Lions are some of the most feared carnivores you can ever find in the wild. Their numbers and hunting prowess can send even the largest prey running for their lives.
However, despite their almost insatiable hunger for meat, the lion can sometimes be seen munching on some green grass. Could it be possible that this meat-lover also has a taste for greens?
Can Lions Eat Grass?
On occasion, lions can be seen eating grass. However, this does not make this animal a herbivore or omnivore in any way.
Much like how humans can sometimes consume herbs and other medicinal plants to cure remedies, lions also consume grass to resolve a couple of issues with their bodies.
Specifically, these blades of grass can act as either laxatives or emetics that allow the lion to purge itself of undigested or unwanted items and soothe their disturbed stomachs.
Grass can also function as a supplement that provides certain levels of nutrition and aids in certain body functions.
Why do Lions Eat Grass?
Lions eat grass to soothe bellyaches or resolve other issues with their digestive systems while receiving some nutrients along the way.
As carnivores, the lion’s diet consists only of meat. In fact, they can consume up to 7 kg or over 15 pounds of meat in one day.
While this may be enough to nourish the lion and maintain its energy levels, a diet consisting only of meat lacks certain nutrients that can enable specific body processes to function as they should — specifically, fiber and folic acid.
Fiber is a nutrient that cannot be broken down into digestible molecules. However, it serves as terrific modulators of the body’s digestive system. It is usually derived from plant sources such as grains and beans.
Since meat lacks fiber content, the lion has to turn to other sources such as grass to obtain the necessary fiber to help them ease stomachaches brought on by the build-up of stomach acids.
Fiber can also aid in the lion’s ability to excrete waste products and other items that their body cannot digest.
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is an essential nutrient that serves many vital functions in the body.
This vitamin is necessary for the development and protection of cells. Paired with vitamin B12, this vitamin is responsible for forming DNA, maintaining iron functions, and regulating the oxygen flow in the bloodstream through the red blood cells.
This vitamin can be found in meat, but lions tend to get most of their folic acid from grass. Lions extract this vitamin by chewing on the grass and releasing the grass’ juice which contains the folic acid this big cat needs.
Excretion of Indigestible items
Sometimes the lion can consume something and decide that it is a bad idea. It can then eat grass to induce vomiting to be rid of the thing it last consumed.
Not everything the lion consumes can be broken down in the body. Also, not everything that the lion eats is meant to be eaten by this large cat.
This includes fur during grooming as well as feathers, fur, and other parts of their prey that can be swallowed with the meat.
The lion can also consume food that doesn’t sit well and upsets this big cat’s stomach.
To rid its stomach of these nuisances, the lion can opt to consume grass and take advantage of its emetic properties and induce vomiting.
Vomiting acts as a form of cleansing of the lion’s stomach and allows it to focus on digesting and absorbing things that can nourish the lion.
Lions are not the only big cats that eat grass. Ordinary housecats and tigers have also been documented to take in a mouthful of grass blade every now and then.
Can Lions Survive on Grass?
Lions cannot survive on a diet of sole grass. This is because these big cats are obligate carnivores. This means that their body can only obtain the necessary nutrients for survival from meat.
Obligate carnivores, sometimes referred to as “true” carnivores, lack the biological capacity to digest and obtain nutrients from plants such as grass.
Instead, they are built to consume and digest large amounts of animal flesh to survive.
This is evident in the way lions “consume” grass. After munching on the grass, the lion can be seen throwing it up shortly after because their bodies are not equipped to break down grass for digestion.
Not all carnivores are obligate carnivores but members of the family Felidae, from small household cats to the kings of the wild, are.
While it definitely cannot sustain the king of beasts, the grass is said to assist in their ability to tide away their hunger a little.
How Often Do Lions Eat Grass?
Lions are not always seen grazing in fields like herbivores are. No, these wild cats only eat blades of grass when they feel it is necessary.
As said, grass acts more like a supplement or medicine to these carnivores. Thus, these big cats will only consume it when it experiences indigestion, stomach issues, or other situations that they may feel warrant a nice grass cleanse.
Lions don’t need to eat much grass either. Despite their large size, these big cats only need a small amount of grass to achieve what they want to achieve.
Lions will consume small amounts of grass from time to time to settle upset stomachs, gain much-needed nutrients, or cleanse their stomachs of unwanted items.
However, despite the great aid, these leafy greens provide these big cats, lions cannot survive on a diet of grass. The king of beasts still requires meat to survive — and lots of it.