Every cat owner knows that cats and houseplants are not best friends. Cat owners who also love plants usually have to make a hard decision and give up their green babies, because their furry babies are merciless plant assassins. Luckily, there is something you can do. Growing cat grass at home has proven to help with this impish obsession, and it is also beneficial for the cat, so keep reading and learn how to grow cat grass.
Cat grass is not a type of plant per se, but a couple of wild or cultivated grass species that are known to be favorite feline snacks. These plants are beneficial to the cat’s digestive tract and overall health. They will also keep your furry baby away from other potentially toxic houseplants by keeping his/her grazing needs met. Furthermore, cat grass is cheap and grows fast, so if your kitty is more into destruction than a healthy diet, there is nothing to worry about.
In this article, we will cover types of plants that go by the common name of “cat grass” and why they are beneficial. We will also tell you some facts about catnip and why cats get so obsessed with it. And last but not the least, we will teach you how to make your own little cat garden for both you and your rascal to enjoy.
What is Cat Grass?
Cat grass is a type of grass that’s safe for your kitty’s consumption. We often see feral or stray cats chewing on wild grass and think cats can eat all sorts of grass, but this is not the case.
See Also: How to Keep Cats from Eating Plants
There are a couple of plants that are commercially sold by this name. This is where all the confusion comes from.
Some people think there’s only one type of cat grass. When they go to the store and find out there are actually quite a few varieties; they don’t know which one to choose. The plants sprouting from your box can be very different in color, size, and tenderness.
Some cats prefer only one of the offered types—others really don’t care as long as there is something to munch on, but if you still haven’t discovered what your cat’s favorite side dish is, take a look at the list we have made and learn about the differences.
#1: Cultivated Grass Species
Species of cultivated grass or, as we usually call them, cereals, are the most common type of cat grass you can find. This is not without reason; most of these plants come in cheap and are easy to grow indoors. They also grow very fast and tolerate artificial light.
If you don’t want a lot of hassle, growing this type of “cat grass” is the easy way to go.
Oats and its cultivars. These are usually advertised as “Sweet Oats,” which is just a fancy name for the common oat cultivar that really shows no difference in leaves and stems. The green parts of the plant are very tender and brittle in the first couple of weeks, but later the leaves get very thick and coarse. Some cats like their salad young, some like it a bit chewier, so do not be afraid to experiment.
Wheat. Yes, you can use regular wheat seeds for human consumption. It is a bit less chewy than oat grass, and it grows very fast. As a bonus, you can use wheat sprouts like in your salad!
Barley. Barley has a bit longer germination period, but it is very resilient to trimming, so you can even cut it and serve it as a side dish for your cat. It is also full of nutrients, although a bit chewy.
Mixed packs. You will usually find this variant in the pet store. Different grass seeds are all put together in a pack of 50 or 100. Since it is hard to predict a cat’s palate, such a mix can be the best choice.
#2: Wild Grass
The most common plant in this subcategory is Dactylis glomerata, a wild species also known as (surprise, surprise) “cat grass.”
This is a hardy, perennial plant that can withstand a lot of abuse. If your cat lacks salad eating manners, this is the right choice for you. Just like the aforementioned plants, it can be grown inside in a pot, but you will have to trim it regularly because it grows over four feet high.
By now you surely know about this wonder plant. Catnip induces a very euphoric reaction in most cats. When introduced to the leaves and stems of this plant, cats rub against it, roll in it, and purr or meow loudly. The exact reason for this behavior is not known, but cats surely enjoy it!
Planting catnip for your cat to enjoy is surely a way to earn friendship points, and you will have a lot of fun while watching her acting all riled up!
#4: Valeriana Officinalis
A fun fact: around one-third of cats are not affected by catnip, and this “immunity” is hereditary. Even if your cat falls in this group, there is another plant that he or she might enjoy. It is called Valerian, and it induces a similar effect to catnip.
Both herbs are very beneficial as houseplants since they repel insects. Keep them on the windowsill to ward off mosquitoes and other unwanted bugs.
What are the Benefits of Cat Grass?
We are still not quite sure why cats need to eat grass. Some theories suggest that it is a way to help with digestion. It is not a rare occasion for cats to vomit after eating grass. It is also speculated that fibers from the grass help cats pass the fur and parts of their prey that are indigestible.
See Also: Best Cat Food for Diarrhea
Other theories say that it might help get rid of the internal parasites. Many animals ingest fiber-rich plant material to fight off worms and other uninvited guests. It might be that through the generations, those felines who had a taste for greens would have been parasite-free and more likely to survive and pass on this tendency to their offspring.
There is also a group of veterinarians that think grass is a vitamin supplement for cats. Cats are exclusively carnivores, but since their prey mostly consists of rodents, they are surely used to getting their necessary nutrients by eating what was in their prey’s digestive tracts—plants. Nowadays, we prefer to keep our cats indoors, so they don’t have a chance to do so.
How to Grow Cats Grass
We have given you all the important information about cat grass in the previous section. Now it is time to get practical and do something fun! We will teach you how to successfully plant, grow, and replace a “cat lawn” and we are sure you are going to have a lot of fun doing it.
#1: Buy Seeds
You can buy a cat grass mix in your local pet store or make your own custom mix from the plants we have listed above. If you already know your cat’s salad preferences, choose the plant he or she likes. Whichever variant suits you best.
If you decided to experiment on your own, make sure to buy seeds for human consumption, preferably organic. You don’t want pesticides in your cat’s salad.
#2: Storing Seeds
All seeds should be kept in a dry, dark, and well-aerated place until you are ready to plant them. Keep them in a tightly sealed, opaque container.
#3: Choosing the Right Container or Pot
This is really a question of space and your cat’s preferences. If you have plenty of space, think about making a grass box. Some cats like to lounge in the grass because it gives them a feeling of being in the wilderness. Yes, we know one shouldn’t sleep in the food bowl, but if you can, indulge your kitty.
You can also just take a regular flower pot that is aesthetically pleasing and matches your interior design. Make sure that this pot is not too high for your cat and that it is stable enough because it might fall over if your cat gets too enthusiastic. A six by six container is quite sufficient.
#4: Buy the Soil
You can buy plant substrate at your local gardening shop. There are many types to choose from, but we would recommend coconut substrate because it is sterile, retains moisture, and you can use it more than once.
#5: Soak the Seeds
For best results, it is advisable to soak the seeds 12 to 24 hours before planting. This makes the seeds swell, softening the outer shell and helping them to sprout faster. Put them in a glass, cover with fresh, cold water, and let sit at least overnight.
#6: Plant the Seeds
Take your container and soil. Put the soil in the container but make sure to leave two handfuls of the substrate on the side for later. Place the soaked seeds on the top of the substrate and gently sprinkle with water.
It is best to use a regular spray bottle for this because the seeds are very gentle. When the surface of the soil is wet enough, cover the seeds with the remaining substrate. You don’t have to bury the seeds very deep—you just have to cover them enough so that they are not visible.
#7: Tuck Them In
Take a piece of the plastic wrap and tightly cover the container, practically making a mini glass house. This step serves two purposes. One is to keep the moisture in and speed up the sprouting process; the other is to keep those curious paws out of the dirt.
#8: Sprouting and Growing
After two to seven days you should see the sprouts coming out of the soil. This is a very delicate period, so make sure to use the spray bottle to keep the moisture level balanced.
Also, keep the pot away from your cat’s reach since the plants are still too gentle for munching. After a week your grass should be ready to be served!
#9: Choosing the Right Place for the Cat Grass
Naturally, the grass needs light to grow, so a windowsill comes as a logical choice. However, this is not practical for some people. If you lack space or would prefer to keep the grass pot in a specific place, you can always use artificial light.
Make sure that the light is between 6000 and 7000 K (this is called the light temperature and describes the color of light) which is usually labeled as cold white on the box.
Depending on the type of substrate you have chosen, you might or might not need to water the grass daily. Keep in mind that the soil should never be completely dry but neither should it be too damp, so try to keep it somewhere in the middle.
Even though your cat will nibble on the grass, the height won’t be uniform. If you like a well-kept lawn, use scissors to trim the grass from time to time.
Cereals grow very fast in the first three weeks so the grass can easily grow up to half a meter if left unkempt. As a rule of thumb, 2 to 4 inches of height is quite enough since some cats are not comfortable with eating very tall grass.
#12: Replace the Grass Regularly
Depending on the type of cat grass you have chosen, you will have to replace it every two to four weeks. When the grass gets old, it starts to wilt or change color. It is a good idea to plant a new batch a week before you decide to throw away the old one, so that you can have a replacement immediately.
Introducing Your Cat to the Grass
If your cat has never seen grass or houseplants before, he/she might get a little confused. Make sure to introduce them to the salad buffet the right way. Here is how:
#1: Place the Grass Container in a Spot that Your Cat Visits Regularly
For example, you can put it in the middle of the living room and see how your cat reacts. She might be completely indifferent towards it in the beginning. If this is the case, don’t get disappointed; give your cat some time to get used to it.
On the other hand, your cat might get so enthusiastic that she eats half of the grass in one go. Again, don’t get worried if this leads to vomiting; it is quite normal and not harmful to your cat in any way.
See Also: How to Clean Up Cat Vomit
#2: Do Not Move the Container Too Often
Once you find the perfect place for the pot, keep it there. Cats are slaves to habit, and they like to have their accessories where they can find them. Some good places will be the balcony if you have one, or near the spot where your cat likes to hang out during the day.
Proper diet is an essential part of good health. Indoor cats don’t have an opportunity to choose what they eat or find additional sources of nutrition on their own, so it is of utmost importance to try and mimic their original diet as much as possible.
Even though they are carnivores, grass plays an important part in keeping the digestive tract healthy.
Planting and growing cat grass don’t take up a lot of time, so try to give it a shot. You can even make it a part of your interior design by getting a fancy container or making a lovely grass bed. Whichever you choose, keep in mind that you are doing something good for your pet’s health. We are sure your kitten will be very grateful to you!
Which type of cat grass did you choose? Have you planted any other cat grass varieties? Share your story with us in the comments section below! If you’d like to do even more for your cat, check out our article on how to make wholesome homemade cat food.