When I arrive at client’s house I’m nearly always greeted by a friendly pet. The dog is overjoyed and looking for attention. The cat smooches my legs giving me the ‘approval’. I won’t even talk about the fur and slobber left on my black trousers after a day of consulting!
But it makes me think. These animals are like a family member—they like a varied, healthy diet to keepthem in the best possible shape. Their wellbeing is important to their owner. So let’s incorporate edible plants that pets can eat or rub against to gain the essential vitamins and minerals needed for a shiny coat, good digestion and fewer allergies.
While we love our dogs, in my experience people spend much more on plants for their cat than for their dog.
Catmint, cat thyme and cat grass are the most common herbs used for cat health and wellbeing.
Catmint: This bears a spectacular lavender-like flower spike and has green to greyish foliage. It’s good as a low groundcover for hot dry spots. It’s extremely drought tolerant, too. Catmint looks great mass-planted under roses—I it creates a carpet effect. Cats love it because it has a hallucinogenic effect! Cats rub against it or nibble at it releasing a chemical called nepetactone. You will see the cat bouncing around, rolling on the ground and possible drooling. It’s a little like the behaviour you see in a human after a few glasses of wine!
Catmint is also great to repel mosquitoes. So plant it near your outdoor entertaining area.
Catgrass: This is a cereal grass which eliminates furballs by making the cat vomit. It is also high in vitamins and minerals. This is best kept in pots as it looks a little ‘weedy’.
Cat Thyme: The aromatic foliage on this 1 metre high growing plant is eye catching. It is very silver and likes a hot spot. It can be kept pruned to create a low hedge effect. It has dainty pink flowers. Cats love the aroma and you’ll see them smooching this plant.
This is a good herb to pick and dry. Place it into a breathable bag and put it on your cat’s bed. It is calm and soothing and will give your cat sweet dreams!
These cat herbs are all fantastic in pots. Leave them near the back door where cats are likely to hang around.
If yours is an indoor cat, the plants can also be kept indoors in a bright sunny room for short periods. Just remember to use organic sprays only on plants your animals may eat.
Unfortunately there are more toxic plants out there for dogs than edible ones. Dogs do enjoy eating ferns, especially those beautiful juicy sweet new shoots, and gnawing on bamboo, both mainly safely edible.
The number one favourite for dogs is Lavender—but watch out for the bees!
Lavender has a lemony taste to it. Lots of varieties are available for garden uses from Spanish, Italian, French to English. The English is commonly used for its striking grey foliage and is great in hedges and for potpourri. The others have showy flowers with aromatic foliage and look good planted in clusters of 3 or 5. They also do well in pots. As I mentioned, bees love them so they are great for bringing bees into your edible garden for pollination.
Lavender is a great aromatherapy product for dogs, as it is humans. It is commonly used in dog treats, for shampoo and to keep fleas at bay—and that’s just for starters.
Other Pet Products
Have you seen all the other edible pet products that are proliferating madly? I’ve heard of pet bakeries selling organic treats and some farmers’ markets sell gourmet pet treat concoctions, too.
Just the other day I also saw that some US airports, have ‘pet relief areas’. Philadelphia International has 7 of them, with features such as mulch, a faux fire hydrant and biodegradable waste bags.
No wonder the US pet market is set to hit almost $48 billion this year. In Australia, with 22 million people and 33 million pets, that market was worth $6 billion last year.
Oops—must go. Sparky is miaowing to me!
BTW, I’d love to hear your favorite pet plants. We’ll be doing an article on pet edible garden designs too—so please share what worked best for your pets in your garden.