Great Plants for Cats

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Valerian

Many gardeners count a cat or two among their favourite gardening companions, and this is certainly true at my house. A master at dispatching wayward moles, Mr. Leon’s presence probably deters other animal invaders as well. I once watched him chase off a deer fifty times his size! Such services are worthy of reward, which is easily done by growing a few great plants for cats.

Of the five plants for cats described below, the first two – catnip, or catmint and valerian – are so widely adapted and easy to grow that they are included in your Garden Planner plant options. The other cat plants here require special handling because of their limited cold hardiness, but depending on your climate, they may be great fits for your garden.

Cat in a garden
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria), also known as catmint, is the most popular cat-pleasing plant, because about 80 percent of cats react with glee to contact with nepetalactone, found in catnip leaves and stems. Responsive cats enjoy a psychosexual reaction that lasts up to 15 minutes, after which cats lose interest in the herb for at least an hour. Stems are as easy to dry as any other mint, and dried catnip retains is psychoactive powers for many months when stored in a cool, dry, dark place. A hardy perennial, catnip produces pink flower clusters all summer when the old ones are snipped off from time to time. This is great, because catnip flowers attract pollinators and other beneficial insects in droves. Even if I didn’t have a cat, I would grow catnip because the flowers attract so many bees and tiny parasitic wasps over an extended period of time.
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is sometimes called garden heliotrope because of the wonderful sweet vanilla fragrance of the flowers, which appear in early summer. Cats become excited when they encounter valerian roots, which contain a compound called actinidine that is thought to work as a semi-psychotic stimulant for cats. In the garden, this hardy perennial can shed seed to the point of weediness, so be prepared to cut back the old flowers to control reseeding. As long as they are not in the way, I allow volunteer seedlings to grow here and there, and dig and dry them in the fall. Valerian roots are best dried outdoors, because they give off a sour odour as they dry. I dry them by pinning them to a high clothesline, where my cat can’t reach them, and then store the dried roots in an airtight jar.
  • Cat thyme (Teucrium marum) is not a thyme but a germander, a group of fragrant herbs that grows best when given fertile soil, full sun, and great drainage. Cat thyme can grow to two feet (60 cm) when protected from cats with a wire cage, or you can keep a plant in a hanging basket your cats can’t reach. This is an especially good idea in cold climates where winter temperatures dip below about 10°F (-12°C), because you can move your container-grown cat thyme plant to an unheated garage or other protected spot through winter.
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is surprisingly attractive to cats, plus you can use the leaves in cooking. Set out a purchased specimen of this tropical plant in early summer, and allow it to grow in your warmest, sunniest spot until fall. Lemongrass plants are killed by frozen soil, and are best kept in a warm greenhouse through winter. Some gardeners do have luck digging the clump in fall and keeping it through winter indoors, but this is often an iffy proposition.
  • Cat grass (Dactylis glomerata) is more commonly known as orchard grass, and it is unusually attractive to cats. Try seeding a shallow tray and place it in a sunny windowsill or beneath florescent lights. When the plants are 3 inches (7 cm) tall, place the cat grass where your favourite feline can nibble and roll freely. Seeds of wheat, oats and rye also can be grown as cat grass.
Catnip
Catnip is a popular cat-pleasing plant

Of these five plants for cats, cat thyme and lemongrass are the ones most likely to be mangled by pleasure-seeking felines, so you may need to protect them with a kitty-proof wire cage. Sometimes catnip needs protection, too, though it has been my experience that cats wait to be given bruised sprigs of catnip. Until a leaf is crushed, cats don’t seem to know the plant is there. Live valerian plants are immune to cat attack, because the part they want – the root – is safe below ground.

By Barbara Pleasant

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Comments

 
"Plants For Cats...interesting...I am more familiar with cats being a 'nuisance" in gardens. The little darling's love to dig in the soft soil, spreading seeds, spraying and doing all the things cats do. Do you recommend growing these plants separately? (a garden for the cats)Thanks for this."
Gaia on Saturday 13 November 2010
"Thank you for this, I love my garden and also love my cat and neighbour's cats. They are all welcome in my garden, I already grow catnip and cat grass, will now try the others you mention. "
Gill Marchant on Monday 22 November 2010
"Suggestions on keeping pets and wild animals out of your garden area as I have experienced. I am an animal lover. Also, a plant lover ... I have found, even with wild animals when you do NOT want animals digging up your plants that has worked in southern Louisiana to either use white chunky rough rocks, I found at Lowes, or pine cones! They do NOT like walking on them, also hard for them to dig! They also can no longer use as a litter box! Which can become an unhealthy thing to humans. Racoons don't even like those rocks and pine cones. If you don't have pine trees of your own and they grow in your area, surely someone wouldn't mind if you asked to pick some of theirs, usually! Hope these ideas are of help to anyone ... We have one inside cat of 18yrs old now. Had another inside cat that passed away last yr that was 17 and 1/2 yrs old. At a time we'd had 1 outdoor cat, aside outside dog. Personally, I would keep seprate pets garden and people garden. Good luck to all of you in having such the Gods gift of having a loving furry added family member! :D"
Leslie on Sunday 11 March 2012
"this is so great i think and good for my lovely cat:)"
shaza on Thursday 12 April 2012
"this is what I did to keep stray cats out of my flower beds. I looked on the internet to see what plants that cats did not like so I planted Coleus, which are very pretty, also known as the scardy cat plant. I also planted the herb rosemary which cats don't care for, and for good measure, I planted some cactus both the rough sticky kind and the succulunt ones which can stick you but dont have the needles growing out of them, it's the way that they are shaped. No cats all summer, and believe me I had a terrible problem with cats and cat poop during previous summers. "
Yvonne on Saturday 18 August 2012
"I am reading this from a different perspective. We are building a cat enclosure for our fids (Furry kIDS) and want something to plant INSIDE to keep them happy. Any suggestions along that score?"
Christina Willow on Saturday 22 September 2012
"Two of my fur-kids passed away recently and I have a brand new baby - a wonderfully devilish 6 month old. I am looking to create a "memorial garden" for my Belated two but allow it to be a fun place for my youngest. A shady spot, a bush to play hide and seek maybe, but especially something he can hide in (a tunnel system) If anyone has any ideas please email me : twilighter0210@aol.com"
Chaos's Mother on Saturday 13 July 2013
"How nice to see gardeners willing to find non-letal ways to deal with cats! I've had cats poisoned in the past so I appreciate it. I'm having an outdoor enclosure built to keep my cats from harms way so I came here looking for cat friendly plants for the enclosure. Great info. Thank you."
Deborah on Tuesday 27 August 2013
"My cat will kill for grass,, let US warn you,, if you decide to let her indulge in this practice ,if she starts a snease,,,she could have grass caught in her navel cavity, if it does not come out on its own it can cause infection, irritation,swelling, nose bleeds, and expensive vet bills to remove. we warned you,, weve been there! and we read many of the same stories of this same problem."
momacatz on Monday 16 September 2013
"ONE WAY TO INSURE SAFE GRASS EATTING IS TO FIND GRASS THAT IS SLIPPERY ON BOTH SIDES,SOME GRASS DOESNT SLIDE ON ONE SIDE,,SOUNDS STRANGE BUT GO FEEL YOUR GRASS BY RUNNING YOUR TWO FINGERS DOWN IN BOTH DIRECTIONS,,YOU WILL FIND SOME THAT IS EASY TO SWALLOW AND SOME CAN GET STUCK. ALSO HOLD IT TIGHT AND LET KITTY TAKE BITES FROM YOUR SHORT PINCHED PEICE,,, MY KITTY NOW WAITS FOR ME TO PICK IT AND PINCH IT SMALLER THAN ONE INCH FOR HER TO BITE OFF.HOLD IT TIGHT! LOL ,SHE WILL SIT AT THE GRASS POT AND LOOK AT ME TIL I HAVE IT READY,ONE LITTLE PEICE AT A TIME. THIS IS QUALITY LOVE TIME WITH YOUR ANGEL. ITS SO WORTH IT,,, TASTES BETTER IF MOM MAKES IT :)"
momacatz on Monday 16 September 2013
"Useful, but most info alreadyknown. I was searching for anyone who sells valerian plant with leaves, not pills, for cat, and an indoor plant. Am in UK, have not found any garden centre or Amazon or e-bay. I know valerian cannot be sold to public as a medication now, but hoped my kitty could be roused from the sofá."
C Graham on Sunday 3 July 2016

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