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Q: My cat, Patches, has developed a habit of chewing on my dad's plants. Is this normal behaviour? Should I be concerned?

A: Some cats do have the habit of chewing leaves that are dangling from plants. They are actually amused by the fact that the leaves are dangling or hanging; they often spend a lot of time pawing and biting these leaves. Most of these cats enjoy the taste of the leaves. Some like the texture of the crunching of the leaves against their tongues.

Cats are carnivorous so they don't really need a lot of fibre in the daily nutritional intake. However, in the wild, it is not uncommon for cats to eat plants / grass and it is often believed that it will help with digestion. Some cats will chew and swallow the leaves or grass in order to induce vomiting. They do that especially when they experience some form of indigestion. Some cats instinctively seek out grass or leaves if their dietary is not nutritionally adequate.

It is fine for Patches to chew and eat the leaves provided that:

  1. She is not vomiting profusely.
  2. She is eating her food well.
  3. She is defecating regularly.
  4. The food that you are giving her is of good and fresh quality.
  5. The plant is not poisonous.
  6. The plant has no toxic pesticide on it.

At times, cats seek out 'adventures' outside the home. She may be going to the plants more often because she is bored being at home and she has found something exciting and 'tasty' to do. If you want her to stop this leaf eating habit, try to keep her entertained at home by providing more cat safe toys. Spending more time with her is also a good way to keep her company and deepen owner and pet bond. If you have other cats or pets at home, make sure Patches is not jealous of them. At times, it is known for a cat to do something just to get the owner's attention when they are unhappy or jealous.

Should Patches lose weight, or turn off her food, you should bring her to visit the vet. Describe to the vet what she is doing and provide a detailed diet list and lifestyle patterns. With a proper medical check up, together with essential information about Patches' nutrition and habits, the vet can then recommend any diagnostic blood works or urine tests. Such diagnostics can give us a better understanding of the health status of Patches.