Our youngest cat Kalista has always had a strange obsession with our chinchilla’s hay.
Not a single day goes by without Kalista sneaking into my partner’s office to try to snag some hay from Gary’s cage. My partner and I always have to keep a very close eye on her to make sure she’s not stealing any hay, and more importantly not bothering Gary.
Even though we both do a pretty good job of chasing Kalista away from Gary’s cage when she starts trying to steal hay, whether it be from inside Gary’s cage or on the floor, somehow Kalista still manages to get some!
It’s also not that Kalista doesn’t understand that she’s not supposed to eat the hay, or that it bothers us. Trust me she understands.
Anytime you say her name while she’s walking towards Gary’s cage or is trying to eat hay, but you move she immediately scurries away.
Kalista knows that hay is off-limits so much that for a while she started hiding the hay under our clean clothes in laundry baskets because she knew we’d always let her sleep in them.
The little sneak is always coming up with ways to hide hay for later, you’d assume that she was the rabbit.
Now, it would also be easy to assume that with the amount of discouraging I do with Kalista that hay is automatically bad for cats.
In short, yes, it is not ideal for cats to eat hay as they are obligate carnivores, however, similar to grass cats have been known to eat hay, especially on farms.
WHY DO CATS EAT HAY?
Similar to why cats eat grass, researchers are unable to confirm why it is exactly cats eat hay.
This is due to the fact that hay does not have any nutrients that are regularly beneficial for cats, however, cats have been seen to eat it regularly after their meals.
IS HAY CONSIDERED TOXIC TOWARDS CATS?
Although hay has been known to cause cats to get upset stomachs and has been known to induce vomiting it is not considered toxic towards cats.
Now, that being said, it doesn’t mean that overfeeding your cat hay isn’t going to harm your cat.
Due to the fact that hay has no nutritional value to your cat, the more that is fed or substituted for your cat’s regular diet the more harm it will cause.
The only nutritional value hay has is fibre, but again if cats have too much fibre it will cause a cat to get sick, meaning that you have to be careful how much hay your cat eats no matter what.
MY CAT ALWAYS THROWS UP AFTER EATING HAY, IS SOMETHING WRONG?
No, there is nothing wrong with your cat if they are throwing up after eating hay and this is actually quite normal.
Due to the fact that cats cannot properly digest greens or any other forms of vegetation they often throw up the majority of what they eat. This goes for all cats and not just indoor cats.
Similar to other ingredients or new foods that are introduced to a cat, cats may develop a stronger tolerance to the food, however, in most cases, hay will still cause a cat to develop an upset stomach.
It is believed that this is the reason hay appeals to so many cats, as mentioned cats have been known to regularly eat hay after their meals.
Said cats are also commonly seen throwing up their meals, which has lead researchers and vets to believe that cats eat hay and grass as a way to clear their stomachs.
There are a few reasons a cat may want to do this, including the fact that the food they just ate is spoiled, the cat ate too much and can’t properly digest, the cat is feeling uneasy or the cat needs to throw the food up to break it down more.
HAY HAS LOTS OF FIBRE
Something you probably already know, if you’ve had or been around small mammals, is that they typically poop a lot.
Gary, our chinchilla, poops so much that we have to clean his cage daily, or well… his cage would just be poop.
Small mammals typically poop much more frequently than our bigger furry friends simply due to the amount of fibre that they eat (contained in the hay).
Due to the amount of fibre contained in the hay, cats may associate hay to the relief of constipation or even hairballs.
This is why hay and cat grass are normally offered to cats suffering from regular hairballs as it is a natural remedy.
Though this is true, I would recommend feeding your cat pumpkin much faster than recommending feeding your cat hay.
The main reason I prefer pumpkin over hay is due to the fact that pumpkin reduces the risk of your cat throwing up. Pumpkin is also more nutritionally rounded than hay, making it a clearly superior choice to hay.
IS THERE EVER ANYTHING TO WORRY ABOUT WHEN IT COMES TO HAY?
In general, it’s always important that you keep a close eye on your cat to ensure that they are properly eating the hay.
Due to how long hay strands can be and how dry and brittle, there is a choking hazard to feeding your hay.
It is for this reason you may want to break pieces of hay into smaller pieces since your cat will be unable to break the hay into smaller pieces by chewing it.
Cats may try to rip the hay into smaller pieces with their paws, but oftentimes they will instead swallow the hay whole and hope for the best.
If ever your cat is choking on a piece of hay it is recommended that you contact a vet immediately. A vet or vet tech will be able to run you through the steps to safely remove the hay from your cat’s mouth.
It is strongly recommended that you always provide clean drinking water for your cat if you are hoping to feed them hay.
This will help ensure that everything goes down smoothly, especially if your cat gets a scratchy throat from trying to swallow a large piece of hay.
If ever your cat begins vomiting after eating hay make sure you monitor them for at least an hour.
If vomiting progresses or does not cease, it is recommended that you take your cat to the vet immediately.
Unfortunately, vomiting, similar to diarrhea, can lead to dehydration. While dehydration on a surface level may not seem serious, dependant on how severe the symptom is it may lead to lethargy or death.
It is extremely important that a vet is involved in cases of dehydration as commonly a cat will require IV fluids to rehydrate them as syringes of water will not be enough unless placed directly into the skin.
While IV fluids are being facilitated a vet will also examine your cat to see whether there are any other signs of ailments or toxicity.
Commonly there isn’t anything to worry about though.
HOW TO DISCOURAGE YOUR CAT FROM EATING HAY
If you have an extremely naughty kitty, as we do, I strongly recommend taking the steps to help discourage your cat from wandering around your small mammal’s cage and collecting hay.
The unfortunate thing to hay eating is the fact that as owners we are unaware of how much hay our cats consume, especially if we are not the ones actively giving them the hay.
Due to the fact that there is a small mammal present when you are trying to discourage your cat from eating hay, you’re going to want to refrain from using loud noises.
Many small mammals have extremely strong senses of hearing, making loud noises extremely upsetting.
An alternative would be to use an “sss” sound to scare off the cat causing trouble, though it is advised that you check whether or not this upsets your small mammal as the sound would resemble that of a snake.
Due to the nature of this habit, it may be advised that you use a spray bottle, though not always necessary.
The only reason you would want to use a spray bottle is that it will not startle the nearby small mammal, though it is important to understand that being sprayed by a water bottle is a fairly severe punishment for a cat.
Other options include resources like double-sided tape.
Place the double-sided tape in the areas beside the cage and it will get caught on your cat’s paws. The double-sided tape will not cause any harm to your cat, however, it will cause the cat to feel uncomfortable.
Over time, the cat will begin relating this area to the double-sided tape.
Truthfully, this is the best method of keeping your cat away from your small mammal’s cage and away from their hay.
Not only that, but the double-sided tape will usually attach to the hay, making it more difficult for your cat to pick it up and make off with it.
Due to the fact that there is no nutritional value to hay, there really is no point to allow your cats to eat hay.
The only upside to feeding or allowing your cat to eat hay is fibre, which they can get from other foods such as pumpkin.
It is always recommended that you speak to a vet before changing your cat’s diet, especially if you are concerned that they are lacking specific vitamins, minerals or nutrients.
A vet will be able to let you know whether or not the food in question is a proper supplement and if not, the vet will recommend a supplement that works better.
I highly recommend discouraging your cat from trying to eat your small mammals’ hay in all circumstances. This should also deter your cat from visiting your small mammal cage frequently in hopes of reducing the stress that small mammal has.
So, pet parents, how much do your cats love hay? Have they done any quirky weird things to hide the hay? What have you done to discourage it? Let me know in the comments below!