Catnip, scientifically known as nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb that is a member of the mint family. The plants can grow up to 3 feet tall.  Cats are attracted to a chemical compound that is called nepetalactone; this is found in the leaves and stems. This is a stimulant that causes a cat to experience a “high” when it is sniffed.  The cat will remain on this “high” for about ten minutes.

From personal experience with my own five cats, I must say that their individual reactions after sniffing the leaves vary quite a bit. Several of my cats actually enjoy eating it, while one of my cats loves to roll in the dried leaves sprinkled on newspaper until she is virtually covered in it!

When a cat eats catnip, it has a sedative effect, but it doesn’t affect a feline until a kitten is several months old. Only about 50% seem to be affected by it – it’s believed that their sensitivity is an inherited trait. Although it’s safe for cats, they may vomit and have diarrhea if they eat too much of it. It’s recommended that cats can have a little every day, up to a tablespoon.

It’s great for indoor kitties because they get to enjoy the health benefits of a small number of greens that outdoor cats get to enjoy during their escapades (although I always strongly recommend that cats be kept safely indoors). Keep in mind that too frequent feedings of the herb may desensitize kitty and he’ll no longer respond to it.

If you’ve decided that you’d like to treat your cat occasionally, you can buy it at the store or you can grow it yourself.  The seeds are tiny and black and grow well in a small pot of soil with light watering and some sunshine.   Make sure the pot you use has good drainage.  Your plant should show some growth within five to ten days after planting the seeds.

Planting outdoors – The seeds can be sown outdoors only during the spring. If you are planting the seeds directly outdoors you need to sow them as soon as you’re sure any threat of frost has passed.  Bury seeds 1/8” deep and 15” apart. The plants will take 5-10 days to start growing under ideal circumstances and up to 20 days in colder soil.  Start harvesting leaves in 12-15 weeks. Of course, you’ll need to cover them with protective netting, because cats will be attracted to the plants.

If you have the plants and want to root them in water, remove the lower leaves and then stand them up in the water.  Change the water on a regular basis and you should see roots beginning to grow in a few days. Once there are strong roots, transplant each plant into a small pot of sterile potting soil. Water twice a week.

Helpful hints:  if you are trying to train your cat to use a scratching post, sprinkle a few spoonsful of catnip on the post.  You can also purchase the herb in liquid form and spray the post.  It’s a good idea to have flat scratching pads in addition to a scratching post and put the leaves or spray on it.  The cats should hopefully be attracted to it and start using the scratching post and pads. From my personal experience, I can tell you this can really work.  My cats all started scratching where they should using this technique and my furniture is all fine.

MAKE TOYS – I’ve written about this, but here goes again…cut off the tips of old socks and fill them with catnip, then sew shut. Your cat will love them!

I hope this information helps you, my wonderful cat lovers.  Have fun with your kitties!