Catnip is the one thing that can render a cat helpless with excitement. It encourages your cat to play, exercise and generally feel good. But why does catnip attract cats, and how can you use it to keep your cat happy?
What is catnip?
Catnip – also known as catmint – is a herb from the mint family. People have been using catnip’s medicinal properties to cure all sorts of complaints since ancient Roman times. More recently, it's been used as a herbal tea to aid digestion. As for cats – they just can’t get enough of it!
Do all cats react to catnip?
No – not all cats are sensitive to catnip. However, the majority of cats go wild with excitement when it’s around. And some of your feline friend’s big cat cousins have been known to enjoy some quality catnip moments.
How long do the effects of catnip last?
The excitement your cat gets from catnip will usually last just a few minutes, After that, she’ll get used to the chemical in the herb that triggers the reaction. It'll take an hour or so for that to wear off, after which she’ll be catnip crazy all over again!
Is catnip completely safe?
Catnip is non-addictive, so you can rest assured that even if your cat is nibbling on the dried leaves, it won’t harm her at all. You can even buy toys, treats, and blankets impregnated or flavoured with catnip.
Is catnip useful?
You can use catnip as a brilliant exercise and training tool to keep your cat healthy without her even knowing she's having a workout. Try spraying liquid catnip on to a scratching post – that way, you'll encourage your cat to scratch and nibble the post and not your best armchair! Not only does this discourage your cat from bad habits, but it’s also an instant reward for good behaviour.
Can I grow my own catnip?
Of course! Catnip is inexpensive and very easy to grow – you can buy a packet of catnip seeds from any good garden centre. It's a perennial herb, which means you’ll get a crop every year, as long as the winter isn't too severe.
The best time to sow catnip is outdoors in the early spring, preferably in a spot that gets plenty of sunshine. Catnip plants can grow quite big, so leave about ten inches between each plant. The seeds should start to sprout after a couple of weeks. Let the plants grow until they start to show signs of flowering – which is the sign that it’s harvest time!
Harvesting your catnip
When your catnip plants show signs of flowering, cut them off about eight inches above the ground, then strip the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems and spread the leaves on a tray to dry – you can pile them on top of each other, to a depth of three or four inches.
Place the trays in a well-aired spot – making sure your cat can't get to them! After a couple of weeks, the leaves should be brittle, flaky … and ready to send your cat into ecstasies!