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Can Cats Eat Hay? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

straw hay in cart

As all cat owners know, cats are capable of some pretty strange behaviors, including nibbling on things that are not usually considered appetizing to felines. This is mostly due to your cat’s deep curiosity about the world around them, and they’ll often taste things they’re curious about, including hay!

If you have any pets around that eat hay or need hay as bedding, you’ll have hay around your home, and if you’ve noticed your cat tasting or eating hay, you’re likely wondering whether it’s safe for your kitty to be doing so. But can cats eat hay and is it safe for them?

While cats can safely eat hay as it’s non-toxic to them, it doesn’t mean they should. Hay doesn’t have any nutritional benefits for cats, and it can be difficult for them to digest in large quantities.

Whether your cat is snacking on your hamster or your horse’s hay, read on below to find out how potentially harmful it is, and how to stop it.

Is Hay Toxic For Cats?

While it may cause some digestive upset in large amounts, hay is not toxic to cats. Hay is essentially dried grass, and while it’s essential in the diet of many mammals, small and large, it provides no nutritional value for cats. Hay is high in fiber and may cause diarrhea and vomiting if ingested in excess, but not many cats are likely to ingest enough to cause any real issues. Hay should certainly not be fed to your cat as a regular part of their diet, but a small amount now and then is unlikely to cause them any harm.

Why Shouldn’t Cats Eat Hay?

Cats have a very simple digestive tract that is much shorter than other meat-eating mammals, and it lacks the ability to synthesize certain amino acids from their diet. This means that cats must get these amino acids(taurine, arginine, methionine, and cysteine) from animal proteins they ingest, and these cannot be gained from plant proteins. This short digestive tract also prevents cats from extracting valuable nutrients from plants, plus they have insufficient digestive enzymes to process vegetables and fruits properly.

With the above in mind, it makes sense that hay has nothing to offer cats apart from fiber, and while it’s not necessarily bad for them, it’s certainly not good for your cat either.

cat sitting outdoor
Image credit: Pixabay

What Is the Optimal Diet For Cats?

Cats are obligate carnivores and don’t require much, if any, plant matter in their diet, including hay. They need meat in their diet every day to stay healthy, and whether you choose wet food, raw food, or dry kibble, animal protein is the most important ingredient.

In general, you’ll want to feed your cat roughly 60%–70% animal protein, no more than 10% carbohydrates, and the rest of their daily calories can come from a healthy fat source. Some cats live a happy, healthy life without any carbohydrates at all, and cats in the wild survive solely on small mammals like mice — high in protein and low in carbs.

Most experts recommend wet canned cat food over dry kibble or raw food, due to the additional moisture content. While raw diets are becoming popular, there is always the risk of parasites, ingestion of toxins, and bacterial infections, no matter how clean you keep your kitchen while preparing.

How To Stop Your Cat From Eating Hay

Cats will rarely enjoy the taste or texture of hay, but, cats being cats, some may develop a taste for it and keep coming back for more. While this is not usually a huge issue, we may not be aware of exactly how much hay our cat is snacking on, and this can cause some issues in the long run.

Naturally, the best method to stop your cat is to make sure there’s no hay accessible to your cat, but this is not always possible. There are deterrent sprays available that may do the trick, as well as mats with uncomfortable textures that may help deter cats. You can also try a spray bottle filled with water, the sound of which may scare your cat away from the hay.

cat eating semi moist cat food
Image Credit: osobystist, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

While hay is non-toxic and generally not harmful to cats, they should not be eating hay regularly. Cats are obligate carnivores and hay does not provide them with any nutritional value at all and may cause some digestive issues if consumed in large amounts. That being said, if your cat sneaks a taste of hay every now and then there’s no reason to worry.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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