Couch Grass is a natural Cat Grass
Cat on Couch (Photo: Public Domain)
If you are a cat owner you have probably seen your cat eating grass, and you may already know that they do this because it is a natural medicine. Many shops sell "Cat Grass" as seeds but this is not the type that many cats will choose if given a choice, though it serves the same purpose and helps with digestive problems. Cat Grass seeds are usually wheat or rye. Couch grass is a common weed that many cats, and dogs too, will graze on if they find it in the garden.
I once had a cat called Tiggy who was fussy. She would only accept proper couch grass and turned her nose up, literally, at commercially available Cat Grass. I tried growing these grass seeds available from the stores a few times but she would not touch this type of grass, however, couch grass she would grab at in her eagerness. Several times when she was poorly I saw her get better fast after eating couch grass. I used to grow it in pots so she had a supply available.
Couch Grass (Elytrigia repens) Photo: Public Domain
Couch grass (Agropyron repens) is also known to botanists as Elytrigia repens and Elymus repens, and humans also call it quick grass, quitch grass, dog grass, witchgrass and quackgrass. Whatever you call the plant, it is a very useful medicinal herb, even though most gardeners hate it.
Couch grass rhizomes have anti-microbial properties, as well as being anti-inflammatory, astringent and a mild diuretic. The leaf blades have these properties too and are the parts that cats and dogs will eat.
Kweek Elytrigia repens (Photo: Rasbak)
Couch grass is native to Europe, Asia and northwest Africa but is found all around the world today and is considered an invasive weed. It spreads rapidly via its creeping rhizomes and will rapidly regenerate from broken bits of these rhizomes left in the ground. Bad news for gardeners but great news for cats and dogs with a bad tummy! It is quite amazing to see how our pets instinctively know the natural herbal medicine this grass species is.
When cats and dogs eat couch grass they will frequently vomit it back up but this is no cause for concern. The animals are trying to cleanse their digestive systems. They know what is best for them, but not always, because in the house and deprived of couch grass, they will often try eating toxic houseplants, and some of these are very poisonous to them.
Couch grass is good for us too. The rhizomes have been used as a traditional Austrian remedy for fever, taken as a tea, syrup or in the form of a maceration in cold water. As a medicine for humans, couch grass has been used to treat gout, rheumatism, urinary tract problems, bladder and kidney disorders and skin conditions.
Couch grass is the food-plant for the caterpillars of several moths and butterflies, and the seeds are eaten by many small birds, including species of finch and bunting. It is not just cats and dogs that like couch grass!