Catnip is the one herb everyone knows is not only safe for cats, but loved by them. It has different effects on different cats, from calming them to exciting them. A number of herbs, however, are safe for cats and useful in treating feline ailments holistically.
Immune System, Infections, Wound Healing
If you've ever used echinacea to fight off a cold, then you are aware it is known for stimulating the immune system. Goldenseal, calendula, valerian and red clover are other herbs effective in helping the immune system to fight infection. Liquid forms of these herbs are available for topical use. Specifically, the syrup-like extract of the red clover is effective on burns, sores and abscesses.
Appetite, Stomach/Digestion Disorders
When your cat has a poor appetite and is suffering from digestive ailments caraway, nettle and dill are all herbs effective in treating stomach disorders. Valerian is noted to be especially good for colic, gas and cramps, and burdock can be used as a laxative too.
Goldenseal has many uses, in both topical and oral forms, mostly related to treating viruses and immunity issues. When taken internally, goldenseal can ease diarrhea and improve the immune system. When used externally, it is effective in treating minor lesions and has even been used in eye washes to treat eye conditions.
Respiratory, Allergies, Sinuses
Allergies and sinus and respiratory problems can be helped with herbs such as eyebright, nettle and red clover. All the symptoms associated with colds, allergies and hay fever—like sneezing, watery eyes, itching, nasal congestion and coughs—are alleviated when treated with these herbal medicines.
Urinary tract problems are a frequent problem with cats. Cranberry is a well-known natural treatment for a urinary tract condition, one that Vetinfo notes is effective for cats as well as for humans. Nettle is also useful for treating urinary tract infections and promoting urinary tract health.
While most herbs have multiple uses, a few that are super-herbs, noted for their useful treatment of a wide variety of illnesses and conditions. Parsley and red clover are both known for discouraging tumor growth, making them useful for cancer treatment. Parsley is also effective for treating swollen glands, indigestion, asthma and coughs as well as lung, stomach, bladder and kidney conditions. Red clover can be used as an antibiotic and is good for tuberculosis, arthritis and skin disorders, just to list a few. Rosemary is yet another multi-use herb that is used for everything from a skin and hair tonic to reducing blood pressure, restoring appetite, improving circulation and calming nervous conditions. Rosemary is typically used externally, however, due to the danger of toxicity. The leaves can be boiled in wine to create a topical treatment that can be safely administered, although your cat should not be allowed to lick the area to which it is applied.
Administering Herbal Remedies to Your Cat
Applying an herbal remedy to your cat topically is usually safe to do. However, you should always consult your vet before giving your cat any medications or supplements orally, even natural ones. Some may have interactions with a medication your cat is already on and some can only be given in limited amounts without becoming toxic. Others may be good for one condition, but have an adverse effect on another. It's also good to consult your vet for advice on dosing and how to administer the herb to your cat, as safe and beneficial dosages depend on such things as the individual cat, her weight and her medical concerns.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.