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Cats are 100% carnivores. However, every now and then you may notice your kitty nibbling at your houseplants, or even gobbling up some grass outside. Many folks are quick to assume this means the cat is sick, though this is not necessarily the case. As a matter of fact, cats often eat a bit of vegetable matter…and it’s good for them, too!
A Cat's Stomach & Digestive System
Because they are carnivores, cats have larger stomachs and very short small intestine tracts. Meat is digested rather quickly and nutrients are easily absorbed during the short ride through the small intestine. Plant matter, however, takes longer to digest. When a cat eats plant matter, it is not broken down as much as meat. It is known as “roughage” or fiber at this point. As it passes through the small intestine, not much is absorbed into their system, so the vegetable matter just keeps on moving through, taking with it whatever else happens to be in the intestine. When your cat eats plant matter, it is actually helping to keep its digestive system functioning properly!
Houseplants are not the best sources of roughage for your cat. In fact, some may be poisonous. There are a number of ways to discourage your cat from eating your houseplants.
Give your kitty her own “houseplant”. You can purchase some special cat grass for your cat to eat. This grass is easy to grow and you can be sure it doesn’t have pesticides or other harmful contaminants, which your backyard grass may have. Most cats love the stuff, and it lasts for a long time!
Use a special deterrent spray (make sure it is safe for your plants) to keep kitty away from your plants. Many citrus-scented sprays will do the trick (cats hate citrus).
There are also deterrent “mats” that you can place around your plants. These mats feature little pointy bumps that your cat won’t want to step on! You can also try tin foil or double-sided tape around your plants. Your cat will hate the feel of those materials on his paws, and will eventually get the picture.
If you happen to be home when kitty goes for your plants, give her a quick squirt from a water bottle. This will only be effective if you are home, of course, and can catch her in the act. Use another method when you aren’t at home.
Of course, don’t expect instant results. Cats are intelligent and may find some ways around your techniques. Be vigilant and keep trying- they’ll get the idea eventually. If all else fails, move the plants out of your cats reach.
Are your house plants poisonous to your pet? Here is a list of common plants that are toxic to animals:
Bird of Paradise
Lily (almost all)
This list is far from complete, so be sure to look up your specific plant! If you think your cat has eaten a poisonous plant, try to find which plant your cat ate and be sure to bring it with you to the vet. Most times, a cat will just get sick after nibbling on a toxic plant. However, better safe than sorry!