The familiar chugging sound of Daddy’s Surge vacuum milker engine started in the barn while I was getting a drink of water from the well. Feeling secure because I knew Daddy and my brother were nearby, I turned the well faucet for more water. The late summer afternoon was hot, so pouring water over my legs and arms felt good.
Crossing the driveway between the well and the milk house, I peeked in. The milk house’s back door and barn door were open, so I could see all the way into where the cows were. Their warm, earthy smell wafted out. I loved being in the barn, but decided to wait until the chores were almost done. The sticky heat and flies took all the fun out of being in there this time of year.
It was so warm that afternoon, even the cats didn’t want to be in the barn. Old, gray Mama cat was stretched out on the grassy lawn between the milk house and the barn hill. Gutsy, her orange kitten and Squirmy, her black kitten played nearby. While rubbing Gutzy’s belly, I looked up and noticed Mama cat chewing on a blade of grass.
At nine years of age, I knew that cows ate grass and cats ate kitchen scraps and milk squeezed from the milk can filter. It wasn’t normal for cats to eat grass. Jumping to my feet, I ran across the yard to the house and found Mom. I exclaimed, “Mom! Mama cat is eating grass. What’s wrong with her?”
Mom chuckled, “Nothing is wrong. Cats often eat grass. Haven’t you ever seen a cat doing that before? Mama cat will probably throw up and get rid of it later tonight.”
Alarmed, I huffed, “If she throws up, that hardly sounds like everything is all right.”
“Cats can’t digest grass like cows do.” Mom pointed out. “So it needs to come up. I think cats eat grass when they have a tummy ache, or a hair ball to get rid of. It’s like medicine for them.”
Later, when the evening chores were almost done and it was cooler, I went into the barn. As Daddy finished milking the last cow, I stood on the walk-way behind the cow. I told him about Mama cat eating grass and what Mom had told me. I ended my tale with, “Mom was right. I saw Mama cat throw up a little while ago.”
Daddy laughed and said, “I don’t know of any animal that pukes as much as cats do. She’ll be fine.”
Since I moved into my brick farmhouse over forty years ago, I’ve shared my home with several cats. Daddy was right, cats are pukey animals. Some are much worse than others. They all enjoyed nibbling on grass.
I’ve looked up information on why cats eat grass. Some veterinarians report that the green blades serve as natural medicine. Cats seem to know when they need it. They not only develop mats of hair in their gut from grooming, but the inedible parts of any prey they may eat, like fur, feather and bones eventually need to be cleaned out of their digestive tract. I’ve starting calling their strange grass-eating habit, a visit to good old Doctor Grass.
Not only is grass cathartic, the juices in grass contain folic acid, an essential vitamin for health and well-being. Cats instinctively know when they need folic acid and nibble on grass. Grass is also said to relieve sore throats. Unfortunately, cats are secretive and don’t tell anyone their point of view.
The other evening I was on the back deck when Louie, my big white and black male cat, sauntered up from the tall grasses along the river. Sitting down near me, we quietly enjoyed a cool breeze. Spotting a juicy blade of grass, Louie began to chew on it with obvious pleasure.
When I walked across the yard to the garden, Louie followed me. After sniffing the catnip growing there, he began chewing on it. Before long he was blissfully rolling on the plant. I scolded, “Louie, you need to know that quack grass is like a vitamin, but catnip is like marijuana!”