"A weed is simply a plant that you don't know what to do with."
Sadly, over the years I've lost two cats to feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), and our current male housecat has also had a minor run-in with this condition. Interestingly, all three cats were neutered orange tabby males, although I don't think orange cats are more prone to this problem.
I've just now - today - found an herbal treatment for both felines and humans with urinary problems.
FLUTD usually affects neutered male cats who live indoors and use a litterbox. Symptoms include frequent and/or painful urination, blood in the urine, and excess grooming of the area. In severe cases, some cats have such a build-up of bladder crystals that the urethra becomes blocked and they cannot urinate. (This is what happened to my cats, many years apart. If your cat shows these symptoms, it must treated as an emergency and the animal must be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.)
Cleavers has long been recognized as a diuretic herb which cleanses the body of toxins, sending them back into the bloodstream to be cleansed by the liver and kidneys. Cleavers is used to treat bladder and kidney stones in humans. It can be used as a long-term aid in cats with FLUTD and perhaps also those with low-grade kidney infections, although I didn't find any directions for administering the herb to cats.
Cleavers is also said to be an appetite depressant and anti-inflammatory. Some believe it will also fight cancer by detoxifying the body.
You don't have to go looking for cleavers, it will find you. The stems are covered with tiny hooked bristles which grab onto just about anything that passes by. It will stick to your clothing, to animal fur, and to other vegetation as it grows. It is easily identifiable: if you touch the plant, it will feel "sticky". If you forage cleavers, carefully remove any debris that clings to the plant; it's much harder to clean when the plant material has dried.
The cleavers stems are square, similar to henbit and mint. The whorled leaves are narrow and are attached to the stem in clusters of six or eight. The white flowers are quite tiny, growing in small clusters.
The leaves are edible and can be eaten in salad like spinach or added to soups. The dried or roasted seeds are said to be a good substitute for coffee.
Other posts in this series:
How to Harvest Yarrow
DIY Herb Field Guide
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