Cats have been a part of my daily life for 14 years now. During most of this time I have thought of them as little carnivores, little super predators. While it is true that they rely on meat for their sustenance, they love plants too. They love green stuff like fresh green blades of oats which are sometimes referred to as ‘cat grass’. Most people know that cats love catnip. Cats also respond to other herbs too such as valerian, which will excite them, and chamomile, which will generally calm them down.
For many years I was hesitant to experiment with herbs for cats because I felt that it was naïve to think that cats metabolize herbal remedies in the same way that humans do. Just look at the way catnip excites cats, while it relaxes humans. Or the monoterpenes in citrus, called limonene, and in pine, called pinene, are toxic to cats and not to humans. Other common essential oils used on humans have proved to be lethal to cats. And, years ago when I tried some of the very safest remedies such as flower essences on my cat, he seemed more annoyed than anything that I was using these calming essences on him. I gave up on the idea.
Eventually, I tried again and I looked into many different books on herbs for pets. Many of them are mostly written for dog owners. After discovering a book called Herbs for Pets: The natural way to enhance your pet’s life by Gregory L. Tilford and Mary L. Wulff, I began to experiment more with herbs for my cats.
One of the most impressive things that my cats have taught me this year is that they love herbal tea. I make up one day’s worth of nutritive herbal tea made with nettles, red clover, burdock, dandelion and a very small amount of licorice and I mix it with their wet canned food. They love the tea so much that they will lick up all of the tea before starting in on the canned bits. When they take their tea, they seem to have stronger constitutions, they seem to be in better moods. My oldest cat seems less frail and he has a better temperament. I have read about the benefits of herbal remedies for years now, but these furry little guys have taught me so much about the importance of herbal tea.
If you want to experiment with herbs for cats, be sure to pick up at least 3 good books on the subject and talk to someone who knows more about this than you do. My local library has dozens of books on this topic. Take notes and pursue inconsistencies in the information in these books. It is best to trust people who have practiced for a long period of time. Be aware that there are many popular books written by people who write well and have collected all of their information from other books. These books are generally not the best place to collect information because they are not necessarily backed by practice.
Finally, if you are making something for your cat, even if it is a nutritive tea, remember that they only require a very small dose. A typical dose for humans is made for someone who is 150 pounds. A cat is usually less than a tenth that size. My cats are getting 1-2 tablespoons a day of tea and this seems to be enough.
Tammy Schmidt, Montreal