We’ve all heard of catnip, but if you’re like many pet owners, you probably have no idea what it is. Want to change that? Read on.
Catnip is a herb that belongs to the mint family and while there are many species, the one you will likely see in your local nursery is Nepeta cataria, a variety with hairy stalks, greeyish heart-shaped leaves and white flowers.
The active ingredient in the leaves and stem of the plant is the oil nepetalactone, which is said to have a hallucinogenic effect if consumed. Cats affected by catnip have been observed chewing, sniffing, licking, chasing and playing. The cat might rub her body, stretch and drool. However, if your cat has consumed catnip he might not be affected at all – it’s believed catnip has no impact on around 35 per cent of cats. And young kittens won’t be affected.
Catnip is said to be good for upset stomachs, insomnia, coughing and headaches. It is an anaesthetic, antibiotic, antispasmodic, astringent and diuretic and can help with aching muscles rheumatism, haemorrhoids and toothache. Nepetalactone has also been shown to repel insects and cockroaches, and it’s believed rice and mats avoid places where catnip grows.
You can give catnip to your cat simply by growing it in the garden where your cat has easy access – she can then nibble on it herself (don’t worry about her overdosing though, as most cats know when to stop), you can dry it out and offer it to her that way, or buy commercially available catnip sprays or toys containing catnip.
If you plan to grow it yourself, it is easy to buy from nurseries and pet stores. Like many herbs it likes full sun and sandy soil. If you decide to plant it in your garden, remember your cat may enjoy rolling in it, so plant it away from other plants that could be damaged by your cat’s activity.
When you want to use some, pinch off some leaves and dry in by placing it in the over on a very low heat. It will crumble when it’s done, then you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge.