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How Does My Cat Garden Grow?

Part 1: Gardening for Cats' Safety and Pleasure

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cat hiding in grass

Tuffy loves his "salad bar"

C. Gamino
Spring is just around the corner and it's the time of year when our thoughts turn to the outdoors, as tender leaves emerge on deciduous trees, and timid slips of flower shoots peek through the ground, in gay array.Gardeners generally fall into two categories: those who enjoy watching their cats sniffing and luxuriating in the greenery, and those who would be happiest if cats just gave their gardens a wide berth. We'll try to address both those needs, but first, a word from our sponsor:

    Be a Considerate Cat Owner
    If your cat is an indoor-outdoor cat, please be sure he is adequately supervised when outdoors. Although he may be a perfect gentleman in your own yard, he may be using your neighbor's strawberry patch as his outdoor litter-box. There are a number of things you can do to keep him happily (and safely) esconced within your own boundaries, as discussed in the article, "The Outdoor Cat."

How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm?

Once your kitty gets a load of his very own cat garden, he won't have the urge to stray 'n' spray. Your first assignment is to give him his very own outdoor 'litter box.' It can be an official box with a 2" x 6" frame, or simply some sand dumped in a remote corner where he can have privacy en toilette. If you choose a framed box, lay a loose wire screen down and cover it with about 4 inches of sand. It will make it easier for sifting and disposing of solid matter.

Next, you'll want to plant some Kitty Grass for Boots to munch on-- his very own salad bar. Tasty, and much safer than allowing him to eat lawn grass which may have been sprayed with various insecticides and/or weed killers. You can purchase ready-made trays of wheat grass in health food stores and some pet outlets. Cattail Gardens offers both wheat and oat-grass kits on their web site, both in interesting containers, and in plain packages of seed.

Catnip: Appetizer or Dessert?

A cat's garden would not be a garden without catnip. Plants are generally available in 3" pots in nurseries, and catnip is also available by seed. Look for "catnip" (Nepeta cataria) or "cat mint". In the U.K. there is a tradition that catnip grown from seed will not be "used" quite as roughly by your cats, presumably because the chemical Nepetalactone, which is the substance that drives cats crazy, is released by crushing or handling (bruising) the plants. Theoretically then, the plants grown from seed will not have been handled as much. If you decide to use transplants, you might want to cover them with netting to give them time to grow and strengthen before turning kitty loose. Like most plants, they will grow bushier and stronger if you pinch out the tips a couple of times while growing. You can dry the "pinchings" for your kitty's indoor toys.

Catnip is a member of the mint family and has a mint-like scent. It has been widely used in the past as a tea for humans, and as such, is said to have an analgesic or sedative effect.

A sidebar link to the great U.K. Moggies web site shows a list of plants safe for cats. You may find plants on this list that your own kitty will enjoy, and certainly you'll discover a number of plants or shrubs that will be safe for your Spring Garden.

Other Plants Attractive to Cats
These are only from personal experience, from observing my cats rolling around like fools in these plants.
Tip: Many plant nurseries have resident cats. If your local nursery has a cat, try to find out what plants that cat prefers.

  • Creeping Rosemary
  • Alyssium
  • Heather

The "Cat Grass" photo is © C. Gamino, and used with permission. Bubba's photo is from my own personal files and © Franny Syufy licensed to About.com Inc.

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