Why do cats eat houseplants?


With their graceful movements, mysterious personalities, and quirky behaviors, cats captivate our hearts. One feline habit that has puzzled many cat owners over the years is their tendency to eat houseplants. It’s a behavior that’s as common as it is confounding. In this blog post, we will delve into the intriguing world of cats and houseplants, exploring the reasons behind this behavior and providing insights into how you can keep both your greenery and your furry friends safe.

Q: Why do cats eat houseplants?

A: This blog explains why cats eat houseplants and how you can keep your cat and your plants safe.

Section 1: Curiosity or Natural Instinct?

To understand why cats eat houseplants, we must first explore the notion that it might be driven by curiosity or an inherent natural instinct. Cats are known for their inquisitive nature, and this curiosity extends to the world around them, including the greenery within your home.

Calico Cat getting Chin Scratches | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist

Cats are often drawn to the movement and textures of houseplants. The rustling leaves and swaying branches can mimic the behavior of prey in the wild. Many cat owners have observed their feline friends pouncing and batting at the leaves, almost as if they’re hunting. This primal instinct to hunt and capture can explain why cats might be drawn to plants.

Plants also can release scents and pheromones that attract cats. Some plants emit odors that mimic those of their natural prey, making them irresistible to your cat. For instance, catnip, which is related to mint, is well-known for its effect on cats. Many cats are highly attracted to catnip, and it often leads to playful or even euphoric behavior.

Additionally, some experts suggest that cats may eat plants as a form of self-medication. In the wild, cats have been observed consuming plants to help them purge indigestible material, such as fur and bones, from their stomachs. While domesticated cats don’t have the same dietary needs as their wild counterparts, the instinct to ingest vegetation may still linger.

In this section, we’ve explored the idea that cats eat house plants due to curiosity, natural hunting instincts, and potential medicinal reasons. These factors shed light on why your cat might be drawn to your indoor garden.

Section 2: Nutritional Needs and Compensatory Behavior

Another reason cats might munch on houseplants relates to their nutritional needs. Cats are carnivores; however, there are essential nutrients and fiber that they obtain from plant matter in the wild, which might lead them to consume house plants as a form of compensatory behavior.

One of the key nutrients that cats obtain from plants is fiber. Fiber aids in digestion and helps prevent constipation. If a cat’s diet lacks sufficient fiber, they may seek out plants to fulfill this need. Some house plants, like grass, are high in fiber and can serve as a natural source of roughage for your cat.

Another critical nutrient that cats may seek in plants is folic acid, which is essential for the production of hemoglobin and other crucial metabolic processes. Some plants, such as spinach and certain grasses, contain folic acid. Cats might instinctively consume these plants to meet their nutritional requirements.

Also when cats feel unwell or experience an upset stomach, they may eat grass or house plants as a form of self-medication. The rough texture of plant matter can help induce vomiting, allowing cats to expel unwanted substances from their stomachs. This instinctive behavior can be beneficial in certain situations, such as when a cat ingests something toxic.

In this section, we’ve discussed how cats may eat houseplants to meet their nutritional needs for fiber and folic acid, as well as to self-medicate when they are unwell. Understanding these reasons can help cat owners provide a more balanced diet and appropriate alternatives for their feline companions.

Section 3: Behavioral and Environmental Factors

The relationship between cats and houseplants is not solely driven by their instincts or nutritional needs. Various behavioral and environmental factors can also influence a cat’s inclination to munch on greenery.

Image of Kitten on a Blue Towel | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist

1. Boredom and Stress: Cats are creatures of routine and thrive on mental stimulation. When they are bored or stressed, they may turn to house plants as a way to relieve their anxiety or occupy their time. Providing toys, playtime, and a stimulating environment can help reduce this behavior.

2. Lack of Alternatives: If a cat does not have access to appropriate toys, scratching posts, or other outlets for their energy and curiosity, they may resort to chewing on plants. Offering an array of cat-friendly alternatives can redirect their attention away from your greenery.

3. Toxic Plants: Some house plants are toxic to cats, and cats may inadvertently chew on these plants. It’s essential for cat owners to be aware of the potential dangers and remove toxic plants from their homes. Cats may also instinctively eat non-toxic plants, which can serve as a safe alternative.

4. Attention-Seeking Behavior: Cats are masters at getting our attention, even when it’s for undesirable actions. Eating houseplants can be a way for cats to elicit a response from their owners. Consistent training and positive reinforcement can help address this behavior.


By recognizing the behavioral and environmental factors that influence a cat’s plant-eating habits, you can take steps to create a more stimulating and safer environment for your feline friend, ultimately reducing their interest in your plants.

The tendency of cats to eat houseplants is a multifaceted behavior influenced by their natural instincts, nutritional needs, and various behavioral and environmental factors. While this habit can be perplexing, understanding the underlying reasons can help cat owners address it effectively. As a responsible cat owner, it’s crucial to provide a balanced diet, safe alternatives, and an enriching environment for your feline companion. By doing so, you can keep both your house plants and your cat happy and healthy.

Cats are unique creatures with complex behaviors that continue to captivate us. Their penchant for eating houseplants is just one of many quirks that make them the fascinating companions they are. By embracing their nature and providing a nurturing environment, you can ensure a harmonious coexistence between your feline friend and your beloved greenery.

Cartoon Image of Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist