What's all the fuss about catnip?
Catnip is the one thing that can render a cat helpless with euphoria and 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, or catmint, is a herb from the mint family with medicinal qualities. People have been using catnip to cure all sorts of complaints since ancient Roman times, and more recently it's been used as a herbal tea to aid digestion. For cats, the herb seems to be highly attractive.
Do all cats react to catnip?
The excitement a cat gets from catnip will usually only last a few minutes, before she becomes used to the chemical. It'll take an hour or so before the same chemical reaction can be triggered again. However, not all cats are sensitive to catnip. Some cats are totally unbothered, while the majority of cats seem to go wild with excitement. Even some of our cats' larger cousins, like tigers, for example, have been known to enjoy some quality catnip moments.
Is catnip completely safe?
Catnip is non-addictive, and you can rest assured that even if your cat is nibbling on the dried leaves, it will do no harm at all. In fact, there are many catnip toys available to buy. These range from all sorts of toys stuffed with catnip, to balls, treats, and blankets.
Catnip can also be a brilliant exercise and training tool to keep your cat healthy without her even knowing she's having a workout. You can buy catnip in a spray form as well. By spraying the liquid onto a scratching post, you'll encourage your cat to scratch and nibble the post and not your best armchair. Not only does this help discourage your cat from bad habits, but it also acts as an immediate reward for good behaviour.
Why not think about growing some catnip?
If your cat is into catnip in a big way, you might like to consider adding the herb to your garden. It's inexpensive and very easy to grow, and you can buy a packet of catnip seeds from any good garden centre. The best time to sow it is outdoors in the early spring. Catnip seeds like lots of sun, so it's best if you sow them in the sunniest plot in your garden.
Bear in mind that catnip plants can grow very big, so you'll need about 10 inches between each plant. It's a perennial herb, so you should get catnip growing every year, as long as the winter isn't too severe. The seeds should start to sprout after a couple of weeks. When the plants start to grow, let them keep going until they start to show signs of flowering. Then just cut all the stems off to about 8 inches above the ground.
Preparing your cuttings
Once you have your cuttings, you need to dry them. First of all, strip the leaves from the stems and spread them on a tray. The leaves can be placed on top of each other, to a depth of 3 or 4 inches. Discard the stems and place the trays of leaves in a well-aired spot, making sure it's one that your cat can't get to. After a couple of weeks, the leaves should be brittle and start to crumble. Once they're at the stage where they flake, they're ready.