Article and photo by Donna Iverson
Gardening with a cat or cats, as the case may be, can be a challenge. By nature, cats like to nibble your house plants and eye your freshly turned over garden bed as their personal litter box.
While most gardening articles are about how to keep cats out of your garden, this article is how to welcome them in.
Let's start with cat grass. A perennial native to North Africa, cat grass satisfies a cat's natural urge to chew grass. It acts as a digestive aid, helping them expel hairballs. In the wild, cats eat grass after eating their prey, expelling the parts that are indigestible.
Cat grass is easy to grow from seed or you can buy it ready made in the vegetable section of your local grocery store.
A pot or planter of cat grass, inside or outside, provides your kitty with their very own substitute garden. And they can nibble to their hearts' content. If yours is an indoor cat, the cat grass will give them a welcome taste of the outdoors. And not only that, the cat grass will benefit them health-wise, supplying Vitamin A and D. It also freshens their breath with its trace amounts of chlorophyll.
What exactly is cat grass? Depending on the mix, it can contain a variety of sprouted grains, like wheat, barley, oats and rye. Once full grown, cat grass only lasts three or four months, as it quickly becomes root bound. When it turns yellow, it's time to replant or buy a new pot. Either way, your cat will love it and also enjoy having their own garden plot.
Next up, catnip. Some call this cannabis for cats. A couple of plants in your garden, will have your cats rolling around in ecstasy, an effect that can last from a few minutes to an hour. Catnip is a member of the catmint family, which is its more ornamental cousin, producing beautiful lavender flowers. Both catnip and catmint attract butterflies and repel aphids, squash bugs and Japanese beetles. They are drought tolerant, deer resistant and have been naturalized in the US. Catmint can also become invasive.
While medicinal herb books recommend catnip tea for humans as having a sedative effect, others warn that it is unsafe for humans, especially those with acid reflux.
As for cats and houseplants, I grow herbs indoors and call them house plants. Cats don't like most herbs and will leave alone, especially lavender, thyme, lemon balm, rue, rosemary, and geranium. And even if cats nibble them, they will cause no harm. Of course, if you are someone trying to keep cats out of your garden, these same herbs will act as a deterrent, and your cat or the neighbors cat may just ignore your garden plants and focus on mousing.
Garden tip: a metal mailbox on the ground in your garden is a good place to store tools.