Whether you feed your kitty gourmet wet food or run-of-the-mill dry food, it's not unusual to catch her munching on some greens. Sometimes she might eat Mexican feather grass -- a common ornamental plant. That's probably OK, even if she throws it up. Still, it's best to watch for poisoning symptoms.
What It Is
Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) is an ornamental grass native to parts of North and South America that's become an invasive plant throughout much of the world. Also known as Mexican wire grass, fine stem needle grass, ponytail grass and Texas tussock, the plant has thin, delicate leaves that sway gracefully in the slightest breeze, which accounts for its popularity in landscaping. That motion also attracts cats. If you let your feline friends outside, don't be surprised if you catch them chowing down on some or rolling around in it.
Toxicity (a Lack Thereof)
Don't worry -- Mexican feather grass isn't particularly harmful to cats. It doesn't appear on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' extensive list of plants toxic to plants, nor does is it appear among the dozen plants that account for the majority of calls to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Simply put, Mexican feather grass is cat safe. Cats may get sick and vomit after eating it, but that's true for a variety of plants, poisonous or otherwise.
Cats chew on and eat Mexican feather grass for the same reasons they munch on other greens. Grass contains folic acid, an essential vitamin for cats, that aids in bloodstream oxygen production, according to an article on the Animal Planet website. Greens, like Mexican feather grass, also act as a laxative. Given your kitty's meat-heavy diet (remember, they're obligate carnivores), a bit of grass every now and then may help her out in the litter box. Cats don't have the proper stomach enzymes to process most plants, though, so they often throw them up.
It's a good idea to keep an eye on your cats whenever they vomit, especially when they've been outdoors and eating plants. Watch for poisoning symptoms, like heavy breathing, coughing, dilated pupils, shivering, seizures or tremors, weakness or depression, as well as more vomiting. Mexican feather grass may not be a likely poisoning culprit, but, even if you spot the remnants of just that, it's unlikely your feline friend only chowed down on one piece of greenery. Poisoning symptoms can take hours to develop, so it helps to have a heads up if something's potentially wrong. If you think your cats are sick, call your local 24-hour vet or the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 (in the U.S.). The latter costs $65, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List -- Cats
- University of Texas' Wildflower Center: Nassella Tenuissima (Mexican Feathergrass)
- University of California: News From the Statewide Master Gardener Program -- Two Ornamental Grasses Invasive!
- UC Davis Veterinary Medicine: Pets and Toxic Plants
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Poison Control FAQ