimmune disease. Weil extrapolated information from that study to conclude that “the canavanine in alfalfa sprouts can pose a real danger to humans who are susceptible to autoimmune disease.”

However, numerous lesser-known scientists and nutritionists have stepped forward to refute the dangers claimed by Weil. Sprout advocate Steve “Sproutman” Meyerowitz, author of the books Sprouts: The Miracle Food, and Sproutman’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook, has published an article refuting Weil’s claims. Meyerowitz cites research that shows that once alfalfa and other legume sprouts reach the green stage – about three to four days following germination – the potentially toxic L-canavanine is reduced to a trace amount. Meyerowitz claims to have queried Dr. Weil about his statements against alfalfa sprouts and was referred to Dr. Bruce Ames, a toxicologist who told Meyerowitz, “There’s nothing wrong with sprouts.”

Meyerowitz also revisited the original study cited by Weil, and came to very different conclusions. “The thrust of the research was to explore the connection between this toxin (L-canavanine) and the autoimmune disease lupus. It was not a test of alfalfa sprouts . . .” Meyerowitz writes. He also quotes a specialist on lupus who was familiar with the monkey study as saying, “I wouldn’t discourage my lupus patients from eating alfalfa sprouts.”

Considering that Weil cites only one study, and one that does not seem relevant to people (or dogs) who eat only modest amounts of green sprouts, many sprout fans are quite confident that their favorite greens are perfectly safe. As dog owner and sprout-feeder Patty Smiley says, “I admit that some of Dr. Andrew Weil’s comments about alfalfa sprouts has me somewhat concerned, but I have added a rotating variety of sprouts to the veggie mix of my dog’s raw foods diet for seven years – and the prolonged inclusion of sprouts in their daily diet has not caused any apparent harm. Sprouts are green, fresh, and young I believe they are beneficial.”

Smiley adds, “I can’t say that I’ve seen (sprouts) work miracles, because with the raw diet, and limited exposure to vaccines and chemicals, my dogs haven’t ever had any serious health issues!”

Watch the video: Why Dogs Eat Grass and 33 Jaw-Dropping Facts

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