Although approximately one third of cats could care less about catnip, the majority flip for it. And drool. And race around! Why do they love it so much?
This plant produces Nepetalactone oil which acts something like an aphrodisiac for them. Is it harmful? Experts say no (pdf), there are no short term or long term ill effects.
It’s great for those darlings who are a tad too laid back (ummm, lazy). They get a good workout and a little exercise with their happy time. If your friend is really old or has health problems, it’s probably not a good idea to give it to her since she will be excited and hyper.
Catnip is a 50-100 cm tall herb resembling mint in appearance, with greyish-green leaves; the flowers are white, finely spotted with purple. Source: Wikipedia
Fresh plants provide the most pleasure. Pull off a leaf or two and roughly crumple and rub a bit to release the natural chemicals before letting kitty sample some. If she responds positively, she’ll roll around in it, do a couple flips, maybe even drool a bit.
This herb is from the mint family and is very easy to manage. Can be kept outdoors or inside as a houseplant. Be careful to position in a location where a frisky feline can’t access it–she will destroy, shred and strip the entire pot if she can get her little paws on it!
A Few Notes
- The best luck I’ve had is growing it in a basket then hanging it off a tree branch (at the very end). Strong enough to hold the pot when the wind is brisk, yet out of reach of climbing critters.
- If you live in an apartment with a balcony, see if it’s possible to attach a bracket off the outside wall to hang the pot. Another idea is to use a high stool or tall legged holder with nothing around for sly critters to crawl up and tear into it. Make sure it’s very sturdy–cats are smart and will bulldoze the legs out once they realize it can be flipped over!
- As new growth develops, pinch the new leaves frequently so it bushes out, production will increase that way.
- The downside of having it outside is neighborhood animals. I don’t get armies of them milling about, though I did notice a nightly visitor or two doing their best to stampede the treat.
- Going to grow it indoors? Choose a sunny location–but protected from kitty. The high stool is probably the best choice. If ceiling hooks are doable, an indoor hanging basket is ideal. The sunnier the spot–the better.
- It’s possible to start from seed, but check the local greenhouse for a seedling already started. It’s well worth the little extra money since it’s healthy and hardy, raring to go.
- Don’t let your buddy have it more than once a week or so, it loses its effect when they have it too often.
- Take advantage of the bounty! Dry the extra or freeze in batches to dole out over the long winter months. I find this much more potent than any of the store bought dried variety.
- If you think your feline won’t bother about the herb because you’ve given her a sample of the dried stuff in the past and there was no effect, try fresh. Although not all respond to it (approximately a third don’t), fresh stuff could give a different result. My boy is a happy drooler in the summer ;).
Quick Tip: Training to Use A Scratching Post
For some cats furniture and expensive drapes are much more exciting to shred and sharpen claws on instead of a scratching post. Try rubbing catnip in the carpeting of the post, that should do the trick in attracting kitty to use it.
Also be sure to spend some time showing her how to use it, gently taking her front paws and dragging them down the surface (carefully) so that she gets the idea.