Catnip (Nepeta Cataria) is a downright irresistable herb to some cats. To others, it’s just another green thing, with no special appeal. Somewhere around 50-60% of all cats show some kind of reaction to catnip, such as rolling on it, eating it, or racing madly around the house chasing imaginary prey.
At Happy Acres two out of three of our felines love the stuff. They will fight over it unless we make sure each has their private stash. Sometimes I just bring it in fresh from the garden, lay it on the floor, and wait for the fun to begin. The third cat is not much interested in it.
Other times I strip the fresh leaves from the stem and stuff them into an old sock and tie the end to keep the catnip in. The herb will dry inside the sock, and the cats will be happy for weeks. For the crafty, here are the plans for a neat homemade catnip mouse from the folks at Cats Ahoy Mobile Adoption Centre.
The catnip plant is a hardy perennial and an easy to grow member of the mint family. It grows from 3-5 feet tall, with soft greenish-grey leaves. And cats are not the only creatures that love it. Bees and other pollinators flock to it when it’s in bloom. I have a few plants growing at the edge of the vegetable garden, and the plants are never without bees when it’s blooming. Catnip grows best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. Like most herbs, it does best in a soil that’s not too rich. It can be started from seed, or propagated by stem cuttings. Large, mature plants can also be lifted and divided.
But beware, catnip can be invasive. The seeds sprout easily wherever they land, and they can quickly wind up in places where they’re not wanted. If you cut the plants back when they start to bloom, you will keep them from going to seed, but also miss the blossoms and those insects that love them. I let them bloom away, and deal with the volunteers as necessary.
They are easy to dig up and give away as gifts for other cat lovers. Or, pull them up and give the leaves to your cats. The cats here can always use a “wee bit of nip”.