''Cat farms'' are a simple project that can yield pet owners a bumper crop of feline nutrients.
By JOHN A. STARNES JR.
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2003
Those of us who adore their feline buddies love to laugh at their antics, appreciate their graceful beauty and forgive their confident aloofness after each oasis of cuddly lap time.
Because we provide them with shelter, their favorite treats and cheek scratching, why not indulge them with something that will entertain them and improve their health?
If your cat is an indoor cat, this is a must you will want to give year-round.
In the wild, these "carnivores" eat first the plant-filled intestines of their prey, then the meaty part. Thus, undigested plants are a natural element of a healthy feline diet. Yet, cat food is missing this, hence many cats' insistence on nibbling houseplants, even toxic ones. Their bodies are craving plant enzymes, fiber, chlorophyll and minerals.
My cats, Angel and Luvyu (the psycho Siamese I waited 35 years for), graze daily in my yard, and for the seven winters we spent in Denver, they and my previous cat, Lovely, grazed happily on the "cat farms" I made for them. I made others as gifts for my friends whose cats were denied fresh greens by those brutal winters and for those living in condos and apartments.
Each "cat farm" lives indoors only a few weeks, so make a fresh one every two to three weeks.
Fill any low container, such as a baking dish or flower-pot drainage tray, with compost or garden soil to within an inch of the top. Sprinkle on the seeds from the list below, cover them with an inch of soil, keep them damp (not soggy) and grow the farm in your sunniest window or on your patio. Within 10 days, you'll have a lush "fur" of bright green new shoots that your cats will gnaw on greedily.
We know that cats can be picky in a shoe store, so try several different grass seeds to see which ones yours prefer. Unhulled oats from a feed store produce the sweetest shoots, and these are many cats' favorite. But try ordinary pop corn, wheat or rye berries from a health food store, annual or perennial rye grass from a garden center, or the easiest, cheap bird seed. Yup, the millet and milo seeds sprout rapidly, though I have yet to see a cat that will eat the sunflower sprouts. The seeds stay below the ground and don't get into the cat's diet.
One 5-pound bag of bird seed will grow many dozens of fresh cat farms, especially if you keep the seed in your fridge to stratify it for better germination. You can even grow a chunk of sod from an untreated lawn in a flower pot.
Cat farms are perfect projects for kids to make and an ideal gift for any fellow cat lover. Include a bag of seeds tied with a ribbon, and they're set for the first several replantings. Make one for your favorite kitty, and if you are very lucky, you'll be rewarded with a purring snooze on your lap.
- John A. Starnes Jr., born in Key West, is an avid organic gardener and rosarian who studies, collects, cultivates and hybridizes roses for the diverse regions of Florida and Colorado. He can be reached at JohnAStarnes@aol.com.
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