Winter can be hard when you’re an adventure cat that hates the cold. It can sure get boring for a Kitty used to being able to go out on a leash and nibble the grass and smell the flowers that are now buried under snow. Even exclusively indoor cats can get cabin fever. Gone are the birds, butterflies, and chipmunks Kitty is used to watching out the windows. Try enriching his indoor life by growing a cute little cat-friendly herb garden. If you’re lucky, he might share the results.
Which Herbs Are Safe For Cats?
Any good cat garden must include catnip of course. If Kitty can be convinced to leave the plant alone until it flowers, he will love the buds and blooms. I’ve rarely been able to keep my cats out of the catnip to get it to that point.
Consider adding valerian in addition to catnip. While it is calming to us, it has the reverse effect on Kitty. Some cats that aren’t genetically programmed to respond to catnip do react to valerian.
Herbs you regularly use in cooking can also enrich Kitty’s palate. Obviously your obligate carnivore cat doesn’t need the herbs in his diet, but he will enjoy a nibble. They provide micronutrients and health benefits as well.
These herbs are generally considered safe for cats to nibble:
- Lemon Verbena
Definitely skip anything in the onion/garlic family. They cause damage to Kitty’s liver. Oregano, bay, peppermint, and tarragon are all likely to cause vomiting and diarrhea. That’s not the result we are looking for.
Herbs with Health Benefits for Your Cat:
Several herbs that are safe to grow around cats have benefits for Kitty’s health. He can nibble off the plant, but most of these cat-safe herbs are more effective as tinctures, teas, and topical rinses.
- German Chamomile (Be sure to get the right plants – English chamomile is toxic): Calming for a nervous kitty. Helpful for digestive upset. Also a go-to for aiding a kitty with goopy eyes.
- Calendula: Soothing topical for irritated skin.
- Licorice Root: Cats seem to like the taste of licorice. It is anti-inflammatory and can help soothe allergies, endocrine and digestive issues, and respiratory problems. Also can help arthritic kitties.
- Cat’s Claw: healthy digestion and liver detoxification
- Dandelion Root: immune system booster
- Goldenseal: made into tinctures and teas, Goldenseal is soothing for wounds, allergies, and skin infections. Safe for use around Kitty’s eyes as well.
Don’t stress if Kitty helps himself to the sunflower and bean sprouts you love in your salad. These microgreens are tasty and pack a nutritional punch for you. It definitely won’t hurt Kitty to enjoy them alongside you.
Try sprouting the top of that carrot you threw in your soup pot and let Kitty munch on the fronds. He might not like the carrots themselves, but he will enjoy the leaves.
Cat grass should be another staple of your cat’s herb garden. You might not want to share in that part. But a mix of grasses will please Kitty. Typical “cat grass” is a wheat, barley or rye grass, or sometimes a mix of all of them.
Grass is a source of fiber and can help improve digestion. I’m sure you know that nibbling grass can help Kitty expel hairballs. The most common cat grass also gives Kitty a boost of nutrients as well. Wheat grass provides Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Niacin, Manganese, Zinc, B6, Pantothenic Acid, and Folic Acid.
Alfalfa and oats are other grasses that provide micronutrients and help digestion.
Lemongrass is often a favorite of cats. It serves a variety of healthy purposes. It is antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and antiparasitic, and improves digestion.
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How to Grow Cat-Friendly Herbs
To start your indoor cat-friendly herb garden off on the right foot and to keep it thriving:
- Use a heavy container. Big enough your furbaby can’t send it flying when he’s snacking.
- Put some gravel or small pebbles in the bottom for drainage. You don’t want your little plants to drown.
- Fill your container ¾ full of loose, preferably organic, potting soil.
- Sprinkle your chosen seeds evenly and cover with ¼-inch of soil.
- Make a little greenhouse by covering the container loosely with clear plastic, like a cling wrap. Keep it at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. Water it with a spray bottle when the soil is dry. Don’t over water.
- When sprouts start appearing in a few days, remove your covering and move the pot to a sunny spot. Don’t let Kitty at it too soon. Continue to water as the soil feels dry to the touch.
- Offer to your cat when it’s approximately 3 to 4 inches tall.
- Try planting several pots at once in rotation a couple weeks apart. As the grass wilts or gets chewed down in one, give Kitty a new pot to work on while you replant the original.
- For a more all-in-one experience, try a self-watering planter that comes with a growing medium included.
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Problems with Cat-Friendly Herb Gardens
Be careful your cat-friendly herb garden doesn’t get moldy. If your indoor herb garden suffers this fate, toss the plant and start over.
Don’t keep plants that are harmful to cats in your home if you are also growing a cat herb garden. Kitty won’t know what is there for his nibbling pleasure and what is not.
A cat-friendly herb garden can help relieve boredom and frustration for your Kitty while adding some health benefits to you both. Read our post here for more ideas on using plants to enrich your indoor kitty’s life. Build Kitty a playground and add the herbs to it for the ultimate environmental enrichment experience.