It’s easy to grow a herb garden that your cat will love. And the best part is that herbs are actually super simple to keep alive, unlike that expensive - but short-lived - houseplant you got last year…
Some herbs are good for skin conditions, some for stomach upsets, and some are just good for giving kitty a good time (I’m looking at you, Valerian). I’ve put together a bunch that you can grow at home that will make for a happier, healthier cat.
As ever, book in with your vet to have a chat about any proposed additions to your cat’s diet or topical treatments. Just to be sure!
This is the fun part! You’ve got options here, in regard to where you’ll put your herb garden, how big it’s going to be, how you’re going to set it out. You can make this an aesthetically pleasing part of your kitchen, or a separate section of your garden. However you choose, there’s a few things you’ll need. First and foremost - pick your plants. Get some good seeds or seedlings from your local garden store. Then once you decide on a sunny location, choose your containers. You could have a range of herbs in one crate, or individual herbs in a bunch of smaller pots. Some say terracotta dries out too quickly, so perhaps opt for one with a glaze, to avoid this. Some good quality potting mix is next, to give the greenery a good start in life. Putting some gravel or stones in the bottom before the mix is added will help with drainage: herbs don’t like to get too soggy. And then plant the herbs, make sure they’re getting a good amount of sunlight daily (more than four hours), and water them every now and then. Easy!
So you’ve grown the darned things… now what!? Excellent question. Some of these herbs can be safely ingested as is, like catnip, but for others, you’ll need to take a few extra steps. To dry leaves or roots for later use, simply chop them up roughly, lay them on a baking tray then put them in the oven for a couple of hours on low. Once they’re properly dried, you can crush them into smaller pieces then store in a handy airtight container. If your chosen herb calls for fresh, just collect the leaves, flowers or roots as required and go from there.
Used in humans for its sedative effect, Valerian has the opposite effect on cats. This will have them at their most acrobatic and athletic. It’s especially useful as an alternative for the many cats out there who have no reaction to catnip. The root of this plant is the part you’ll use. You can prepare it as above, but it’s more effective fresh. Try putting a bit of chopped root inside a toy, or sprinkle a small amount on the ground for kitty to roll around in.
Chamomile is helpful for soothing irritated skin, just like it can soothe irritated nerves! Make a weak tea by steeping fresh leaves in hot water, then letting to cool and diluting further. This can be used as a bath, or as a spray. Combining chamomile with peppermint and rosemary can make for a natural insect repellent as well. Drinking chamomile tea can help calm an upset tummy too. Try adding just a teaspoon’s worth to a meaty-type broth to make a bit more appealing to a finicky feline!
These two are the dream team in helping calm allergies in cats, keeping them from feeling constantly itchy. As a bonus measure, cat’s claw can boost the immune system, while dandelion root helps with liver function. For these, use the dried root of the dandelion, and dried bark of the cat’s claw and prepare in a weak tea to be ingested.
Goldenseal is a natural disinfectant that won’t irritate kitty’s skin and is safe around the eyes. Make a tea from the dried root and apply as needed to wounds. There can be concerns with pregnant cats, so be careful if this applies to yours.
Last, but certainly not least, is the most legendary of cat herbs! If your cat is susceptible to the effects of catnip, it’ll have them blissing out for a while. Fresh or dried catnip leaves are effective in producing a short-lived high. Some may go a bit nuts, others may just chill, but it’s a pleasant experience whichever the case. These bouts of euphoria are great for calming anxious cats, or simply letting your cat have fun. Allowing them to let off steam if good for their sense of contentment and well-being. You can use catnip to help with training as well, so having some on hand at all times is a no-brainer. If neither catnip nor valerian work in this way for your cat, you can try cat thyme. Just be warned, it’s a bit more pungent than the others!
So now that you’re all read up on the which and the how, the rest is up to you! Get those thumbs green and give your kitty a healthy, holistic treat anytime of day. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so you can expand on your herb garden once you’ve got these basics mastered.