My attempts this year to turn my black thumb even slightly green have been thwarted at every turn by my two cats, Willy and Zena. Earlier this spring, I tried to start some seeds inside. Things were going okay until I took the tops off my starter containers, to let them get a bit higher — and then every day, came home to find that a few more seedlings were now missing their tiny new leaves, courtesy of my feline household companions.
One of my cats, Zena, seems particularly fond of the seedlings of pepper plants, having now devoured bits from sweet pepper, habanero, chili, and jalapeno plants. I even bought a ready-to-plant habanero, thinking the thicker stems would turn her off, but no such luck. It’s funny because Willy is the cat who will actually steal our spicy foods when we’re not looking. I guess the greens themselves are mild tasting. My spicy lettuce greens do, however, have a kick — or did, before both cats decided they were just a particularly flavourful kind of cat grass. (I do regularly bring them cat grass, which they love — you can see them enjoying it in the photo above — so I may only have myself to blame for this problem.) They also made quick work of my cilantro and dill plants, though they were not interested in the lemon thyme and only mildly intrigued by the chocolate mint. If nothing else, this whole experience has proven that mint is a very hardy plant; mine has recovered from its mild cat attack nicely. The other herbs were not so lucky.
After checking to make sure none of these plants were actually bad for my cats, I wondered if they had some healthful properties for them that I was unaware of. It can’t just be that they would really like to eat some cilantro-covered Mexican food, right? As it turns out, there are many herbs that are not just safe for cats to eat, but also beneficial.
This article is a good starting point for those who want to give their kitties some herbal loving. For example, a catnip (above) bath can soothe your itchy cat’s skin, and peppermint might help keep fleas at bay. Cats also find licorice root tasty, and it can settle their stomachs.
As for my cats’ favourites, cilantro and dill are both reported to be safe for cats, though it seems that their only known benefit might be their delicious flavour. Apparently sweet pepper plants are also safe, though some ornamental peppers can be dangerous. If you’d rather your cats didn’t eat your plants, try sprinkling them with cayenne pepper or crushed red peppers to dissuade them. (I suspect this may not work with my vindaloo-loving kitty Willy.)
Photos by Terri Coles and time_anchor