Catnip, valerian, and other cat-safe herbs for your garden

Quina Baterna

For many home cooks, herbs are the staple for many home gardens. However, many pet parents struggle with making sure their plants are safe for the cats. Many pet parents might be surprised to know that there are not only herbs that are safe for your cat, but there are also herbs that are good for them!

Cat-Safe Herbs for Your Garden

Think you’re ready to make a garden for our cat? Read below to know the herbs that you can plant that are safe for your cat.


Belonging to the mint family catnip contains nepetalactone which causes joy for many cats. While only half of all cats experience any reaction to catnip at all, you can bet that it is entirely safe for all cats. Alternatively, catnip has also been used by humans throughout history as a form of relaxant.

Cat’s Claw

Coming from a tropical vine, a cat's claw has a hooked thorn that resembles the claw of a cat. This herb is used to help improve your cat’s immune system. Humans often use cat’s claw as a form of dietary supplement means to help manage various viral infections. However, the appropriate dosages are highly dependent on individual conditions.


Similar to catnip, Valerian is a stimulant that turns even the laziest of cats into the most active critters. Alternatively, Valerian has been used as a treatment for insomnia for humans. When taken at the recommended dosage, it helps improve sleep, relaxation, and reduce anxiety. However, Valerian is not proven to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.


With bright, yellow flowers that turn into white balls, dandelions are known for their beautiful seeds that fly effortlessly through the air. One of the several cat-safe flowers, dandelions are known to be a great source of minerals and protein for both humans and cats. Dandelion leaves and roots are best served cut into small pieces and mixed into your cat’s food. Upon ingestion, they promote healthy digestion and liver detoxification. Aside from getting dandelion extracts from your garden, you can also purchase them in the form of drops from the pet store.

Licorice Root

For many people, licorice is something we associate with candy. Popularly used as a sweetener, it is also a common ingredient used to make medicine taste better. On its own, people use licorice to treat skin inflammation and infection. Veterinarians prescribe licorice to cats who are struggling with allergies and digestive issues. Licorice roots work by soothing mucus membranes and alleviate the discomfort from the cold.

Witch Hazel

Known as a popular treatment for human acne, veterinarians prescribe Witch Hazel for cat acne as well. Many cats get acne when bacteria built up in their plastic bowls goes to their face. Often, cat acne appears on cat chins as black dots. To treat cat acne, dip cotton balls into crushed witch hazel and use it to wipe your cat’s chin in the mornings and evenings.


Another herb meant for topical use for your cat is the calendula. It is known to have anti-inflammatory properties useful to help soothe itchy skin, minor wounds, and insect bites. Bear in mind that it can cause digestive issues when ingesting accidentally through grooming. Additionally, calendula should not be used on severe wounds, as its quick healing properties may cause an infection to be trapped inside.

How to Safely Give Herbs to Your Cat

While many of these herbs are considered cat-safe, it is necessary to remember that not all of them have proven to have no bad side effects when consumed in large dosages. Due to our differences in size, what is safe for humans may not be safe for cats.

In addition, a cat may also form a tolerance to the effects of herbs when used too often. For example, catnip becomes less effective when cats are exposed to an exceeding amount, meaning that you may need larger doses to create the same effect. Your cat will experience increasingly smaller benefits and satisfaction from use.

When giving your cat herbs from the supermarket or your garden, always make sure to cut the herbs into bite-sized pieces to avoid choking. While all herbs on this late are generally safe, there is a variance in terms of how it is safe - topical ointment versus ingestion. Before mixing any herbs with your cat's food, make sure that it is safe for them to eat.

Additionally, your cat may have individual conditions that may affect how they process certain plants such as diabetes or allergies. Similar to people, not all cats have the same immune system and reaction to every single herb.

While studies on the safety of herbs may be proven, the interaction of several herbs used at once may still be up for debate. So although it may be tempting to use multiple herbs to achieve increased benefits, it is not recommended.

Lastly, be careful when it comes to possible interactions between herbs, food, and other medications. If you are not sure how a particular herb in your garden will affect your cat or the right dosage for their size, schedule a visit with your veterinarian.

Moderation Is Key

While this list is great when planning out your indoor or outdoor herb garden, it does not mean that all of them should be ingested regularly. Many of these herbs can be good for your cats. However, this does not mean that you should be including them with every meal or apply them every day.

Cats are inherently carnivorous animals. Instead of force-fitting herbs into their diet, it is best to prioritize that they get enough nutrition from meat first. It is also best to observe your cat for any possible reactions to herbs you have included in their diet.

As with all things, moderation is key. When it comes to herbs, use only the recommended dosages or application methods to give your cat a safer experience. If you wish to seek the benefits of herbs for your cat, make sure to use the appropriate method and dosage. Instead of actual herbs, you may also purchase over-the-counter alternatives from your nearest pet clinic or store.

Should you want to explore ways of treating your cat with herbs, it is best to ask your veterinarian first.

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Quina is a writer, cat mom and artist. Her greatest joys in life are creating remarkable experiences and writing about them.


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