Monday, December 14, 2009

Some folks loathe or fear cats, some of us love ours like kids, spoiling them every chance we get. I adopted Luvyu, the Siamese I’d wanted for 35 years, eleven years ago from a Denver feral cat rescue group (he is STILL the "Cat from Hell"), and Angel a couple months later from a cardboard box in front of a grocery store there. Both clearly share my preference for balmy Florida over seven months per year of cold and snow and cabin fever. Got a kitty and love him or her too? Indulge them in these tasty treats that boost their health and happiness, plus give them a landscape safe and comfortable for them.
Ever wonder why some housebound cats gnaw houseplants, even toxic ones? In the wild, cats eat the stomachs and intestines of their plant-eating prey and thus ingest vegetable matter by default. Denied that long enough, their bodies crave the fiber and enzymes and minerals and the chewing begins. Here are two easy ways to satisfy their bodies and souls.
I mix a teaspoon of home ground flax seed meal into their wet food at every meal, which gives them both fiber for hairball prevention, plus omega 3 fatty acids for good general health. In mild climates like Tampa's, each fall and winter scatter a handful of whole flax seed in your garden where they will quickly sprout and grow into graceful annuals topped by lovely sky blue flowers. Plant them in spring in colder climates. You can snip the leaves and blooms into their wet food, or let them ripen and go to seed for homegrown flax. Plus they look beautiful in any garden or flower pot.
We’ve all seen outdoor cats nibbling grass.....ideally they can get a little each day for good health, which avoids their upchucking when they over indulge after a rare binge. They prefer a tender sweet grass, plus homebound cats, or cats in snowy areas, have zero access to a lawn. But it is cheap and easy to create for them a mini-lawn they can nibble from at will. Just fill a low clay pot three fourths with good rich soil, then sprinkle on a couple teaspoons of winter rye seed, whole wheat berries from the health food store, whole oats from a feed store, or even pop corn, as all are members of the Grass Family. Even bird seed mixes work well. Cover the seeds with an inch of soil, water deeply, then sit it in a sunny spot out of Miss Kitty’s reach. In seven to ten days the pot will boast a lush carpet of tender edible shoots your cats will savor daily when you present their mini-lawn to them. Start a new one monthly to insure a steady supply. This costs just pennies yet gives them a wealth of joy and good health.
The autumn and winter cool down allows us Floridians to grow the ultimate herbal gift for our feline friends...fresh homegrown catnip that puts to shame the dried out store bought stuff. This member of the Mint Family (Nepeta cataria) prefers a climate colder than ours, (it is a WEED in Denver) but if we grow it in a hanging basket each winter it will escape being ravaged by summer heat AND grazing cats irresistibly drawn to it. Two dollars will buy you a whole packet of seeds, or one juvenile plant that will fill one hanging basket. The tiny seeds sprout quickly if sprinkle atop good soil and kept damp and grown in a sunny spot the cats can’t reach. Once your catnip plant is about eight inches tall and wide, you can daily snip off a short bit of stem, bruise it with your fingers to release the heady minty aroma that drives them wild, and offer it to your eagerly awaiting feline. I toss mine on my bed where Luvyu rolls all over it and rubs his face on it before scarfing it down. Got a moody grumpy cat? Bliss him or her out with this herbal delight that many people brew a tea from for insomnia.
Some cats love to snuggle and snooze in tight quarters, like my Angel who stakes a claim on empty flower pots here and there in my yard. Hey, a nip of catnip then a nap in a sun warmed clay pot...does life get any better for a feline friend? Well how about their being able to stretch out in a cool shady spot beneath cassava plants, or drink natural water from a goldfish pond?
Fleas can be hell on cats, but over the years I’ve decided that those teensy jumping vampires breed best in dry exposed sand as once I cover a yard (mine or a client’s) in deep mulches, gardens and groundcovers, the flea population plummets. To kill flea larvae in dry nutrient poor sand AND make it more inviting to groundcovers and other plants, sprinkle old-fashioned white lime, sometimes called "quick lime" or "slaked lime". It will "fry" the larvae and raise the pH so that nutrients present or added later will be more available to the plants you choose to colonize the sand patch.
Sure...dogs adore us and cats can ignore us, but we love them anyway. They may not be lions or tigers, but my oh my what we will bear for them!


  1. Yup, both came from Denver and are each closing in on eleven years in age. Both LOVE catnip, just as "Dad" likes his own particular herb.