Eat Your Greens
What’s in your cat’s garden? A guide to plants cats love
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Cats are carnivores, but they have a green side, too. We often see them delicately nibbling on grasses, plants and blossoms. Sometimes they throw up their greenery, but more often than not, they seem to enjoy it simply for the taste and not because they’re trying to vomit on the carpet just for the pleasure of watching you clean it up.
Growing an indoor garden for house cats is a way to enhance their environment and bring the outdoors inside. And some plants have entertaining effects for cats and humans alike. Who doesn’t love watching cats under the influence of a hit of ’nip or silver vine? Here are five plants to try growing for your cat.
•Catnip. This is the most well-known of the plants cats love, but interestingly, not all cats respond to it. Approximately one-third are immune to the harmless “high” the plant brings. A member of the mint family, catnip has a stimulating effect caused by nepetalactone, a compound that mimics the scent of a cat’s sex pheromones. It’s no wonder that cats roll and yowl in response to it.
To grow catnip, fill one or more 4-inch pots with potting soil, plant 10 to 15 seeds in each pot, and water to moisten the soil. Store the pots in a warm, dark area for a few days until the plants begin to germinate. Place in a sunny spot and protect from feline predation until there’s enough for your cat to begin to nibble.
•Wheatgrass. Lots of people grow this vitamin-packed superfood for use in their smoothies and juices, but cats appreciate it, too, although they probably don’t care about the health benefits.
Put potting soil in a planting tray and top it with presoaked wheat berries, available at grocery stores or online. Store the wheat berries in the dark, at room temperature, and moisten them with water once or twice a day until they take root. Once wheatgrass is about an inch high, give it plenty of sunlight. Within a week, it will be ready for your cat to nosh on.
•Silver vine. This climbing vine has similar effects on felines as catnip. A study published in March 2017 found that nearly 80 percent of the domestic cats exposed to it responded to silver vine. Cats are usually given silver vine in powdered form, but they can be attracted to the plant, too.
Growing silver vine indoors is best done by placing it in a hanging basket — near your cat’s tall kitty condo if you have one — allowing the vines to dangle onto it. Prune as needed. If your cat has access to a catio, you could also train the vines onto a trellis or one of the surrounding walls. The fruit is edible by cats and humans alike.
•Lemongrass. If you love to cook or make cocktails, you are probably familiar with and fond of lemongrass, but did you know that cats like it, too? Simply purchase a plant and keep it in a warm, sunny spot for your cat’s sniffing and tasting pleasure. Be aware that lemongrass essential oil is toxic to cats, so if you keep that around, store it where your cat can’t get to it.
•Cat thyme. Not a true thyme, this odorous herb does best in good soil with full sun and plenty of drainage. Try growing it in a container large enough for your cat to roll around or nap in it, often their preferred ways of interacting with this plant. Cats also enjoy sniffing dried sprigs of the slow-growing plant. Consider placing it in a catio instead of indoors; while the odor is intoxicating to cats, it’s not so pleasant to humans.
PHOTO CAPTION: Cats love to nibble on grass and plants, so offer them some safe options.