Cat grass is a type of feed grain. While it is associated with cats, it should not be confused with cat nip, which is an herb. Unlike some edible plants, this grass is not poisonous to cats. The plant has multiple names and comes in different varieties. This is one of many types of plant that has found a commercial use for domestic animals.
The actual name for cat grass is Dactylis glomerata, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Cat grass is a perennial plant. The erect stems stand 7 to 47 inches in height. The blades, less than a half inch wide are large, stiff and long, and young blades of cat grass are folded.
Cat grass is a native plant to Europe, North Africa and western Asia. It has also been grown in North America, Australia and New Zealand. This plant can be found in a wide range from lowlands to alpine mountain areas. The grass can grow in a wide range of soil from poor to rich soil, but it is rarely found in peat soil.
There are many types of grass associated with the name "cat grass." Most types are a variety of bluegrass, oat or wheat. Common names for this plant are cocksfoot grass or orchard grass; the latter name is derived from the plant's tolerance to moderate shade. It has become widely naturalised in both the United States and Australia to the point that it has become an invasive plant in some areas.
Dactylis glomerata is used for a variety of feeding purposes. This grass can be grown as hay or pasture grass that provides high yield and sugar content. When this grass is still young it is used as a natural food supplement for cats. The grass is used as a vitamin and mineral supplement for animal diets. Some pet owners feed cat grass to help alleviate upset stomach or hairballs for indoor cats, according to Doctors Foster and Smith website. Cat grass marketed commercially is sold in containers when it is 4 to 6 inches high.
Cat grass can handle a large range of climates and soils, making this plant easy to grow. Dactylis glomerata is frost and heat resistant and can grow in shade as well as full sun. The plant likes well-oriented slopes, but can be cheaply grown from seeds in a pot or small patch of land. Pet stores sell kits that allow the plant to be grown by simply watering and placing in sunlight. Cat grass likes well-drained soil or dry soil but cannot handle excessive humidity. The root system can become extensive to absorb more nutrients.