Plants that Cats Like
Not all cats like all the plants listed below. Cats are the oddballs of the animal world!
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.
You can easily get seeds online but I just take some commercial dried catnip and plant this at the base of various other plants. It usually has enough seeds to keep me well stocked. It sometimes comes back for a second season. 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 that I decided the bees needed it more than I did. I took enough for the cats and left the rest.
Valerian is another cat favourite
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has a long established use for humans as a mild sedative. It also has medicinal effects on cats. This is an interesting article on PDF format about valerian. It has a long history of use as a mild sedative, tranquilizer and anti depressant.
Valerian is said to be 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 cherrylike.
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 putrid, dirty sock smell. Strangely, Valerian also smells good to rats. If you have cats it's not a problem. It has been planted away from buildings to lure rats away from barns and houses.
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.
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.
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!
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.