Catnip is a herb related to the mint family and has an unusual phenomenon among cats. It has the ability to alter your cat’s behaviour, similar to the effects of a drug in humans.
Only about 50-70% of cats are affected by this herb. Effects include:
- drunken appearance
- rolling around
- elevated energy levels
- increased affection
Catnip is a great way to encourage activity in cats, (especially lazy cats and indoor cats). It can be grown in the garden or purchased as a dry herb. Sprinkle some into food, toys or their scratching post.
How does catnip work?
Response to the chemicals in catnip is thought to be hereditary. Kittens will not respond to catnip. It contains a chemical called ‘nepetalactone’ which is believed to be responsible for triggering the intense reaction.
Catnip is surprisingly easy to grow and will thrive inside or outdoors. Catnip seeds can be purchased from most garden stores, pet stores or vet clinics.
Catnip does not need much care, as it can flourish well on its own. Give them plenty of space away from other plants in your garden as they tend to crowd other plants.
Mix two parts potting soil with one part coarse sand or vermiculite into a small pot. Sow the seeds on the top of the slightly moistened soil mixture and gently press them into the soil. Cover your pot with plastic wrap to keep the moisture in. Place your pot in a warm, bright part of the house. However, do not place it in direct sunlight.
In about 7 to 10 days you should see some sprouts come through the soil. Once the sprouts get their first set of leaves, take the plastic cover off the pot and move it into a sunny window or area. The air inside your home will typically be dryer than the outside air, so check the moisture of the soil daily. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.
As the plants grow to about one foot, start harvesting the catnip. You don’t have to dry the catnip for your pet to enjoy it. Cats also like to eat the leaves off the fresh plants.
If you plant catnip in the Spring, it should flower by early Summer. While the plant is in bloom, cat owners may wish to harvest the flower, top leaves, and stems. These can then be placed into a toy or stuffed into a small pillowcase. According to some gardeners, three good harvests of catnip can be produced in one year.