Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Garden For Your Cat?

Spring is officially here, and the internet is full of articles about gardening. Los Angeles Times had this piece about square foot gardening (a technique well suited for small city lots), and First Lady Michelle Obama has started planting in the White House garden again.

I know, I know, this sounds like it has NOTHING whatsoever to do with cats, but bear with me for a moment.

There is at least one thing you can plant in your garden for your cat that I can enthusiastically recommend: catnip. I have grown fresh catnip in the past for my own cats, and it was a BIG hit. This perfectly safe plant is a mild euphoric, but the effects last only about 15 minutes. Some cats don't react to it at all (it's genetic), but most really enjoy it. The dried organic catnip available at the pet store is fine, but fresh is a real treat. I have heard that transplanted catnip seedlings have a lot more of what cats like than plants grown from seed, so buy the young plants at a nursery.

One word of caution - if your cat goes outside, you may find that it rolls all over the catnip plant and eventually kills it with love (ask me how I know this), so a wire protective cage might be warranted. You can also grow it in a pot or planter.

Now on to something that you should NOT plant for your cat: "cat grass". This is a very coarse grass that can be highly irritating to the gastrointestinal tract and cause unnecessary vomiting and diarrhea. I also have seen at least one cat choking on the grass, and there are published reports of the grass blades being inhaled and causing very dangerous (and costly to treat) complications.

If you have a weird cat like my Eddie was, you may find it likes raw spinach. Bloomsdale Longstanding is a savoy or curly-leaf heirloom variety that is almost crunchy when fresh. Eddie would always try to steal a leaf or two when I picked it so I would let him chew on it (he was mostly playing and not eating). He never vomited any of it, so I consider it safe in small amounts.

Happy gardening! And if you wind up with too many tomatoes this summer, I am always available to take your oversupply.