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New insights on why cats eat grass
'...Regular, instinctive plant eating would have an adaptive role in maintaining a tolerable intestinal parasite load...'
Scientists say the trait could be borrowed from wild ancestors 

Cats may eat grass due to an innate predisposition, passed down from their wild ancestors, a new survey of cat owners suggests.

Scientists from the University of California, Davis, carried out a survey of 1,021 cat owners who were able to observe their cat’s behaviour for three or more hours a day.

The findings were presented at the 53rd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology (5-9 August), which took place in Norway.

Seventy-one per cent of cats were seen eating plant matter at least six times, while 61 per cent did so more than 10 times. Only 11 per cent were never seen eating plants. Among the cats seen eating plants 10 times, 67 per cent were estimated to eat them daily or weekly.

The majority of respondents (91 per cent) said their cat almost always appeared normal before eating plants. However, 27 per cent said their cat vomited after eating plant material.

Scientists found that younger cats (aged three or under) were more likely to indulge in daily plant eating, compared to 27 per cent of cats aged four or above. Just 11 per cent of the younger cats were seen to frequently vomit after eating plants, compared to a significantly higher 30 per cent of older cats.

The research team said their findings are similar to those reported in dogs, but they do not support the popular theory that pets often eat grass to induce vomiting when they feel ill. Scientists said the findings also do not support the idea that young animals ‘learn’ plant eating from older animals.

Instead, the conclusion offered by the research team is that cats are innately predisposed to eating plants. There are numerous reports of regular plant eating in wild ancestors, which is mostly shown by the non-digestible grass and other plant parts seen in their scats. Studies of primates show that non-digestible plants purge the intestinal system of helminthic parasites.

Researchers concluded: ‘Given that virtually all wild carnivores carry an intestinal parasite load, regular, instinctive plant eating would have an adaptive role in maintaining a tolerable intestinal parasite load, whether or not the animal senses the parasites.’

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Rare chimp birth announced at Edinburgh Zoo

News Story 1
 The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) welcomed the birth of a critically endangered western chimpanzee on Monday 3 February at Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.

The baby girl will be named in the coming days through a public vote, and staff will carry out a paternity test during its first health check to determine the father.

Mother Heleen's first infant, Velu, was born in 2014, making this new baby only the second chimpanzee born in Scotland for more than 20 years.

Budongo Trail team leader Donald Gow said: "While we celebrate every birth, this one is particularly special because our new arrival is a critically endangered Western chimpanzee, a rare subspecies of chimpanzee."

Image (c) RZSS/Donald Gow. 

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BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.