Catnip Isn't the Only Cat-Happy Herb
A member of the mint family, catnip is an aromatic herb that most cats love to rub and roll in. Catnip contains the feline attractant nepetalactone, which induces euphoria, causing a soothing effect when eaten or a stimulating reaction when sniffed. It enhances playtime and relieves stress.
For the one-third of cats who aren’t turned on by catnip, they may prefer herbs like valerian, silver vine or cat thyme (a germander, not actually in the thyme family). There are several other cat-friendly herbs, from chamomile to wheat grass, for a variety of responses both behavioral and medicinal. Use as a tea, a bath or spritz a solution, or sprinkle on food and hear your cat purr as ailments vanish.
Like humans who use naturopathic remedies, cats feel the healing effects of herbs. Conditions that herbs can treat cats for include:
- Boosting the immune system
- Healing skin infections and wounds
- Stimulating appetite and digestion aid
- Reducing inflammation
- Treating allergies and respiratory ailments
Easy to grow in a yard garden or on a windowsill, these fragrant plants will turn your home into a pet herbal pharmacy. And you can use them to spice up your own meals too. Here are some suggested benefits of cat-friendly herbs:
- Calendula (flowers only): itchy skin
- Chamomile: calming and digestion aid
- Dandelion leaves: weight loss
- Dill: digestion (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties)
- Echinacea: improves immunity
- Goldenseal: wound disinfectant
- Lemongrass: insect repellant
- Licorice Root: soothes allergies, digestive issues, and colds, anti-inflammatory for arthritis
- Oregano: arthritis, digestion, respiratory, fights Lyme and tick-borne diseases; immune booster
- Peppermint: stomach ailments and freshens breath
- Wheat Grass: (also called cat grass) a nutritional source of fiber; helps remove fur balls
A pinch of thyme
Most herbs can be steeped as a tea, added to food bowls or applied topically. If you're including an herb in food, it's best to dry the herb and start slow, with no more than a pinch for cats under 10 pounds. Many herbs are safe for cats, but only in small doses.
For a tea: boil fresh herbs in water, fill a spray bottle and spritz the affected area of the skin. Some herbs are better used dry, and can be gently roasted or hung up to dry out thoroughly before boiling as a tea. But before you turn your garden into a pet apothecary, remember, this guide is not intended as a prescription. Always consult your veterinarian!
It’s advisable to consult with a holistic vet who may be more knowledgeable about herbs: such as mixing with other medications, any negative side effects and proper dosages. Not all herbs are beneficial. For example, pennyroyal, evening primrose, borage, eucalyptus and comfrey are toxic to cats. Cats’ livers don’t process herbs the same way we do, so be careful. For instance, licorice root can elevate blood pressure in some cats.
Take note: essential oils and products containing alcohol aren’t always safe for cats, especially low-grade products widely found on the market.