Jul 30th, 2021

Plants Safe for Cats

I’ve spent endless time standing in the plant aisles at my local hardware store searching for plants safe for cats. When owning a cat, finding plants that are non-toxic to your pet can sometimes seem like an impossible task. However, we can help you find plants safe for cats, whether indoors or outdoors! People aren’t the only ones who can appreciate gardens, cats enjoy them too! Especially for indoor cats, gardens can be a great source of environmental enrichment. 

Cat-Safe Soil

When gardening with your cat, be sure to use organic soil. Avoid pesticides and products with herbicides. Even when organic, these products can be harmful to your pet if licked off. 

Natalie's cat, Bug, stands beside some potted herbs.

My cat, Bug, stands beside potted basil on my patio.

Good Things to Plant

With the mention of cats and plants, many people would think of a popular cat favorite: catnip, or Nepeta cataria. A member of the mint family, catnip will grow indoors or outdoors. I recommend using a container because like mint, the plant can grow aggressively if not contained. There are many ways to create beautiful and fun containers. If catnip growing inside, it’s best to rotate two containers between inside and outside because the plant requires bright high levels of sunlight. If grown outdoors, the plant grows tiny white blooms, dies back in the winter and returns in the spring.

Grasses grown from oats, wheat berries, and barley grass are also popular favorites for cats to snack on. These can be used as “cat grass” and a dietary supplement for your cat. These grasses can also serve as a safe alternative to your cat chewing on your other prized house plants. It’s best to plant the seeds after the last frost, in average soil and in full sun. The seeds require about six hours of sunlight per day and will germinate after about two weeks. 

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is another plant that you can plant for your feline. While there aren’t any health benefits with the herb, your cat will likely love to sniff, chew and roll in the plant. It’s best to plant basil where it can get lots of sunshine and while temperatures are warm — summer is great!  In Virginia, basil is an annual and will die off with the first frost, so you may want to plan on this being a seasonal treat for your kitty. 

Natalie's cat, Bug, sniffs some potted basil

Bug sniffing basil.

Finally, if you have a cat that doesn’t love the smell of catnip, cat thyme (Teucrium marum L.) is a great option for summer. Again, keep in mind that cat thyme, is only hardy in zones 8-11, so you’ll need to plant it as an annual here. The plant is not actually in the thyme but instead is a type of germander. You may want to plant cat thyme a distance from your house, as the musky odor so appealing to your cat, may not be quite as appealing to you. You’ll want to plant it in dry soil in full sun — it won’t grow in the shade. Most gardeners grow from cuttings, but many have the best luck growing from seeds in a cold frame after the last frost. Make sure to keep your cat away until the plant has established! Even then, your cat may tear this one to bits, eventually. 

Not only are these plants cat-safe, but offer a number of reasons for you and your cat to love them. There’s no better way to pamper your pet than a taste of the outdoors in a way that’s healthy to them!

About Natalie Hale

Natalie is a junior at VCU majoring in Mass Communication with a focus in Public Relations and minoring in Art History. Plants and herbalism are two topics that she is passionate about. She currently owns 28 plants and counting!

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