We welcomed three new cats into our house over the past few months. I thought I would grow some “cat grass” for them as a treat. If you have cats you’ve likely seen pots of “cat grass” for sale at pet stores. I don’t know why cats like grass, but many of them do, and it’s said to be good for their digestive system somehow. This grass is actually wheatgrass (Triticum aestivum), the same stuff juiced and put into “healthy” drinks for people.
I wasn’t sure if my cats would like cat grass (our previous cats weren’t very interested in it), but wanted to try it out, so I bought a small packet of seeds and got to work.
The door to my potting shed, where all of my pots are stored, is still frozen shut from the winter, so I decided to use an empty grocery store clamshell package from some salad greens as my pot.
These containers are actually almost perfect for seed starting, you just have to punch some drainage holes in the bottom first:
I filled the clamshell with moist potting soil (“seed starting mix” would’ve been ideal, but potting soil will do). Potting soil and seed starting mix are both very hard to get wet once they dry out, so it’s a good idea to get them damp before you put seeds in them. My best trick is to open the bag of soil and pour in some water (enough to make it wet but not make mud), seal the bag up, turn it upside down (so that the top is on the bottom) and leave it to sit, ideally overnight. Sometimes you’ll find it’s still pretty dry or the moisture is just spotty, so you’ll need to add more water and do it again.
Once the clamshell was full of moist soil, I took out my package of seeds:
I sprinkled them quite thickly over the top of the soil, using up the entire seed packet:
This may look like a lot of seed, but when it grows, you’ll see it’s actually about the right amount for a good clump of grass.
The next step was to cover the seed with soil:
…and then pat it down. It’s important that the seeds are in contact with the soil, not sitting in an air pocket. For this reason I went over the entire surface with my hand, patting it down:
Since the soil was quite moist, I didn’t water it, but if the soil wasn’t moist enough, I would have watered it (using a spray bottle is a good way to water newly planted seeds–it doesn’t dislodge the seeds the way a stream of water from a watering can would.) Then I loosely placed the lid on top in order to create a bit of a moist microclimate.
And then I placed it somewhere warm for a few days. The seeds don’t need light at this point, but they do need heat. If they’re cold and wet they’ll just rot.
Four days later, I had grass sprouting!
At this point I needed to give the plants light. I have some grow lights set up in the basement so that’s where I kept them. But a sunny window sill would work for cat grass too.
Seven days after I planted the seeds, I had cat-ready cat grass!
The real test, though, would be whether the resident felines would like it.
Two out of three cats approved! Which means this won’t be the last time I grow cat grass.
Cat Grass Seeds
It will, however, be the last time I grow cat grass from a little seed packet. Seed packets of that size–the kind you find on the rack at your local nursery or big box centre–are good when they contain small seeds (e.g. carrots) or seeds of something that you’ll only grow a dozen or so of (e.g. tomatoes.) But cat grass seeds are pretty big, and you need a lot of them, so you’re better off to buy them in bulk.
In future, I’ll be buying them by the 1 lb bag (here’s a link* to a supply I found online.) In doing a comparison, it seems like the seeds are cheaper if you search for wheat grass seeds as opposed to cat grass seeds.
UPDATE: This may be old news to other people, but it was a revelation to me to learn that what is commonly sold as “wheat berries” or “wheat kernels” in the grocery store (usually in the same section where you’ll find the bags of pearl or pot barley you make soup with) are the seeds for wheat, aka wheat grass seeds aka cat grass seeds. Growing cat grass just became even more economical! Pick up a bag of wheat berries while you’re out grocery shopping at most well stocked grocery stores or order them online*.
If it turns out that your cat doesn’t like cat grass you can always turn leftover wheat berries into a tasty salad. In the summer I often make one very similar to this recipe, except I omit the garlic, onions and tomatoes, and use a bottled Italian style dressing.
But even if you decide to buy the tiny seed packets marketed as cat grass, it’s still half the price of buying a pot of cat grass at any of the pet stores in my area. Considering how easy and quick it is to grow, I can’t think of a good reason not to grow it myself.
Cat Grass Care
To keep the grass healthy and growing, water it as necessary, and give it light. I shuttle mine back under my grow lights for a day, every few days, to keep it healthy. When I haven’t done this it’s ok for probably a week, but it definitely doesn’t look as vibrant and healthy.
Once the grass gets to be about 6″ tall I give it a trim. It will continue to grow, but trimming it keeps it from flopping over and seems to stimulate more of the fresh growth that the cats seem to find most appealing.
Since my cats have all had extensive dental work and extractions (the perils of adopting cats that had a rough start in life), chewing off the growing grass can be a bit challenging for them. Because of this, I usually leave the trimmings out on a plate for a day and they enjoy being able to get a good mouthful of grass. And I have to say that in winter, I enjoy having the scent of freshly cut grass around for a little bit!
*Disclosure: some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.