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Can Cats Eat Barley? What You Need to Know!

Genevieve Dugal

By Genevieve Dugal

Barley Grass

Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cat food should include meat, but not only that. Indeed, our pet felines can eat, enjoy, and benefit from consuming cereals. Barley, among others, is an excellent source of essential and beneficial nutrients. Thus, integrating cereals into your feline’s diet is one of the best ways to provide them with lasting energy, as well as fiber, for the good health of their digestive system.

But there is a difference between the grains already included in your cat’s dry diet (kibble), and the barley that we, humans, consume in our diets. Regarding the latter, you have two options: offer your cat cooked barley, in the form of porridge, or offer barley grass. The two options have different benefits, which you will discover as you read on.

What Is Barley Grass?

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a type of grain that is considered the fourth most important cereal crop in the world. As for it, barley grass is the leaf of the barley plant. These very tender sprouts have been widely studied for their beneficial effects on human health and can be consumed as a green juice or in supplements.

Barley grass is also known as cat grass, which can actually be a mixture of oat, rye, or wheat grasses. Barley shoots have digestive properties that improve the cat’s transit and allow it to purge itself.

Barley Grass
Image Credit: Pixabay

Is Barley Grass Healthy for Cats?

Absolutely! Barley shoots are a valuable source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals for your kitty, especially if he never goes outside. Cats not only adore these tender stems, but they benefit from them.

As a digestion aid, barley leaves help prevent hairballs. So, if your cat is regurgitating after eating barley grass, it’s completely normal.

These shoots are also a natural supplement to your cat’s diet. They are full of nutrients, vitamins K and C, beta-carotene, proteins, amino acids, chlorophyll, and essential trace elements. These nutrients help, among other things, to maintain healthy skin and a shiny, silky coat.

In short, barley sprouts are a great source of micronutrients for cats, improve their digestion, help remove hairballs, and keep them stimulated and alert.

By the way, barley leaves or shoots are also good for you! Many people puree the fresh sprouts for a delicious smoothie packed with vitamins and minerals.

Why Do Cats Eat Grass?

When grooming, cats ingest a significant amount of hair. These hairs can sometimes form balls that collect in the esophagus or stomach. If not removed, hairballs can lead to anorexia, pancreatitis, vomiting, intestinal obstruction, and even cancer.

To avoid these problems, you can brush your cat regularly. But there is another natural, simple, and economical solution: cat grass! Indeed, by eating grass shoots, the regurgitation of the hairs is facilitated. The blade of grass will wrap around the hairballs, making them easier to regurgitate.

Moreover, cats find certain vitamins in grass shoots that are not necessarily present in their carnivorous diet. However, if your kitty consumes a lot of grass, it may also be a sign of a vitamin B deficiency or a diet that is too low in fiber. Take a good look at the composition of his kibble or wet food to check that the fibers are present in sufficient quantity.

Finally, unlike cats who go outside, indoor cats don’t often have the opportunity to munch on fresh shoots. Thus, it is not uncommon for our little felines to attack indoor plants, which are sometimes toxic to them. Therefore, if your cat never leaves your house, it is essential to offer him cat grass.

Barley Grass
Image Credit: Pixabay

How to Grow Barley Grass at Home

You don’t have to have a green thumb to grow your own cat grass! Indeed, you can easily grow barley grass at home, on your balcony, or in a pot on the ground. Grass shoots require very little maintenance: water, light, and a little patience!

You can get cat barley seeds at pet stores. However, keep in mind that cats can be finicky; although most kitties love barley sprouts, some cats just aren’t interested. If this happens, you can repeat the experiment with another herb mixture, such as oats or rye.

Follow these steps for a successful mini cat grass garden:
  • One: Fill a heavy pot (which your cat won’t easily tip over) with loose potting soil. Sprinkle with barley seeds and cover with ¼ inch of soil.
  • Two: Cover the container with plastic wrap and store it at room temperature. Be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight, and make sure you always keep the soil moist.
  • Three: After 7 days, the first shoots should appear. Remove the plastic wrap and move the pot to a sunny location, continuing to water as soon as the soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Four: As soon as the grass shoots are about 3 inches tall, you can offer them to your kitty.
  • Five: After a while, your barley grass may wilt. Simply remove the dead shoots and replant new seeds. For a constant supply of fresh green shoots, plant a few pots a week or two apart.

Can You Give Cooked Barley to Your Cat?

Unless your cat is on a strict diet, you can offer him some barley occasionally. Make sure it is cooked through so that your kitty can fully digest it. Cooked barley provides protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants, which are beneficial for your feline’s vision, immunity, and intestinal transit.

Side note: Before making any change in your cat’s diet, consult your veterinarian.

Bottom Line

Barley, sprouted or cooked, can be fed to your cat without any problem. Nonetheless, barley grass appears to have more health benefits for your kitty, in addition to being easy to grow at home. If your pet does not go outside, give him access to a pot of cat grass so that he can safely enjoy all of these benefits.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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