Herbs not only offer culinary and medicinal benefits to humans but can also benefit our feline friends. If you’re a pet parent, you might be surprised to learn that there are several herbs that are safe for cats. Creating a cute little cat garden with these herbs can provide both visual appeal and potential health advantages. Let’s explore which herbs are safe for cats, and which ones should be avoided.
Herbs Safe for Cats
While the following herbs have generally been found to be safe for most cats, it’s still recommended to consult your veterinarian before introducing significant or regular usage.
Dried valerian root © 3268zauber / CC-BY-3.0
Valerian is a lesser-known alternative to catnip and silver vine. This pungent herb acts as a stimulant for cats, transforming even the laziest (read: chubbiest) cats into the feline equivalent of Richard Simmons. Consider adding valerian to your indoor cat garden. Interestingly, valerian is also used among humans for relaxation purposes.
Believe it or not, veterinarians sometimes suggest using witch hazel to treat feline acne. Simply dampen cotton balls with witch hazel and gently wipe your cat’s chin once or twice a day.
Echinacea © Diego Delso / CC-BY-3.0
Echinacea is known to help support good immune health in cats. Cats that experience recurrent upper respiratory infections may benefit from the use of echinacea.
According to PetMD, licorice root, a natural cortisone, can soothe itchy kitties with allergies, endocrine and digestive issues, as well as respiratory problems like colds. It also has a calming effect on mucus membranes.
Cat’s Claw and Dandelion Root
These aptly named herbs can help with feline allergies. Cat’s claw may also help modulate the immune system, while dandelion root can promote healthy digestion and liver detoxification.
Calendula © KENPEI / CC-BY-3.0
Calendula is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is often used topically. It has been observed that calendula can accelerate wound healing.
Goldenseal © Eric Hunt / CC-BY-4.0
Goldenseal is another herb that is used topically for its antibacterial properties. It can be used as a natural disinfectant on wounds.
These herbs may not offer specific medicinal benefits, but they are flavorful and safe for felines:
Catnip plant © Muffet / CC-BY-SA-2.0
Of course, we can’t forget about catnip! This member of the mint family contains an essential oil called nepetalactone that drives many cats wild. However, not all cats carry the catnip-reacting gene.
It’s important to note that if a cat consumes large quantities of catnip (or any garden mint variety), it may lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Always supervise the amount of loose catnip or catnip buds your cat is exposed to.
Herbs to Avoid
Garlic and Chives
Garlic and chives pose the greatest danger to cats. In fact, all members of the allium family—including onions, leeks, scallions, and shallots—are toxic to felines. Even a small ingestion of these herbs can damage a cat’s red blood cells, potentially leading to anemia or even death.
Marijuana plant © Jennifer Martin / CC-BY-4.0
While Bob Marley’s statement that “herb is the healing of a nation” may hold true for humans, it’s not the case for cats. Marijuana is toxic to both cats and dogs. Ingesting any form of the plant, including edibles and tinctures, may result in symptoms such as prolonged depression, vomiting, incoordination, sleepiness or excitation, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, seizure, coma, and rarely, death.
German chamomile © JanRehschuh / CC-BY-3.0
While many sites list chamomile as safe for cats, this is a dangerous generalization. Some types of chamomile are toxic to both cats and dogs. While German chamomile is considered safe, other variations, such as English, Garden, Roman, and True chamomile, can cause contact dermatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and allergic reactions in pets.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort © Leslie Seaton / CC-BY-2.0
If your cat spends time outdoors, avoid growing St. John’s Wort where they can consume it. Ingesting enough of this herb can cause photosensitization in pets, leading to ulcerative and exudative dermatitis.
Other Herbal Irritants
Avoid growing the following herbs in your cat garden, as they can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets:
Before trying any herbs safe for cats, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian. You can also check out the complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants and herbs for cats provided by ASPCA.
Remember, a healthy and happy cat is a cherished companion. So, go ahead and create a safe and appealing cat garden full of herbs that will provide both enjoyment and potential health benefits.