Nibbling on grass is natural for cats. Research has not yet shown why domestic cats are attracted to it, but it could be linked to the fact that wild cats will often eat grass after they have devoured their prey, helping them expel the indigestible parts. Another theory is that cats eat grass for some trace minerals and vitamins A and D. Whatever the reason, cats seem to love it!
At Mayhew, they grow cat grass in pots and place them in the enclosures of the adult cats and vaccinated kittens for them to munch on, which they do with gusto! Another firm favourite with many of the home's feline residents is catnip, which is also grown at Mayhew for them to enjoy. If you’ve ever seen a cat around catnip then you’ll know that they can go totally crazy for it, becoming more playful, loving and confident. The sedative effects of catnip can also really help to calm down a stressed kitty, reducing anxiety and depression.
“When cats first come to us, they can be nervous about their new surroundings, but once we offer them catnip leaves or pouches filled with Valerian (another good stress-relieving plant) even the most withdrawn cat will investigate!” Kayleigh Kilcommons Head of Cattery
Ones to watch out for
As pets look forward to exploring the flora and fauna this summer, remember that some plants should be steered well clear of. Foxgloves, daffodils (especially the bulbs), cherry laurel, rhododendrons, wisteria and chrysanthemums can be toxic if eaten. Lilies, although very beautiful, are particularly toxic to cats and can cause severe kidney damage. If you think your dog or cat has ingested a toxic plant, it is essential that you seek veterinary advice immediately.
Read here to find out which plants and herbs are best for dogs
Find out more about the MAYHEW here
The medicinal benefits of herbs and plants for humans are well known; however, you may be surprised to hear that plants can help our canine and feline friends too, from soothing skin conditions to aiding anxiety sufferers. Many of the animals at Mayhew have endured tough times before coming through the doors. Providing access to safe plants in a secure environment can offer them comfort and reduce stress levels as they are prepared for their new forever homes.
Sensory enjoyment for Mayhew's dogs
Mayhew has developed a sensory garden for the dogs in their care. This outdoor run acts as a safe haven, made up of different smells, textures and sounds. The plants in the garden provide stimulation and enrichment but each has also been specifically chosen for its healing properties and ability to reduce stress and anxiety.
Top plants for pooches
Chamomile: soothes anxiety, skin issues or stomach upsets.
Lavender: reduces anxiety.
Vervain: helps with nervous system disorders like depression.
Meadowsweet: reduces inflammation and aids digestive problems, arthritis and rheumatic conditions.
Did you know?
Dogs can suffer from hay fever just like people! Some research suggests that dogs are more likely to develop signs of hay fever if they aren’t exposed to a variety of grasses and plants in their early life.
As the weather improves, staff take the dogs into the sensory garden as much as possible, letting them potter around and enjoy games with toys – or water when it is very hot! The space is also used to work on basic training or socialisation skills and sometimes dogs will meet their potential adopters here, as it is a calming environment and the dogs feel at home. The Kennels team and volunteers are always on hand, watching over the dogs in case they have any unusual adverse reactions to the plants.
MARIA MARKEY, HEAD OF KENNELS, “It is truly amazing to observe the change in behaviour from when a dog enters the garden to how they are when they leave. ”
Scenting and exploring
Some dogs that come to Mayhew struggle to cope initially with a kennel environment, but staff find that even the most withdrawn and overwhelmed dogs will investigate the plants in the sensory garden. For example, dogs that are particularly highly strung or have hormonal imbalances often gravitate towards clary sage. While engaged in scenting and exploring, they stop focusing on any anxieties or tensions they may have and are able to begin to relax. The staff also use essential oil remedies in the kennels, to soothe and calm the residents.
Click here to read more about the Mayhew and how you can help
And of course, not only dogs appreciate herbs and plants, Mayhew's cats do too..... read about them here
Towards the end of last year, the Mayhew Home had a surprise delivery when their Animal Welfare Officers brought in seven unwanted Jack Russell terriers. The team suspect they were from a puppy farm. Word spread among the staff that there were some adorable new arrivals and everyone was keen to catch a glimpse and hopefully sneak a quick cuddle. They were placed into the expert hands of the vet and kennels teams to look after until it was time to find their forever homes.
Every cat and dog that comes in to Mayhew is seen at the on-site Community Vet Clinic and given a full health check, vaccinations and flea and worm treatment. Once the puppies had been examined, naming them was the next task. Such sweet bundles should be named after treats, so : Fudge, Cookie, Pudding, Pie, Custard, Waffle and Truffle.
Over the next few weeks, the puppies kept the kennels team busy – imagine the fun and the mess! Lots of playing and socialisation took place and the puppies made the most of the indoor doggy play area, full of exciting things to explore and stimulate them physically and mentally.
At nine weeks, all seven puppies were neutered in Mayhew's vet clinic ready for rehoming. The Adoption team works hard to ensure each dog ends up with the perfect family and always provide a profile of the animal on the website rehoming pages to ensure the best fit can be found. Lots of people wanted to adopt these cuties and once new owners had been interviewed and home checks completed, the puppies were waved off to begin life in their new homes.
Do you want a sneak peak at what happened next? Cassie (formerly Custard) landed on her paws with her new owner, Antonia. ‘Cassie loves her walks and meeting people and other dogs, and there is nothing she likes doing more than snoozing on the sofa after walking us around the park or playing with her cat toys. Cassie is a lovely, loving puppy, who everyone adores.’
Alfie (was Fudge) was adopted by a London family. His new owner, Conrad, explains how Alfie is now very much part of their family: ‘Alfie is happily running rings all around us with so much zest, love and enthusiasm. He is such a lovable, cute, ultra-friendly and good natured puppy, with a typical Jack Russell cheeky (sometimes naughty!) comic character. My family, and Alfie of course, are very grateful to Mayhew for all their good work and for bringing us together.’
Maggie (was Truffle) found a forever home with loving owner Emma. A few days after adopting her, Emma said, ‘Maggie has already settled in and is a credit to every lovely person at Mayhew who’s looked after her.’ A short while after her adoption, Maggie came back to Mayhew to meet the Home's new Patron, The Duchess of Sussex, on her official visit.
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and author of 11 books. My byline appears in national and regional newspapers and magazines. See website gillypickup.co.uk