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Cats are known to nibble on plants occasionally. Most veterinarians attribute this behavior to feline curiosity, nutritional deficiency, or a combination of both.
So, if you’re a proud cat owner and also have bamboo plants growing in your backyard, it’s only a matter of time before you find your cat snacking on them. And like any pet parent in your situation, you’re bound to wonder – can cats eat bamboo or will these plants hurt my feline friend?
Read on as we uncover all the potential interactions between cats and bamboo.
Is Bamboo Toxic to Cats
Cats are obligate carnivores. Their diet should comprise mostly of animal-derived foods, particularly protein-rich products like lean meat.
But the fact that cats require more animal protein in their diet than any nutrient doesn’t mean they’ll drop dead upon ingesting greens. On the contrary, numerous fruits and vegetables have proven incredibly useful in supplementing a cat’s nutritional requirements.
Cats mostly require plants to ease indigestion. That’s precisely why you’ll usually find these adorable furballs nibbling on grass blades or the leaves of your indoor plants.
However, it behooves every pet parent to establish the safety of a plant for cats before allowing their furry housemates to eat it. Just as many herbs are safe and nutritionally beneficial to cats, others are inherently toxic and can easily result in medical emergencies.
So, where does all these leave bamboo?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), bamboo is non-toxic to cats. But this only applies to a few bamboo varieties. Some bamboo species are highly poisonous to cats and dogs.
Besides, there are numerous plants with the word ‘bamboo’ in their name but which aren’t considered true bamboo. The toxicity of such plants for cats also depends on the specific herb you’re dealing with.
Bamboo, also known as true bamboo or safe bamboo, is an evergreen plant in the Bambusoideae family known for its hollow stem and remarkably fast growth rate. Some bamboo species can grow to about 3 feet in 24 hours, enough to make it the world’s fastest growing herb.
Bamboo also enjoys a reputation for sturdiness. That explains its extensive usage in the construction industry. Besides, the plant is food for numerous animal species. The giant panda, for instance, feeds exclusively on bamboo.
How Might True Bamboo Benefit Your Cat?
True bamboo is 22% protein.
As already indicated, protein is the primary nutrient that cats need in their diets. And while they usually get it from animal products, it doesn’t hurt to feed them protein-rich plants like bamboo once in a while.
Bamboo is also high in dietary fiber.
Fiber is essential in easing constipation due to its stool-bulking effects. The nutrient can also nourish your cat’s gut microbiome, a phenomenon known to guard against certain digestive and metabolic disorders.
You might also consider supplementing your cat’s diet with fiber-rich foods like true bamboo as a way of preventing unhealthy weight gain. When consumed, fiber creates feelings of satiation for longer. This helps reduce appetite and food cravings, thereby averting weight gain resulting from excess food consumption.
Do Cats Like Bamboo?
Bamboo is undoubtedly one of the cutest plants. Their sheer height and hollow stems are sure to pique the interest of most cats. Your cat might also fall in love with the texture and taste of true bamboo.
However, remember that cats are created differently. Whether your feline housemate will display a high proclivity for snacking on bamboo plants depends on whether he’s a bush dweller or tree dweller.
Bush-dwelling cats usually have a laid-back personality whereas tree dwellers are more outgoing and prefer to spend their time perched in elevated heights, such as kitchen counters and tree tops. The latter category is more likely to fall in love with bamboo plants.
In addition to personality, a cat’s propensity for eating bamboo (or plants in general) might suggest an underlying behavioral disorder, such as pica. Pica is an eating condition that causes a cat to eat anything he can get into his mouth. That includes totally inedible stuff like rock pellets and metal chips.
Pica is generally common in kittens and usually results from heredity, stress, boredom, hunger, and underlying obsessive disorders. However, the condition can affect any cat regardless of age, family history, or lifestyle.
Plants With ‘Bamboo’ In Their Name That Are Safe For Cats
Besides true bamboo, the following are various plant species with the word ‘bamboo’ in their name that cats can safely eat;
1. Scientific Name: Phyllostachys aurea
Common Names: Bamboo, Golden Bamboo, and Fishpole Bamboo
Appearance: Produces egg-shaped leaves that come with a pointed tip
2. Scientific Name: Chamaedorea elegans
Common Names: Bamboo Palm, Dwarf Palm, Reed Palm, Parlor Palm, Miniature Fish-tail, and Good Luck Palm
Appearance: Produces numerous light green fronds
3. Scientific Name: Smilax walteria
Common Names: Red Berried Bamboo and Red Berried Greenbrier
Appearance: Produces green foliage and red berries
4. Scientific Name: Smilax laurifolia
Common Names: Bamboo Vine, Blaspheme Vine, and Laurel-leaved Greenbrier
Appearance: Produces a woody, dark green vine
Plants With ‘Bamboo’ In Their Name That Are Toxic To Cats
Despite identifying as ‘bamboo,’ you should never let your cat eat any of the following plants;
1. Scientific Name: Dracaena spp
Common Names: Dracaena, Dragon Tree, Money Tree, Lucky Bamboo, Corn Plant, Cornstalk Plant, Ribbon Plant, and Money Tree
Appearance: Produces sword-shaped, variegated leaves
2. Scientific Name: Nandina domestica
Common Names: Nandina, Sacred Bamboo, and Heavenly Bamboo
Appearance: Produces orange or red leaves and sometimes also berries
What Happens If A Cat Eats Toxic Bamboo Varieties?
There shouldn’t be immediate cause for alarm if your cat has only snacked on a few leaves of poisonous bamboo species or any toxic plant with the word ‘bamboo’ on its name. But in case of severe exposure, you can expect the following symptoms;
• Nausea and vomiting
• Abdominal cramping
• Dilated pupils
• Labored breathing
• Elevated heart rate
• Coma, which may eventually result in death
Your best bet is to take your cat for a medical checkup as soon as he displays any of the above symptoms. Remember to carry a few leaves of the eaten plant. This will help with the diagnosis and determine the right treatment course.
True bamboo is generally non-toxic to cats. But it depends on the specific bamboo variety in your backyard.
Also, note that there are numerous plants that identify as ‘bamboo’ but which aren’t true bamboo. Some of these herbs could be poisonous to your feline friend.
The best way to minimize the risks of adverse interactions with bamboo is to start by cultivating pet-safe bamboo varieties. Also, ensure your cat is well-fed and adequately stimulated to avert eating disorders triggered by hunger and boredom.