why do cats eat plants
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Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Pet Facts

Why Do My Cats Eat My Plants?

Is your peppermint plant looking less than peppy? Is your lemongrass disappearing before your eyes? If your valerian root is gone before you get the chance to use it yourself, you’re probably wondering what is happening to your plants.

If you are regularly finding chew marks on your plants, it might not be a gardener that you need to fix your plant problem. Chances are, if you have cats, they are the ones who have been nibbling on your plants!

Cats eating plants isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are some plants that are actually good for your cats and naturally attract them. These include the aforementioned peppermint, lemongrass and valerian root.  Of course, you may discover that your cats are also chomping on your spider plant or enjoying a taste of your fresh-cut flowers as well. This can be frustrating if you are trying to grow and enjoy flowers and plants around your home.

What Drives Cats To Eat Plants?

So just what is it that attracts cats to chew on plants in the first place?

One of the ways your cat explores the world is with her mouth. Just like babies, cats tend to taste their way through the world, putting things in their mouths that really don’t belong there in the first place. Perhaps the scent of the peppermint and lemongrass catches kitty’s attention and gives her the desire to take a taste. Once cats get a taste of something they like, they’ll go after it again and again, no matter if it is good for them or not. But it could be very dangerous for your cat to eat some of the plants in your home. Certain flowers and plants, such as lilies and orchids, are very toxic to cats, causing vomiting and other severe reactions.

William Pressly, DVM and David Drake, DVM, of Pressly Animal Hospital in Matthews, North Carolina, discussed the topic of why cats eat plants with me when I recently took my cats to their office. I asked the doctors if there could be medical reasons that drive a cat to seek out and enjoy eating plants.

“Some people believe that cats will eat plants instinctively if the pet is feeling in ill,” Pressly says. “They believe that it helps the pets to vomit and feel better. But there are some plants that are very toxic to pets and there would be a concern if ingested. The cat would need medical care.”

Drake touches on the behavioral reason I mentioned above.

“Cats, like other animals and young children, learn about their surroundings by putting things in their mouths,” he says. “The cat likes the taste of the plant and therefore eats it.”

Another behavior-based reason that might attract your cat to a certain plant is movement. A plant with dangling vines, such as a spider plant, would definitely catch your cat’s eye. Those tender, green shoots may look absolutely delectable swinging gently with a breeze, creating a movement that is completely irresistible to felines. Luckily, the spider plant won’t hurt your cat if eaten.

Another possible cause for a cat to engage in plant eating is boredom. If your cat is alone for many hours a day without any other stimulation, she will most likely get into many things, your plants being one of them. Providing your cat with a stimulating environment, which could include some cat-friendly plants, will help alleviate her boredom. Finding ways to engage your cat’s hunting instinct and climbing instinct also provides mental enrichment.

Safety Concerns

After your cat has eaten your plants, even those plants that are non-toxic to cats, you may find that she later throws up. There is no need to worry as long as you know it was a non-toxic plant that was ingested. Cats’ systems are unable to digest all of the plant; therefore, they throw up to rid their bodies of the undigested part. If you are in any doubt about what your cat ate or why she is throwing up, call your veterinarian immediately; it’s better to err on the side of safety.

If you are wondering if cats and plants can happily coexist in your home, the short answer is yes they can. It will just take some careful research and planning to ensure your home is filled with beautiful plants for you, and healthy ones for your cat.


By: Rita Reimers

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