If your feline is an aficionado of the stuff, there is still time to grow your own catnip this summer. Lots of companies, like Eden Brothers, Park Seeds and Johnny’s Seeds, sell the seeds for this easy-to-grow perennial. It loves full sun, and poor, dry soil, making it the perfect choice for a spot in your yard where nothing else will grow. Catnip is a prodigious self-seeder, though, so be sure to cut the seed heads off before they start distributing themselves throughout your yard. In addition to making your cat super happy, catnip is also attractive to bees and butterflies, so it makes a wonderful addition to any garden or yard.
Catnip is a member of the mint family (it’s also known as catmint), its Latin botanical name being Nepeta cataria. How does catnip work its magic on felines? The source of your cat’s ecstatic response is a volatile oil, nepetalactone, which basically functions like a pheromone. The effect lasts for about 10 minutes, after which, according to this article in Scientific American, your cat will be immune to catnip for the next 30 minutes or so. Kittens are also immune to it up until they are about six months old.
Catnip has an effect on about seventy percent of the feline population (including a number of big cat species like tigers, mountain lions, and bobcats; check out this video from Big Cat Rescue), and it appears to be hereditary. If your cat numbers among the thirty percent that don’t care for catnip, no worries—there are other plants that elicit a similar response from them and include silver vine (Actinidia polygama) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis).
Cats who love catnip love it fresh or dried. If you’ve got an outdoor cat, they’ll likely find your planting of it on their own, and take a roll in it whenever it suits them. But for your indoor cat or when cold weather is right around the corner, simply cut the plant off at the ground. You can then hang it upside down in your garage or basement (if it’s not humid) to dry, or strip the leaves off the stems, spread them on a baking sheet, and dry them in a very low oven, or use a dehydrator. You can then store them in ziptop plastic bags (our neighbor calls her stash of catnip kitty dime bags) or make your own catnip toys.