Jan 11, 2012

Gardening For A Healthier Cat: Cat Grass, Valerian, and More



Mr Cat eating grass last winter
In the winter we always plant Mr Cat cat grass, since he loves to eat grass in our backyard (I know he's spoiled).  He has been much better  about eating his grass this year.  He use to destroy all the grass by pulling the roots out, but not this year.  Now he just grazes it a little after eating.  It's like he's eating his salad with his meal!  I started thinking about the health benefits of eating grass and did some research and was impressed with what I found.  I thought I'd share my discoveries about cat grass along with other cool plants that might help your kitty.
Maru the cat
What is Cat Grass Anyway?
While cats are true carnivores, they do like grass.  Most people assume it's to help their digestive tract which results usually in puking.  Usually the first thing people say when the subject of cat grass comes up in my personal conversations are "I'm scared to give any to my cat he'd probably just puke it up everywhere!"  While on occasion this may be true, usually cats crave grass because it is packed full of nutrition they usually don't get elsewhere.

Cat grass is either wheat or oat grasses.  Both of which we know are healthy for us (think oatmeal and wheat grass juice).  Why wouldn't it be healthy fur or furry friends too?
Maru the cat
Nutritional Benefits of Cat Grass
  • Wheat grass boasts a concentrated amount of nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium, amino acids, chlorophyll, enzymes and vitamins A, C and E.  Wheat grass is believed to improve immunity, kill bacteria and eliminate waste. However, there are few research studies on wheat grass, so evidence is inconclusive.
  • Green oat grass has several vitamins, chlorophyll, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, enzymes.
  • adds roughage (fiber) to their diet 
  • Chlorophyll is a natural substance that makes grass green.  Chlorophyll is nature's magic substance. Life on this planet depends upon it as much as oxygen. Chlorophyll supports all plant life, it is considered the blood of a plant. It is similar in its structure to our own hemoglobin.   
Maru the cat again what can I say he's funny!

Other Benefits of Cat Grass

  • Helps to eliminate hairballs.
  • Satisfies your cat's craving for greens and can help prevent them from nibbling on toxic plants.
  • Purify the air you and your kitty breath.  All plants are know to help improve air quality.
Mr cat's grain free dry food and cat grass
After researching this I decided to keep his grass dish next to his food dish year round.  I hope this will encourage you to do the same if you're not already.  

Valerian (for cats and dogs)
How to grow Valerian: Barbara Pleasant
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a natural way to treat anxiety and insomnia, in humans.  Not so for Mr Wiskers. Valerian works as a stimulant on cats.  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. Make sure to give it to you pet only in the plant form (not liquid). 

Growing Valerian
In the garden, this hardy perennial is an aggressive self seeder, so be sure to plant either in a container or part of the garden you don't mind being taken over.  

Cat Nip (Nepeta cataria)
Mr Cat and our catnip harvest
This relaxing herb is a member of the mint family and grows in a  perennial manner, with hairy, branching and erect stems growing 3-5 feet in height.  It can be invasive so plant accordingly! 

Our Experience Growing Catnip
We planted catnip in our existing flower bed in the front of our house by our shrubs.  They did great and attract lots of kitty friends for Mr cat (which he loves he so wants a buddy)!  It was more tolerant of frost than I expected, which is great gardening in zone 4.  We also plan to add strawberries to this bed in spring.  Since both are hardy perennial aggressive self propagators, low maintenance, and actually attractive.  Strawberries are attractive low plants that act as mulch while catnip is more like a low bush with flowers that attract beneficial insects.  If you are worried about catnip taking over your garden you can always plant it in a container.  Our cat only likes it after it's dehydrated.  Dried catnip retains is psychoactive powers for many months when stored in a cool, dry, dark place.

Cats Reaction to Catnip
Sources say that between 70-80 % of cats have a strong reaction to catnip.  The effect lasts up to 15 minutes, after which cats lose interest in the herb for at least an hour. Our cat loves it. One time I actually found him covered in catnip after he found his stash.  It was so funny!  Cats also vary in their reaction to catnip.  It can cause a cat to relax, sleepy, to roll around, or just act crazy.  Our cat just rolls around on his back a lot.  So much like valerian, cat nip can help your cats health depending on your cats reaction to it.  Obviously if your cat gets the crazies from it would be beneficial because it encourages them to exercise.  If it relaxes your cat it could be helpful if your cat has anxiety issues.  It doesn't hurt that they are eating plant matter as well.  I don't know if there is any nutritional benefit, but I would think it could be likely.  Also, if your cat is always scratching, and seems to have itchy skin, a catnip "tea bath" can soothe kitty’s skin.

Cat Nip's not Just For Cats!  It has healing qualities for humans too!
(from I Love India)
  • Catnip tea promotes sweating that aids in bringing down fevers and in the treatment of flu and cold, as it acts as a decongestant.
  • It is powerful herb that helps in relieving pain and cramps in women during menstrual cycle. Moreover, it aids in regulating menstrual cycle as well.
  • The tea is quite effective in treating severe migraines and has calming & relaxing effect that brings relief from anxiety, nervousness, restlessness and tension.
  • Catnip tea helps in flushing out toxins from the body and produces carminative to support digestive system, as it is known for its properties of mild diaphoretic.
  • Chewing fresh leaves of catnip is known to bring relief from toothaches and stomach aches. In addition, the herb was also given to babies when teething is painful.
  • The tea is a boon for individuals suffering from bronchitis and asthma, as it is both mild and safe.
  • It can be used as eyewash to reduce inflammation and allergies that cause bloodshot eyes. Along with this, the leaves can be boiled in water that can be strained and used to rinse hair for scalp irritations.
  • Catnip tea effectively fights against infection, constipation and inflammatory bowel conditions.
  • The disinfectant properties of the tea help in curing infected skin problems, abrasions and cuts, allergies, insect bites and bleeding.
  • It is known to cure morning sickness in women and prevent miscarriage and pre-mature birth as well. 

What plants do your cats like?  I'd love to here your comments!

For more ideas of plants for cats, check out some of my sources:
Ten Herbs to Improve Your Cats Health by Pet MD
Great Plants For Cats Grow by Grow Veg.com




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7 comments:

  1. Your cat is hilarious!! One of my cats always munches on my houseplants, then pukes them up everywhere. :-) I tried cat grass, but he completely ignored it. Maybe I should try again. As for catnip, I put it in a pot several years ago and it has been a major weed in my yard and gardens ever since. My cats could care less about it, they prefer the store bought stuff. Ugh, my cats are totally spoiled too!! LOL!

    Amy (MN z4)

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    1. Yes Mr Cat is very funny. His latest thing is to be pulled in boxes (he loves rides and being pulled), I'm planning on making him a wagon that's kitty size soon (I'll post when I do. You can see video of him on his cat mat I made him here (it's pretty funny): http://ohyoucraftygal.blogspot.com/2011/08/make-fun-cat-mat-toy.html He's beyond spoiled too. Have you given catnip to your cats dehydrated? I thought my cat would go bonkers for it fresh but had no interest in it until I dehydrated it. I wrote a posting on dehydrating cat nip http://theurbanhomestaed.blogspot.com/2011/09/catnip-harvest-time-does-dehydrating.html

      Thanks for the comment Amy!

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    2. Cute video! Cats are funny aren't they. Wow, you have two blogs!?! I have a hard enough time keeping up with one blog. :-)

      I haven't tried using a dehydrator to dry it, but I let it dry out on the counter for a few days. Then crumpled it up like the stuff you buy. What type of dehydrator do you have? I've been looking at them and trying to decide which one to buy.

      Amy

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    3. I do keep busy! I started Oh Crafty Gal as a place to keep sewing info I wanted to share with my students and it grew from there.

      I got mine second hand from my mother in law. She had tried selling it at a garage sale and it never sold, so she gave it to us. It's an old American Harvest Snackmaster Jr Dehydrator. So you could try garage sales or you could actually just use your oven or a toaster oven. I have used my oven successfully for making a raw pie crust and no bake lemon macaroons http://theurbanhomestaed.blogspot.com/2011/10/simple-no-bake-lemon-coconut-macaroons.html#more no bake lemon macaroons

      I hope this link helps:
      http://rawfoodswitch.com/raw-food-equipment-reviews/dehydrate-raw-food-dehydrator

      I found it helpful to have our dehydrator at the beginning and end of the tomato harvest when you have just a few ripe every day.

      You could try to make a solar one, but for me that seems like to much work for me http://www.rootsimple.com/2008/10/build-solar-dehydrator.html

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  2. I have two cat mint plants - which are gorgeous and the cats love them. My cats are grass grazers too, but I don't have anything in the house for them in the winter. Maybe next year.

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    1. Cat grass is really easy to grow it's really the same as wheat grass, so just google wheat grass and you'll find tons of videos and articles on how to grow it or you can just buy wheat grass at your local health food store. I bought one this winter (as wheat grass at my local heath store) and my cat loved it and it actually lasted a long time (a few weeks). I figure he probably got extra nutrition and enjoyed it more than he would have a new toy or something (he usually enjoys boxes and bags more than toys anyways), Hope this helps Deborah!

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