Plants that Cats Like
Not all cats like all the plants listed below. Cats are the oddballs of the animal world!
When planting for your cat garden here are a few suggestions.
Catnip easily tops the list of my cats favourite plants.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a well known cat favourite and stories abound about its effect on felines, not only house cats but some of the large cats.
I have a page on Catnip and Why cats like it.
It's easy to grow and strangely enough is mostly quite safe from cats until you pick a few leaves and bruise them to release the smell cats love. There are exceptions of course and some cats will dig it up.
Here are a couple of my cats checking out the catnip patch. It's early spring and few things are growing.
You can easily get seeds online but sometimes just throwing commercial catnip in the soil will give you enough seeds to get a few plants. It seems that catnip prefers to have seeds exposed to some light to germinate, so don't bury the seeds, just press them into the top of the soil and keep moist. It usually comes back for a second season and reseeds itself. A few plants dried in a hight place will supply my herd over the winter.
The nepetalactone contained in the nepeta (catmints) attaches to olfactory receptors of cats, usually causing temporary euphoria, sometimes it makes them playful or aggressive. Catmints also produce a mild sedative effect on humans and cats seem to want to sleep after they are finished rolling around and eating their catnip.
There is a large range of variations of the Catmints and Catnips. Some people classify catmint as (nepeta mussinii), at any rate the cats will love them.
Wee kittens don't like the smell and I've seen some being afraid of the smell.
Some of the cat mints have nicer flowers and more human friendly smell than others. Herb catalogues will be a source of these more exotic catnips. Your cat probably doesn't care.
Last summer I grew a large patch of catnip with the intention of drying it but when I came to cut it and dry it the catnip was so covered with honey bees and butterflies that I decided the bees needed it more than I did. I took enough for the cats and left the rest.
Not only does catnip attract cats but bees and butterflies like it's flowers and later the goldfinches will come for the seeds.
Catnip is also a mosquito repellent. I have tried it and it works well.Catnip Seeds 400 Seeds
Valerian is another cat favourite
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has a long established use for humans as a mild sedative, tranquilizer and anti depressant. It also has medicinal effects on cats. This is an interesting Paper looking at the research on Valerian. in PDF format.
Valerian is an easy to grow plant that prefers to be regularly fertilized. It is a heavy nitrogen-feeder. Valerian stinks but has nice white flowers that smell like cherries.
I planted a small Valerian plant and found it was very easy to grow. I live in 6B gardening area and it has no trouble coming back each year.
Old seeds can have poor germination rate, try and get fresh seeds. They also need some light to germinate so just push the seeds into the soil rather than burying them. I have a page on Requirement of seeds to successfully come up.
The bloom is an attractive white flower that has a striking cherry smell and which attracts bees and butterflies.
The effect of Valerian on cats is very similar to catnip. The leaves need to be crushed for interest to be shown by cats (mostly, some cats can't leave it alone). The roots have the oil that is of medicinal interest to humans and these will also attract cats.
Valerian is a pretty perennial but no one will say it smells nice except your cats. It has has a slight putrid, dirty sock smell. Strangely, Valerian is said to smells good to rats. I've not noticed any rats around the plant so that could be an old folk's tale. If you have cats it's not a problem. It used to be planted away from buildings to lure rats away from barns and houses. I don't think that works very well.
Valerian seeds are often not successful. Live plants are better if you can get them: these guys are from Amazon.com Live Valerian Plant - (Valeriana officinalis)Also these guys who get better reviews but are more expensive: Valerian Live Plant
Unlike catnip, VALERIAN has been studied quite a lot and has been shown to have some effect on sleep in humans, it also has a calming effect that has been used to decrease stress, lower blood pressure temporarily, and combat depression. Some research on cats show similar effects. The effects are not huge but seem to be there.
Cat thyme (Teucrium marum) Cat thyme is not a thyme! Its small, oval leaves give it a thyme-like look, its musty scent is very different from thyme, cat thyme is a mounding, tender perennial with grey-green leaves which bears fragrant pink flowers in summer.
Cat thyme, a native of the Western Mediterranean, and is too tender to survive in northern climate. In milder places it will live through the winter in the open, on a dry soil and in a good locations, when the frosts are not severe.
Some cats prefer it to catnip and will roll around in it and generally loose their cool.
It is not supposed to be difficult to grow in a warm well drained location and prefers lots of sun.
The plant Cactylis glomerata, is specifically named cat grass in the UK and is said to be favoured by kitties. Most grain grasses will be welcome however. I don't know what attracts cats to Cat Grass. If you know drop me an email.
All cats should have access to a bit of grass. In my garden I get a roll of sod and plant that on the cement with a bit of soil. Cats roll around in it and go there for snacks all summer long. In winter I grow a pot of birdseed and keep it by the food dish.
Wheat seeds will grow in pots with a bit of soil as will many other cereal grains. It is possible to just throw in some bird seed in the soil and it will come up as a mini salad bar.
Wheat seeds are often grown for cats. Here is a link to wheat grass seeds: Organic Wheat Grass Seeds, Cat Grass Seeds, 16 Ounces- 100% Organic Non GMO - Hard Red Wheat. Harvested in The US. Easy to Grow.
It's not clear why cats will eat grass. Speculation are many. Is it an aid to digestion providing fiber? Does it help get rid of hairballs? Is there some vitamin or mineral that cats like to supplement? Does it just taste good? Whatever the reason, cats like grass and will eat it and if they can roll around and sleep in it.
In the US and Canada, it's common to be able to get "cat grass" sprouting in a pot. I see it in the pet food store all the time. It's actually wheatgrass. Cats like it particularly in the winter when there is not much growing, or inside for cats that don't go out. If you want to grow it just plant a handful in a pot of soil. If you have the room plant it in a cat sized tray.
Spider plants have provided generations of house cats with a ready salad bar.
It is a pretty house plant, will grow happily in the garden and cats will choose it rather than other house plants. It's worth having around the house just for this reason.
A relatively small number of cats, about 30%, will respond to honeysuckle in much the same way as other cats will respond to catnip. To see if your cat is sensitive to it, honeysuckle toys can give them a sniff. It makes a lovely scented vine for humans as well.
Note that the seeds are not recommended for cats and can be poisonous. It is not reported to be deadly but keep the seeds away from cats that eat everything!
Even if your cat is not interested, it is a great favourite of hummingbirds. Plants (small): Mandarin Honeysuckle Vine - Perennial - Lonicera - 2.5" Pot
Photo by Shu Suehiro
Silver Vine, Actinidia polygama or Cat Powder is better know in Asia
In Japan Cat sticks or silver vine sticks are readily available for cats. The effect is similar to catnip because it has a chemical similar to nepetalactone.
The plants grows in stout vines up to 15 feet high. The fruit is similar to Kiwi. This plant has been used as an anti-inflammatory and for arthritis, and a recent study was done on its cancer fighting properties.
It is hardy in temperate regions and I have seen it for sale in specialized garden store as fruiting vines.
NOTE: The links to seeds and suppliers I have included are for convenience. I have not tested them myself. I try to get suppliers with good reputations but I don't necessarily recommend them personally.