Winter grasses are the cat’s meow – by Diane Morey Sitton
Few things win kitty’s affection quicker than a container garden filled with fresh winter treats. Instead of catmint, catnip and cat thyme, think grasses.
Cats naturally enjoy nibbling on ryegrass, oats, barley and wheat. Not only do these nutrient-rich, annual grasses promote cat health, but the fresh greens freshen kitty’s breath. What’s more, fiber from grasses aids feline digestion and helps prevent hair balls.
You can shop for seeds at local garden centers and pet shops, or you can order seeds online from pet supply businesses and seed houses. (Renee’s Garden Seeds offers “Kitty Queen’s Four Grass Seed Mix” and “Container cat treats – Gourmet Mixed Greens” at reneesgarden.com). In fall, feed stores generally carry rye, wheat and oat seeds in 50 pound sacks. (While that’s way too many seeds for even the most avid cat lover, you never know when the clerk might slip you a small scoopful of seeds dipped from a torn sack.) Some feed stores sell bulk grass seeds in one-pound bags.
Annual grasses are easy to grow. They thrive in containers, and they can be sown in succession to keep kitty purring all winter long. Start by sprinkling seeds ¼-inch apart on moistened potting mix in a 6-inch diameter or larger pot. (Avoid tip-over mishaps by planting in bowl-shaped pots or other heavy, low containers.) Cover the seeds with ½-inch soil and water gently. Place the pot in good light and keep moist. Typically, seeds germinate in 3-7 days.
Grasses are ready for the cat buffet when the blades reach two inches or more in height. Place the potted grasses where kitty likes to hang out … on decks, patios, and porches. For indoor cats, grow winter grasses by sunny windows. Generally, kitty knows a good thing when he sees it and will quickly find the nutritious treat. Thereafter, most cats visit the container each day.
Keep the tall, fast-growing grasses fresh (and upright) by trimming the blades with scissors to 3-4 inches tall. Fertilize with fish emulsion or other non-chemical fertilizer every two weeks.
Cat grass favorites include:
Rye grass – A narrow-bladed, cool-season grass that requires less light than some other grasses.
Oat grass – A sweet, easy-to-grow, protein-rich, high-fiber grass with nutritious blue-green blades.
Wheat grass – Mineral-rich grass loaded with vitamins A, C, and E. Recommended for kittens. Fights inflammation. Grow a second pot to have snippets for your morning smoothies.
Barley grass – A tall (14 inch), sturdy, quick-growing grass that’s easy to start indoors. High in vitamins A, B and E.