Ever watch a nature documentary with big cats slinking through overgrown swaths of land? Or, at least, have you ever seen internet videos of zoo cats rolling around in grassy enclosures? Big cats love their vegetation, and their tiny housebound relatives are no different. After all, isn't it all perfectly natural – the sight, the feel, the smell of verdure, all working in harmony with the hiding, hunting, and pouncing feline? Maybe I'm getting a little poetic here, but what I'm saying is that many cats, even domesticated ones, derive a good deal of pleasure playing amongst plant life. So if you want to indulge them in their natural urges, here is how you can plant a cat garden for your own wild kitty to play in!
Indoor Cat Garden
If you live in a smaller home or apartment, creating a big, luxuriant cat garden made for roaming is... well... not really an option. However, there are still plenty of things that you can do to help keep your kitty's fascination with foliage sated.
Plotting Your Plants
If your space is really limited, start with a pot or two. In these pots, you can plant any number of delightful, cat-friendly choices. Of course, you can begin with more familiar plants, like catnip or wheat grass, or you could expand into more exotic territory. Spider plants, for example, are said to stimulate a cat in the same way as catnip, and are also largely safe for them to gnaw on. Valerian is another more unusual option for an indoor cat garden, but I simply cannot see why more people don't use it. I mean, it can be used by both your cat and you, it's beautiful, and it's fairly easy to grow. Whatever you choose to use initially, though, be sure to try out different plants as you go along. What works for one feline may not work for another. Plus you don't want him getting bored of his greenery, so switch it up every now and then!
Arranging Your Space
Now that you have a plant or two at hand, where can you get your new mini garden set up? This can be tricky. If you're really limited on space, you might just take the pots down and let your kitty play with them for a half hour or so. If you have a little more room, you can put together a more permanent display. For instance, if you have a large window, you could try setting up a window perch with either individual pots, or a small trough-style planter filled with a variety of flora. The benefit of doing it this way is that you provide your buddy with plenty of visual stimulation, and also give your new plants plenty of sunlight.
If an open window isn't available, you can do the same thing with a wall perch. Some of the wall-style options boast pre-made holes for food bowls. The neat thing about that is that you can either use the hole to place your pot, or use the existing bowl as either a pot or a holder!
Walls and windows can have their limitations. If, however, you have some extra floor space, then cat trees can make for a great alternative. Although a standard-sized tree will really reduce your space, there are plenty on the market that have all sorts of perches, beds, and hidey holes that would make great locations for strategically-placed pots.
If you have quite a bit of space, attachable enclosures – sometimes known as “Catios” – are also a great option for giving your indoor kitty a bit of outdoors fun. In these handy little spots, you can pretty much let your imagination run wild. Spread some plushy sod along the floor. Put up some shelves and stock them with pots of catnip, lemon grass, or other plants that cats love. Attach a few sturdy, woody plants to the walls to provide spots for both climbing and scratching. Oh! And don't forget to put up a bird feeder just outside the enclosure for an added sensory boost!
The Downsides of Indoor Cat Gardens
Although all of these options are doable, I don't think it would be fair the highlight all the good without pointing out a few downsides. Window and wall perches do not provide a lot of room, so it might be a good idea to have a separate perch for your plants and your cat. Whether using perches or trees, it is also important to remember that an indoor cat garden can be messy. To reduce messes, it's a good idea to put mats in the area, and to regularly check to see if the pots have tipped over and spilled. Finally, when you go to water your plants, don't put them back out until the soil has dried out significantly; this will reduce the possibility of muddy little paws leaving tracks around the house.
Outdoor Cat Garden
Although I personally do not recommend letting your cat outdoors, I know that a lot of folks like to let their kitties feel the breeze. So long as your area is secure and your feline friend is all up-to-date on his vaccinations – and provided, of course, that you have ample room in your yard – there are an almost endless number of ways that you can create a lush, lavish outdoor cat garden!
First things first, if you like to bring your kitty outside, but don't feel particularly safe letting him wander, you can definitely use the enclosure idea that was discussed earlier in this article. If you have a good deal of space outside, though, you can absolutely expand on that. Standalone enclosures are often larger than their attachable counterparts, so you can really let loose with your gardening plans – adding direct-in-the-ground flower beds, lots of edible herbs and grasses, or sod that carpets the floors and climbs the walls.
If your fuzzy little friend has free reign of the yard, you can very easily create a small cat garden dedicated solely to him. This little patch of land can be a simple bed filled with flowers, grasses, and herbs, or it can be a much more elaborate affair. For instance, hovering above your flower bed, you could build a small kitty playhouse or a simple perch for resting, playing, and surveying. With flagstones or sunken bricks, you could create a decorative path that leads to plants with different benefits – for example, one stop leads right to the energizing silver vine, while the next stop provides the calming benefit of skullcap.
An alternative to the garden path idea would be a sort of giant outdoor puzzle. For this, you would need some sturdy, weather-proof wood that can be nailed together to create short walls. Build your walls into zigzagging patterns that make their way around your landscape, and dot them with a variety of fun or tasty plants throughout. These plants can either be hung from the walls, placed into pots, or planted directly into the ground!
Keeping Things Simple
Finally, if you really do prefer a simpler approach, you can create a small potted garden on a designated patch of yard. Place these pots in whatever pattern you like, but make sure that they have a solid base, and plenty of space in between, thus allowing your kitty plenty of room to frolic along the foliage. It might also be a sweet idea to place a small, padded bench at the center of your potted cat garden, that way your friend has a nice place to spread out and relax after his game. Or, better yet, you have a place to spread out and relax while you watch him play his game.
Plants to Use in Your Cat Garden
All right, so we've already mentioned a few plants already, but those are only a small smattering of potential flora. When planting any variety of garden, it is just massively important that you pick out truly safe plants. Because of the vast array of both non-toxic and toxic plants, I won't bombard you here, but instead, will provide some very useful resources to help you make the best decisions for your new natural kitty playground!
No matter how housebound they may seem, our fuzzy little friends are every bit as nature-loving as their bigger, wilder counterparts. Building a cat garden can help to satisfy his desire to experience the outdoors, and can be a delightful experience for both you and your cat. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas and inspiration.
Have you ever put together a cat garden? Tell us about it!
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