DIY Cat Herb Garden - Chamomile flowers and tincture, perfect for soothing cat skin and digestive issues.

How to Create a DIY Herb Garden for Cats [Step-By-Step]

It’s easy to grow a herb garden that your cat will love, and it’s a win-win for both of you. Not only do herbs add a touch of green to your space, but they also bring a holistic, natural boost to your cat’s well-being. Plus, herbs are super simple to keep alive, unlike that expensive - but short-lived - houseplant you got last year.

Some herbs are great for soothing skin conditions, some help with stomach upsets, and some are just good for giving kitty a fun time (I’m looking at you, Valerian). I’ve put together a bunch that you can grow at home that will make for a happier, healthier cat.

As always, schedule an appointment with your holistic vet to chat about any new additions to your cat’s diet or care routine. Better safe than sorry! Let’s get this party started…let’s start with what your options are!

Choosing the Right Herbs for Your Cat

To find the perfect herbs for your cat, it’s all about understanding their unique personality and needs. This way, they get the best mix of holistic wellness and enjoyment. Here’s a short list of cat-safe herbs you could include in your DIY cat herb garden.


Used in humans for its sedative effect, Valerian has the opposite effect on cats. This will have them at their most acrobatic and athletic. It’s especially useful as an alternative for the many cats out there who have no reaction to catnip. The root of this plant is the part you’ll use. Try putting a bit of chopped root inside a toy, or sprinkle a small amount on the ground for kitty to roll around in.


Chamomile is helpful for soothing irritated skin, just like it can soothe irritated nerves! Make a weak tea by steeping fresh leaves in hot water, then letting to cool and diluting further. This can be used as a bath, or as a spray. Combining chamomile with peppermint and rosemary can make for a natural insect repellent as well.

Drinking chamomile tea can help calm an upset tummy too. Try adding just a teaspoon’s worth to a meaty-type broth to make a bit more appealing to a finicky feline!

Cat’s Claw and Dandelion Root

These two are the dream team in helping calm allergies in cats, keeping them from feeling constantly itchy. As a bonus measure, cat’s claw can boost the immune system, while dandelion root helps with liver function. For these, use the dried root of the dandelion, and dried bark of the cat’s claw and prepare in a weak tea to be ingested.


Chickweed is a gentle herb that can be highly beneficial for cats with gastrointestinal (GI) upset. This herb is known for its soothing properties, which can help alleviate discomfort and inflammation in the digestive tract. To use chickweed for your cat, make a weak tea by steeping fresh or dried leaves in hot water, then letting it cool completely. Add a teaspoon of the cooled tea to your cat’s food or water to help calm an upset stomach.

Licorice Root

Licorice root is an excellent herb with powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit your cat's overall health. It's particularly helpful in reducing gut permeability, offering relief to pets suffering from leaky gut syndrome. This makes it a valuable addition to your herb garden, especially for cats with digestive issues. You can prepare licorice root as a mild tea or use it as a supplement to help soothe and support your cat's digestive system.


Cat-safe herbs including Valerian, Chamomile, Licorice Root, Basil, Catnip, and more.

Basil is one of the most widely grown herbs that is safe for cats. Its chewy leaves can be quite appealing for cats who love to nibble on plants. Basil is not only a tasty treat for your kitty but also offers mild anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which can support their overall health. Incorporate fresh basil into your herb garden, and let your cat enjoy this healthy and beneficial snack. Just make sure it’s in a spot where they can easily access it and munch away!


Goldenseal is a natural disinfectant that won’t irritate kitty’s skin and is safe around the eyes. It contains anti-inflammatory properties and can help to stop infections. Goldenseal can be used as a dried powder, brewed into a tea, or made into a tincture. For wound care, make a tea from the dried root, let cool, and then apply as needed to injury. There can be concerns with pregnant cats, so be careful if this applies to yours.

Cat Thyme

Cat thyme is a great alternative for cats who don’t respond to catnip or valerian. Its strong, pungent aroma can be very appealing to some cats, encouraging them to rub, roll, and play. This herb offers mild calming properties, making it a suitable option for cats needing relaxation. Use cat thyme in moderation, either fresh or dried, and incorporate it into your cat's toys or garden for a stimulating and enjoyable experience.


Last, but certainly not least, is the most legendary of cat herbs! If your cat is susceptible to the effects of catnip, it’ll have them blissing out for a while. Fresh or dried catnip leaves are effective in producing a short-lived high. Some may go a bit nuts, others may just chill, but it’s a pleasant experience whichever the case. These bouts of euphoria are great for calming anxious cats, or simply letting your cat have fun. Allowing them to let off steam if good for their sense of contentment and well-being. You can use catnip to help with training as well, so having some on hand at all times is a no-brainer. Lastly, if you have a picky kitty that turns his or her nose up at the dinner you’re offering, a bit of catnip can help. It’s a natural appetite stimulant! If neither catnip nor valerian work in this way for your cat, you can try cat thyme. Just be warned, it’s a bit more pungent than the others!

Herbs and Plants to Avoid

Toxic plants for cats: Garlic, Chives, Leeks, and Onions
  • While the above plants, and others, are good for your cat in small doses, there are others that should be avoided at all costs. Garlic, chives, leeks, and onion are seriously toxic to cats.
  • If you are giving herbs safely to a dog, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily okay for a cat. Cats have more delicate digestive systems and are also a lot smaller!
  • Always use the methods outlined above and never concentrated forms or essential oils without proper dilution. These can be dangerous and cause harm rather than help.
  • The golden rule: always check with your veterinarian before adding anything to kitty’s diet. Some herbs can have negative effects when crossed with certain medications, and your vet will know your cat’s unique situation best.

Signs the Herbs are Working On Your Cat

When you introduce an herb garden to your cat, their reactions can tell you a lot about how the herbs are working. Here's what to watch for:

Positive Reactions and Behaviors

Sniffing and Investigating: Cats are naturally curious creatures. If your cat is sniffing around the herb garden, it’s a good sign that they’re interested in the new scents and textures. This initial curiosity is the first step towards them benefiting from the herbs.

Sitting or Lounging: Some cats might choose to sit near or even on a particular herb. This indicates that they find the herb calming and are taking in its benefits.

Rubbing and Rolling: One of the cutest signs to watch for is your cat rubbing against the herbs or rolling in them. This indicates that they find the herbs pleasing and are using them to calm themselves or relieve stress.

Chewing and Licking: Some herbs, like catnip and valerian, may prompt your cat to chew or lick them. This is normal and can be beneficial. Ingesting small amounts of these herbs can help with digestive issues or provide a calming effect.

Increased Playfulness: Herbs such as valerian can make cats more energetic and playful. If your usually calm kitty starts to play more vigorously after interacting with the herb garden, it’s a sign that the herbs are having the desired effect.

Relaxation and Lounging: On the flip side, herbs like chamomile can have a calming effect, making your cat more relaxed and prone to lounging around the herb garden. This is a good sign that the herb is helping to reduce anxiety or stress.

Differentiating Normal From Adverse Reactions

While most reactions to cat-friendly herbs are positive, it’s important to differentiate between normal and adverse reactions.

Normal Reactions:

  • Mild excitement: Your cat may become temporarily more active or playful.
  • Calm and relaxed behavior: Some herbs will cause your cat to lounge more than usual.
  • Digestive benefits: A slight increase in eating after chewing herbs can indicate improved digestion.
  • Grooming: A slight increase in grooming after herb interaction can be beneficial.

Adverse Reactions:

  • Excessive drooling or vomiting: While a small amount of drooling can be normal, excessive drooling or vomiting after herb ingestion is not. This could indicate that your cat is having an adverse reaction to a particular herb.
  • Skin irritation: If your cat starts scratching excessively or develops redness after interacting with the herbs, they might be having a skin reaction.
  • Lethargy: While relaxation is good, excessive lethargy or unresponsiveness can be a sign of an adverse reaction.

What to Do If You Notice Adverse Reactions

If you observe any adverse reactions:

  1. Remove Access: Temporarily remove the herb or herb garden from your cat’s environment.
  2. Monitor Symptoms: Keep a close eye on your cat’s behavior and symptoms. Most mild reactions will subside on their own.
  3. Consult Your Vet: If symptoms persist or worsen, consult your veterinarian for advice. They can provide guidance on whether to reintroduce the herb or avoid it altogether.

Now that you know what herbs to use and what behaviors and reactions to be on the lookout for, let’s get into actually creating a cat herb garden.

Step-By-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Herb Garden:

This is the fun part! You’ve got options here, in regard to where you’ll put your herb garden (indoors vs outdoors), how big it’s going to be, using fresh vs dried herbs, how you’re going to set it out, etc.

Choosing the Herbs: Understanding your cat's unique personality and needs is key to selecting the right herbs. Observe your cat's behavior and health to determine what might benefit them the most. You know your cat best…so only you can decide what will be best for your kitty. But, here are some suggestions:

  • Energetic Cats: Herbs like Valerian can help them burn off energy by making them more playful.
  • Anxious Cats: Chamomile and catnip can have a calming effect, perfect for helping them relax.
  • Cats with Digestive Issues: Chickweed is great for easing gastrointestinal upsets.
  • Cats with Skin Irritations: Chamomile, when made into a tea, can soothe irritated skin.

By knowing your cat’s individual preferences and health requirements, you can tailor the herb garden to provide the best benefits. Not every cat will react the same way to every herb, so it may take a bit of experimentation to find out which ones your cat loves. For additional tips on natural cat care, visit our guide to caring for your cat naturally.

Selecting the Location: You’ve got two options—indoors or outdoors. If you’re going for indoors, your kitchen windowsill or a sunny corner works great. Just make sure it gets plenty of natural light. For outdoor spaces, a part of your garden that gets at least 4-6 hours of sunlight daily is ideal. Pick a spot that’s easy for your cat to access but away from heavy foot traffic to keep it a peaceful haven.

Dried vs. Fresh Herbs: Now, let’s talk herbs—fresh or dried? Fresh herbs are fantastic because they provide ongoing benefits and can be harvested as needed. They also make your space look lush and vibrant. Dried herbs are convenient and can be stored for longer periods, but they lack the freshness that cats often enjoy. Ideally, use fresh herbs for planting and keep some dried ones handy for those times when your fresh supply runs low.

Choosing Containers and Soil: Next, it’s container time. You can go with a single large crate with multiple herbs or individual pots for each type. Terracotta pots are classic but can dry out quickly, so glazed pots are a better choice to retain moisture. As for soil, a high-quality potting mix is key. Adding some gravel or stones at the bottom of your pots helps with drainage because herbs hate soggy roots.

Planting the Herbs: Finally, it’s planting time! Here’s a simple guide:

  1. Prepare Your Containers: Fill your pots or crate with the potting mix, leaving about an inch from the top.
  2. Add Some Drainage: Place a layer of gravel or small stones at the bottom for good drainage.
  3. Plant Your Herbs: Gently remove the herbs from their nursery pots, loosen the roots a bit, and place them in the new pots. Fill in with more soil around the plant and pat it down gently.
  4. Water and Sunlight: Water the herbs thoroughly after planting. Make sure they get more than four hours of sunlight each day. Water them regularly but avoid overwatering. Check the soil moisture before watering again.

Using Compost: To give your herb garden an extra boost, consider using compost. Compost is rich in nutrients and can help your herbs thrive. Here’s how to incorporate it into your garden:

  1. Start a Compost Bin: Begin by collecting organic waste like vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, and yard waste in a compost bin. Avoid adding meat, dairy, and oily foods as they can attract pests.
  2. Turn the Compost: Regularly turn the compost to aerate it and speed up the decomposition process. This helps break down the materials into nutrient-rich soil.
  3. When to Use: Once your compost is dark and crumbly, it's ready to use. This usually takes a few months, depending on conditions.
  4. Mix with Soil: Before planting your herbs, mix the compost with your potting soil. A good ratio is about one part compost to two parts soil. This ensures that your herbs get a steady supply of nutrients as they grow.
  5. Top Dressing: You can also use compost as a top dressing for established plants. Simply spread a thin layer around the base of your herbs every few weeks.

Tips to Create Your Indoor Dried Herb Cat Garden

Happy woman smelling chamomile flowers in a garden for a DIY Cat Herb Garden.

Here are some key tips to ensure your herb garden is both cat-friendly and effective.

  • Duration and Frequency: If you're creating an indoor herb garden with dried herbs, leave it accessible for at least a week. If your cat doesn't use it, try different herbs. If they use it up, keep it topped up. Check the garden daily to ensure it's always available when needed.
  • Individual Gardens for Multi-Cat Households: If you have multiple cats, it's best to set up at least one herb garden per cat. Place these gardens in different areas of your home to reduce competition and stress.
  • Don’t Skimp: Be generous with the amount of herbs and flowers you provide. More herbs mean a richer sensory experience for your cat, which can enhance their interaction with the garden.
  • Create a Calm Environment: Give your cat time to relax and enjoy the herb garden without interruptions. Allow them to sniff, rub, roll, and play with the herbs at their own pace. Avoid interfering, as this can disrupt their natural behavior and enjoyment.
  • Location Matters: Make sure the herb garden is in a quiet, low-traffic area where your cat likes to relax. Avoid placing it in a room that your cat rarely uses. The more comfortable and familiar the location, the more likely your cat will be to use the garden.

Wrap It Up

Creating a DIY herb garden for your cat isn’t just a fun and rewarding project for you; when your cat uses a herb garden, they are engaging in natural healing. Whether emotionally, mentally, or physically, the herbs provide a therapeutic experience. Some cats may seek your reassurance during this time, while others may prefer privacy. Respect their space and allow them to enjoy the benefits at their own pace. So now that you’re all read up on the why, the which, and the how, the rest is up to you. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so you can expand on your herb garden once you’ve got these basics mastered. Happy gardening!


How can a herb garden help my cat?

A herb garden can provide natural remedies for various health issues, offer mental stimulation, and create a calming environment for your cat. It’s a simple way to offer your cat a way to ‘self-select’ what remedies are needed to heal them at any point in time.

Will it make my cat sick if s/he ingests the herbs/flowers?

Most cat-friendly herbs are safe in small doses. Always monitor your cat and consult your vet before introducing new herbs.

What are some signs that the herbs are working for my cat?

Signs include sitting on the herbs, rubbing, rolling, licking, and ingesting the herbs, which indicate your cat is using its natural instincts to self-select the herbs he or she needs.

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