A question often asked by pet parents is “how does catnip affect cats, and is it safe for them to eat?” If you’ve ever seen your cat react to a catnip toy, you’ll be forgiven for thinking she’s high on LSD! In fact the effects are very similar, though I’m not sure how researchers came to this conclusion!
In this post you’ll discover what is catnip, and some of the reasons your cat may love it so much. Including a few tasty treats your kitty will love. Plus you’ll learn how to grow your own catnip from seed, and the best way to keep it fresh.
Not all cats are sensitive to catnip though, and up to half of cats have no response at all. You won’t know if your kitty responds to the plant until she’s about 6 months old as the receptors that trigger the response won’t be developed.
What is catnip?
The catnip plant is part of the mint family with leafy green appearance. It can be grown outside or indoors, and is very easy to care for. You’ll find it tolerates hard frost and can withstand cold climates. If you have a garden you’ll be able to grow this attractive perennial next to your other herbs or bushes.
If your cat has no response whatsoever to your lovingly nurtured catnip plant you can still use it. As well as having attractive flowers, it can be used for medicinal purposes. Drunk as a tea it can have a calming effect.
Growing catnip seeds
Planting catnip seeds is easy, but you’ll need to soak them first. They’re quite tough, so germination can be difficult. You could also place the seeds in a freezer overnight. This will help break dormancy, mimicking conditions found in nature. After freezing, soak in water for 24 hours.
Prepare the ground by digging over the soil and adding mulch. This helps drainage, making ideal growing conditions. Catnip thrives in sunny spots, but will still do fine in partly shaded areas. You don’t need to water the plant everyday unless there’s a lack of rainfall. Adding a few handfuls of sand to the soil helps enhance the aroma.
Catnip grows to a height of about 3ft and spreads fast! Unless you want your garden taken over by it you’ll need to contain it. This won’t be a problem as long as you weed regularly and don’t neglect the plant for months on end. Of course, you may well find other cats in the neighborhood enter your garden for a quick fix, and munch the leaves! This will certainly stop your catnip spreading too far!
A good way to stop catnip spreading is by removing the flowers before they go to seed. You could also save some of the seeds if you plan to plant in another area, or maybe have one or two pots of catnip indoors.
Growing catnip indoors
If you don’t have a garden you can grow a pot of catnip on a sunny windowsill. You’ll not only have a happy kitty, but an attractive plant to look at as well.
Soak a few seeds overnight and push gently into a pot of soil. Spray lightly with a mist spray and cover with cling film. This helps the seeds germinate faster. Seeds should start sprouting within 5-10 days.
Once seedlings are a few inches tall, carefully transplant into a larger pot containing a mix of potting compost and sand. You can grow several plants in one pot as long as it’s large enough. Don’t allow your kitty near the catnip until the leaves are mature enough or your plant will soon be destroyed!
Is catnip safe for cats to eat?
Catnip is perfectly safe for your kitty to eat, with no harmful effects whatsoever. However, the effect your cat gets from eating catnip will be different from just sniffing it. There are no nutritional benefits gained by munching a few leaves. However, it can act like a sedative when ingested. In fact, the effects are very similar to that experienced by humans when drinking it as tea. You could also give your kitty catnip biscuits as an alternative to Feliway
How catnip affects your cat
If your kitty is sensitive to catnip, one whiff of it and she’ll be in kitty heaven! Rolling around in ecstasy, rubbing against you, and even meowing are some of the responses your cat may demonstrate.
It’s believed catnip mimics pheromones released during mating, driving your cat wild! Some scientists liken these responses to behavior exhibited by queens in heat. The effects only last about 10 minutes, after which your cat will be immune for a short while.
As just mentioned, eating catnip may have a very calming effect. making your kitty drowsy. Unlike many recreational drugs used by humans, catnip isn’t addictive to your feline. You won’t find her sitting by a pot of the stuff rolling a joint any time soon!!
How to harvest and store catnip
The best time to harvest catnip is when the plant is flowering. The flowers are the most potent part of the plant as any kitty will tell you:) As catnip thrives on harvesting, you can cut back the plant anytime of year. It’s suggested you cut the entire stem as this will encourage quicker regrowth. One quick tip to note is pinch the tips of shoots to produce a bushier plant. Catnip can be quite leggy with tall thin stems.
Dried catnip can keep it’s potency for several months, so drying out the leaves and creating powder is a great way to store it. Tie bunches of catnip stems together and hang upside down on the inside of a cupboard door. It can take 4-6 weeks for the leaves to dry out completely, so you may want a reserve supply!
Once dried, simply crumble the leaves and flowers onto a large sheet of paper. Funnel into jars or other containers. Closing with an airtight lid will lengthen the life of your dried catnip for up to 6 months.
For quicker results you can dry catnip in an oven. Pre-heat to 150 degrees F, spread catnip leaves out onto a sheet of parchment paper and cook for about 10 minutes. This is by far the quickest way to dry catnip.
You can freeze catnip as freezing preserves the oils. It’s best to freeze dried catnip and not the fresh leaves. Freeze in plastic bags with ziplocks for best results.
So you see, you can always have a supply of catnip on the go, both for you and your fur baby! You can buy catnip ready dried if you can’t be bothered to grow it. This is also a good solution if you live in an apartment with no garden or sunny windowsill.
How to make catnip treats your kitty will love
As promised, here is a delicious recipe for cat treats your kitty will love. The great thing about these treats is they’re healthy and grain free. Start with a small batch first, just in case your cat turns her nose up at them!
Best organic catnip for your kitty
If you’re buying catnip instead of growing it, I strongly recommend the organic variety. This is far better for your kitty as it’s free from harmful additives and pesticides. The following I recommend based on ratings and my own opinions. As I’ve mentioned several times, not all cats will respond to catnip. There’s no guarantee any of these products will have any effect on your kitty whatsoever.
Yeowww! Cat Catnip Made in USA
Yeoww not only make catnip toys, but sell loose catnip as well. This organically grown catnip contains no pesticides or harmful chemicals. Available in 2ox or 4oz sealable tubs it will keep fresher for longer.
Yeoww catnip contains only dried leaves and flowers with almost no stems. This is great news for your kitty as you get a stronger aroma. It’s suggested you rub some of the mix between your fingers to release the oils. This makes an ideal toy filler, or sprinkle around your cat’s scratching post.
Average rating 4.3 out of 5
OurPets Cosmic Catnip
Ourpets cosmic catnip is available in a 2.25oz jar. Free from harmful chemicals it’s grown in North America.
Average rating 4.1 out of 5
Cat Dope Catnip
Catdope is 100% natural with no harmful additives.It’s infused with a high premium potency. Sprinkle on cat toys or scratching posts
Average rating 2.4 out of 5
Does your kitty go crazy over catnip?
If your kitty drools after one sniff of this amazing herb, I hope this article has helped you understand why. So many cat parents are surprised by their fur baby’s response and ask “how does catnip affect cats, and why does mine go crazy over it? As you’ve learnt, it’s very easy to grow and harvest.
I’ve also shared a few dried catnip products for those of you who don’t have a garden or can’t be bothered to look after house plants. As you’ve also learnt, catnip makes a delicious tea, so if your kitty doesn’t like it you can always make a brew! There are other herbs that send cats wild but I’ll cover those in another post:)
If you’ve enjoyed reading this post please share. Also, please share any experiences you’ve had with your kitty and catnip:)
Wishing you a purrfect day:)