"If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it
would deteriorate the cat."
-- MARK TWAIN
"Happy birthday to us!"
-- TRADITIONAL SONG
What do cats and gardening have in common? Well, there are
catmint, cat-thyme and catnip that are grown to attract cats.
Cat's-claw, cat's-ear, cat's foot, and cattail are common names of
plants, which resemble certain anatomical parts of our feline
friends. As welcome members of our family, they share in the pleasure
of our garden. If curiosity ever sparked the thought of adventure for
cats, the garden certainly can be their Pandora's Box.
The garden provides a plethora of tasty treats and temptations for
a gourmand like the cat. With an abundant herb garden cultivated by
Catharine, our cats never have a shortage of catnip and catmint.
Native ferns and grasses sway with the wind, providing constant
interest and hiding spots. The random snail becomes an excellent
soccer ball if handled carefully and a steady influx of insects and
lizards from a nearby field provide a constant challenge during the
hunt. After a busy day, our bedroom deck is a great spot for sunning
and awaiting our return.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is but a novelty herb for us, sometimes
used to flavor tea. A shrubby perennial reaching a few feet in
height, it has gray green leaves and white or purple flowers.
Although cats are attracted while it's growing, its dried leaves are
truly serious stuff, rivaling human interest in certain herbs. It's
cousin is catmint (Nepeta faassenii) a mounding groundcover which
grows to two feet. Cats love rolling in its abundant foliage. Both
plants require full sun and well draining soil.
Lesser know is the silver vine (Actinidia polygama). Cats are
attracted to it much like catnip. A relative to Kiwi fruit, it will
climb to 15 feet.
The female plants provide an edible fruit that is oval and about 6
inches long. The male plants are propagated for their attractive
foliage and grown in warm and protected gardens as specimens.
Many grasses are both beneficial and amusing to cats. The
chlorophyll in grass blades help to freshen their breath and aid in
their digestive process (Dr. G. might add, two grasses in one!)
fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum "Cupreum") is a clumping, drought
resistant grass much admired by our cats. The swaying of the grass or
their flower parts provides endless fascination, powered either by
the wind or one's hand. It will grow in any type of soil and has
attractive reddish foliage and dark plumes.
Cats will gladly use a litter box indoors, but once outdoors, the
warm, moist soil of a well cultivated garden is nearly impossible for
them to resist. If a certain area of the garden is taboo, a covering
of gravel or decomposed granite can be effective. Both hard ground
covers prevent the cat from scratching out a toilet. Smaller garden
plots and containers can be covered by ornamental pebbles, keeping
the cat from making a deposit into your garden.
I envy my cats. When we enter our shared garden together, I am in
nature but not part of nature as they are. They can hear, and smell,
and relate to the garden in a sylvan-like manner I can only imagine.
Catharine and I tend our garden for our enjoyment and relaxation, but
also as a sanctuary for our cats to play. Happy Birthday to my
beautiful wife and happy birthday to me!
See you next time.
* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery,
1278 Glenneyre in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist,
Catharine Cooper, and has two cats. He can be reached at (949)
497-2438, or e-mail to email@example.com.