Your cat will love you if you plant catnip! This easy-to-grow plant can be grown outdoors or indoors and deters your cat from attacking other plants during playtime. In addition to making your cat happy, catnip also has other uses. Let’s learn all about catnip.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is an herbal plant known by the scientific name Nepeta cataria. It is a member of the mint family. The plant releases a chemical called nepetalactone, which affects cats in various ways, as we’ll discuss later. This chemical lives in tiny bulbs that cover the plant’s stems, leaves, and seed pods. When you break these bulbs when you handle the plants, or when a cat chews or brushes against it, it releases the chemical into the air.
How Are Cats Affected by Catnip?
Many felines are attracted to nepetalactone. They love the smell of it and respond by rubbing, chewing, kicking, and rolling in it to release more of the chemical. The cat’s receptors in their nose activate areas of the brain dealing with behavior and emotion. However, it doesn’t last long. For most cats, the effect wears off in ten to fifteen minutes.
Some cats don’t seem to be nearly as attracted to catnip as others. Some become calm, while others exhibit no symptoms at all. Cat owners may use catnip with their cats in various ways:
- Training Aid: For instance, if your cat won’t use their scratching post, place a little catnip on the post to encourage play there. Then, your cat will associate the scratching post with positive emotions.
- Stimulation: A bored cat can have problem behaviors. A good trick is to place some of your cat’s toys in a container with catnip and rotate out the toys. They’ll enjoy it every time!
- Stress Relief: Catnip relaxes your cat. For high-stress cats or having a hard time with a sudden change in their routine, some vets suggest using catnip to calm your cat.
Although catnip is non-toxic, don’t let your cat overindulge. If cats overeat of the plant, they may have stomach upset.
How to Plant Catnip for Your Cat Outdoors
Catnip is an herb that grows all over North America. Catnip should be planted in spring after the last frost. You may also sow in fall for a late-season plant. They grow about three to four feet high, and clusters of white and purple flowers grow on spikes.
Catnip is also known as catmint. Why? Because it’s a member of the mint family. Like mint, catnip tends to become invasive. So, either plant in a pot or be ready to prune your mint before it takes over your yard. While these plants are not perennial, they tend to regrow due to seeds dropped after flowering. Catnip likes full sun, regular watering, and well-drained soil. However, they are very hardy and have been used as ground cover in dry regions.
Planting Catnip Indoors
You can grow catnip indoors quickly. Find a sunny window sill to give your plant as much direct light as possible. If there is not enough light, the herb will grow tall in search of the sun, but it will have few leaves. This might cause it to fall over. Then, make sure your pot and soil drain well. You want to prevent root rot by having soil that’s too wet. Indoors, the plant tends not to grow as tall. You can expect a two-foot plant as long as you give it lots of light and water. To keep your plant growing, if it goes to flower, snip the flowers off. Lastly, indoor catnip may not be as potent as outdoor catnip. However, your cat will still love it!
Other Uses for Catnip
Catnip has more uses than a toy for your cat. Catnip has been used in traditional medicine in Europe and the Americas for centuries. It was often used as a tea to promote healthy sleep and anxiety. It was also said to help with stomach upset. Of course, before you take any new herbal supplement, be sure to ask your doctor.