Why Do Cats Eat Grass? Scientists Might Have Figured It Out

AllaSaa/iStock via Getty Images
AllaSaa/iStock via Getty Images

Dogs are nature’s garbage disposals. They eat anything from table food to foreign objects to poop. Cats are more discriminating, though both of these domesticated animals seem to enjoy munching on grass. We have a pretty good idea why dogs do this—it’s often to relieve stomach discomfort and induce vomiting—but why cats like to nibble on lawns has largely remained a mystery. Now, scientists believe they have an answer.

A presentation last week at the International Society for Applied Ethology annual meeting in Bergen, Norway offered evidence on this peculiar behavior, which many cat owners attribute to the animals' urge to fix an upset stomach. Researchers at the University of California, Davis conducted a survey of 1021 cat owners who spent at least three hours a day observing their pet’s activities and found that of the 71 percent of cats caught chomping on grass, about a quarter wound up vomiting afterward—but roughly 91 percent of respondents reported that their cats did not appear to be ill before dining out on roughage.

So if they weren’t self-medicating a sick stomach, what happened? The scientists argue it’s evolutionary behavior that is not intended to provoke vomiting. Instead, cats are motivated to eat grass because this is how their ancestors expelled intestinal parasites. Grass consumption increases muscle activity in the digestive tract, which could force out unwanted contents. Cats have traditionally had to deal with parasites like hookworms or roundworms as a byproduct of devouring rodents, though it’s likely that most cats who aren’t on a diet of rat meat don’t have any parasites to treat. Still, the instinct to chew grass remains.

The survey also indicated cats younger than 3 years old were more likely to eat grass than older cats, but tend to vomit less afterward. If you have an outdoor cat who likes to supplement its diet with backyard salads, it might be best to offer up some grass grown indoors that is free of pesticides and other contaminants.

[h/t Science]

You’ll Be Able to Buy Some of Fiona the Hippo’s Poop to Fertilize Your Garden

Mark Dumont, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Mark Dumont, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Fiona the hippo has come along way since she was born two months premature at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2017. Today, Fiona is happy and healthy, weighing in at more than 1200 pounds. A hippo that size makes a lot of excrement, and now Fiona fans can purchase some of it to fertilize their gardens, WLWT5 reports.

Fiona produces about 22 pounds of poop a day; just 7 pounds shy of her birth weight. Normally the dung would be sent to a landfill, but as part of its new zero-waste initiative, the Cincinnati Zoo is composting all of its animal waste into fertilizer. Much of it will be added to the zoo's own farm and gardens, but some will also be available to purchase from the zoo's gift shops and online store. The fertilizer will be made from the dung left behind by the hundreds of animals living at the zoo, including Fiona.

The Cincinnati Zoo bills itself as the greenest zoo in the country. In addition to recycling all of its animal waste into compost, it also aims to fill its animal habitats with recycled rain water and grow more food for its animals on its own farm [PDF]. For the zero-waste part of the plan, the zoo plans to repurpose two million pounds of animal feces each year using a combination of on-site and off-site composting.

The zoo is in the process of acquiring the necessary equipment to launch its waste composting program. When the time comes, Fiona will be ready to make her sizable contributions to the project.

[h/t WLWT5]

The Disabled Chihuahua Puppy Who Befriended a Flightless Pigeon Now Has a Tiny Wheelchair

Lundy, the Chihuahua, and his pigeon friend, Herman.
Lundy, the Chihuahua, and his pigeon friend, Herman.
HandicappedPets.com, YouTube

The only thing more heartwarming than an interspecies friendship between a Chihuahua that can’t walk and a pigeon that can’t fly is if the Chihuahua in question happened to own a very tiny wheelchair.

Earlier this month, The Mia Foundation, a nonprofit shelter for special needs animals in Rochester, New York, took to Facebook to share photos of Lundy, a two-month-old Chihuahua without mobility in his back legs, snuggling up with a flightless pigeon named Herman.

"I took Herman out of his playpen to give him some time out and I put him in a dog bed and then I had to tend to Lundy so I put Lundy in with him,” Sue Rogers, who runs the foundation with her husband, Gary, told WHEC. “They just looked really cute together, so I took some pictures and posted them to Facebook and the next morning it was crazy.”

After the post went viral, The Mia Foundation received more than $6000 in monetary donations—and a surprise gift for Lundy. New Hampshire-based pet mobility company Walkin’ Pets provided him with a Mini Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair, a two-wheeled harness meant for disabled animals that weigh between two and 10 pounds. According to a press release from Walkin’ Pets, the shelter had been worried that two-pound Lundy, who could probably fit in the palm of your hand, wouldn’t get the chance to run around with the help of a wheelchair until he grew quite a bit bigger.

lundy the disabled chihuahua with his wheelchair
Lundy patiently waits to try out his new wheelchair.
Walkin' Pets

Newly mobile and even cuter than before, Lundy is now waiting for a kind family to adopt him. Finding a forever home might take him away from his fine feathered friend, but Lundy and Herman’s bond won’t ever be forgotten: There’s now a book called Lundy and Herman that tells their story. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Mia Foundation, and you can order it for $20 here.

[h/t WHEC]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER