Our cats are our furry companions, and most cat owners want the very best for their loveable little balls of sharp-fingered fluff. Used as a treat, catnip is an easy way to make your cat happy and can provide an additional way to strengthen the bonds between human and cat.
What exactly is catnip? The plant, Nepeta cataria, commonly known as catnip is a perennial; which means it grows back year after year without having to be replanted. It's part of the mint family of plants and can be very invasive if you aren't careful. Catnip grows wonderfully in containers. This makes it very easy to grow, and caring for catnip plants is about as easy as it gets. It acts a lot like a weed.
You can easily prepare a 6" or larger pot with potting or garden soil. Catnip seeds are for sale anywhere you can buy flower and vegetable seeds. Once planted, your catnip plant will do well in full sun and should be watered as the soil dries out. These plants are known to be drought resistant, so if you forget to water them once in a while, they'll be fine. Catnip produces small, short-lived flowers that are bee friendly.
Harvesting catnip can be done a few times per growing season. Using clean, sharp scissors, clip each stem about a quarter of an inch above the second set of leaves from the soil on your plant. This will leave enough of the plant to start to regrow for another clipping in a few weeks. They can be placed out to dry on a wire grate (pictured above) or hung together in a bunch in a dry location. You can tell the catnip is finished drying by rubbing one of the leaves between your fingers. The leaf will crumble easily once it's finished drying.
Catnip leaves can be taken off the stems, or you can leave them in place and grind up the entire plant. You can use your hands or a blender to grind up the catnip. Your cats will most likely be VERY interested in this part of the process, and if you use your hands to grind up the catnip, be prepared to have your cats laser focused on them until the catnip aroma fades away.
Once dry, catnip can be stored in a glass container with a lid or a plastic bag kept in an area where your cats can't access it.
The active ingredient in catnip is an essential oil called nepetalactone. This is what attracts your cats to the plants and leaves, and it's thought that it affects the happy receptors of your cats brain. Cats can get used to the affects of catnip over time, so it's a good idea to only give them some 1-2 times a week. Some cats don't react at all to catnip.
Growing catnip for your cats is awesome. It's cheaper than buying catnip at the pet store, and with a little TLC you can have catnip all the time. Our cats get fresh off the plant catnip during the summer and dried, ground catnip the rest of the year.