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11 Herbs That Are Safe for Cats (and Which to Avoid)

cat on wood table with house plants

Cooking with fresh herbs from your garden is a great way to save money and enjoy fragrant meals, and many of the plants you buy and grow are safe for your feline to enjoy. As a cat lover, you understand that cats are more curious than other pets. Sometimes, they get in trouble by gnawing on your crops, and it’s vital to know which plants are dangerous and which ones are safe. We’ll discuss the safe and beneficial herbs, and we’ll take a look at herbs that can cause discomfort, pain, or worse.divider-cat

The 11 Safe Herbs for Your Cat

Before feeding your feline a serving of fresh herbs, check with your veterinarian to ensure the spices are suitable for your cat’s diet and health. Although some herbs are not toxic, cats that consume too much can experience digestive problems or upset stomachs. Observe your pet when it tests out new plants, and keep your herbicides and garden supplies locked up and secure. Chemical fertilizers and other toxic substances are much more hazardous to your feline than herbs.

1. Catnip

catnip leaves
Image Credit: lwccts, Pixabay

We put catnip at the top of the list because it’s one of the cat’s favorite herbs, and it can benefit the animal’s mental health. Catnip is simple to grow in a backyard garden. Compared to other dried plants, it’s inexpensive to purchase dried or fresh from the pet shop or garden center. When cats sniff catnip, they can become energized and full of boundless energy. The effect only lasts up to 12 minutes, but it’s safe for felines to use several times a day. When cats consume catnip, it has a different effect. It calms them and causes some to roll over and take a nap. You can use catnip products to ease your pet’s anxiety before bath time or a trip to the vet’s clinic.

2. Valerian

Although valerian is an herb used in many herbal supplements for humans, most medicinal effects come from the root. Cats react similarly to valerian with catnip, and felines who aren’t affected by catnip may have better luck with valerian. You can grow the herb, but you’ll have to wait until the plant develops a healthy root system before digging it up. Give your cat a piece of the root to sniff, and the animal may start rolling on its back and purring. Like catnip, a small percentage of cats do not react to the herb at all.

3. Cat Thyme

spoonful of thyme
Image Credit: gate74, Pixabay

Cats that rub against cat thyme plants can experience a short burst of euphoria and begin purring or drooling. Whether you purchase cat thyme or grow it, you may be surprised by the potent aroma. Cats love the smell, but their owners typically keep it outdoors to prevent the smell from lingering in the home. Cat thyme is also safe for your cat to eat, but it has a sedative effect rather than a euphoric one.

4. Witch Hazel

Although your cat should not consume it, witch hazel can help treat acne and help minor wounds from flea bites. Veterinarians do not advise using witch hazel for deep punctures or scrapes.

5. Echinacea

As a flowering herb or commercial supplement, echinacea is safe to feed your cat. Although some cat and dog owners add echinacea to boost their pets’ immune systems, the herb’s medicinal benefits have not been proven.

6. Dandelion Root

Dandelions are full of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B, and Vitamin D. They’re safe for cats to eat, but be sure that your cat doesn’t consume too much. While dandelions are nutritious, too much plant material can cause upset stomachs and diarrhea.

7. Basil

Image Credit: LouisJos, Pixabay

Basil is a favorite herb among home chefs, and it’s alright for your cat to munch on the aromatic herb. Most cats will only nibble on basil leaves, and they’re unlikely to damage the plant or ruin your harvest. Cats can eat dried basil also, but they seem to prefer fresh leaves.

8. Cilantro

Credit: Brett_Hondow, Pixabay

Although the bitter aftertaste can surprise your feline, cilantro is safe for your pet. The seeds from the same plant, coriander, are also safe for your kitty. Cilantro grows quickly from seeds, but it tends to bolt fast in high temperatures, and you may only have three or four weeks to enjoy the herb before it seeds.

9. Rosemary

rosemary and lavender herbs
Image Credit: gate74, Pixabay

Rosemary is not a favorite herb of most pets, but it’s safe for cats and dogs. Although consuming too much of the herb can cause stomach problems, most pets will ignore the aromatic plant or merely take a small nibble.

10. Dill

Dried and fresh dill are safe for your cat, but most cats do not favor the herb. Some articles claim that dill can improve your feline’s digestion, but we suggest asking a vet before using dill as a health supplement. Dill’s medicinal benefits have not been tested or confirmed by the ASPCA, but they list it as a non-toxic plant on the ASPCA toxic and non-toxic plant list.

11. Thyme

Not to be confused with cat thyme, culinary thyme is a less aromatic herb that you can grow or store in your home without offending your guests. It’s safe for cats to eat, but like rosemary and dill, most cats will avoid the herb in favor of something tastier like catnip.divider-cat

Which Herbs to Avoid

It’s comforting to know that many culinary herbs are safe to use around your pet, but you should not add random non-toxic herbs to your cat’s meals without your vet’s approval. Eating too much of any spice can cause discomfort, and some cats may have an adverse reaction to a non-toxic herb because of an allergy. If your cat spends time outdoors near your garden, we suggest avoiding these herbs:

  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Chives, onions, garlic, scallions
  • Tarragon
  • Lemongrass
  • Mint
  • Spring Parsley
  • Bay Leaf
  • Chamomile
  • Cannabis
  • Mace
  • Lemon verbena

As long as you keep dried versions of the previous herbs in a cabinet or drawer, they’re safe to use in your kitchen. The strongest reactions to toxic herbs occur when an animal consumes the fresh leaves, stems, flowers, or roots.

What To Do If Your Cat Ingest Toxic Herbs

If your cat has an adverse reaction to a toxic plant, your priority is to call your veterinarian. For emergencies, most vets try to allow patients to come in immediately if they can alter their schedule, but if not, you can take your pet to an emergency animal hospital. Another crucial step is to contact the ASPCA. You can call their poison control hotline by dialing (888) 426-4435. The hotline can give you valuable information about your pet’s symptoms and care.

Determining the source of your pet’s illness is much easier if your doctor has a sample of the toxic herb. Take a piece of the plant and store it in a sealed plastic bag for your vet. Your vet will ask various questions about the cat’s symptoms, including when the plant was consumed, how long before symptoms appeared, and how much material the cat ingested.


Final Thoughts

Some felines will happily chew on your herbs and plants, and luckily, many species of herbs are safe for your furry friend to enjoy. Although the ASPCA has a helpful list featuring non-toxic and toxic plants, you should not serve a new plant to your cat unless you’ve confirmed its safety with a vet. An allergy or medical condition can make your pet more vulnerable to the side effects of even a safe herb. The number of plants that are hazardous to your feline seems alarming, but with adequate research and help from this article, you can keep your kitty safe and continue to benefit from using fresh ingredients.

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