Have you ever seen a cat “high” on catnip? Their wacky antics – purring, drooling, stretching, rolling – are sparked by the plant’s chemical compound, nepetalactone. Interestingly, catnip sensitivity is a genetic trait, and only about 70 percent of cats get the catnip buzz. If your cat happens to be one who loves the herb, you can easily grow your own organic catnip.
First, locate the ideal growing location. Catnip can be grown indoors or out as long as the plant is in a sunny location. Identify a spot that can be protected from your cat – or outdoor neighboring cats. A hanging basket might do the trick.
Start with a small established plant, or for a less expensive option, a packet of seeds. Another option is to purchase a catnip kit, though whichever option you choose, try to get an organically-grown starter plant or seed packet. The chemicals used to grow catnip can be toxic, especially if your cat chomps on the leaves. Sow the seeds in a row about 18-inches apart. If you’re using a container or a window box, start with just a couple seeds because the plants will become very bushy.
To maximize your plant’s growth potential, focus on routine pruning. As soon as leaves sprout off of the main stem, cut the main stem just above the leaves. Soon, two new stems will grow from that cut. Prune each new stem to get a bushy catnip plant. Also, keep in mind that the key to a vibrant, healthy catnip plant is water. Be sure to douse the plant regularly.
Catnip plants grow quickly. You can allow the stalks to grow up to 18 inches high or start harvesting sooner. Pull off the leaves or snip whole stalks. Hang them upside down and allow the stalks to dry. Once the leaves are dry, crumple up pieces or whole leaves for your cat to enjoy.
A single thriving plant produces more catnip than your cat can enjoy in one season. However, you can dry the additional stalks and seal the catnip in bags. Pop the bags in the freezer to keep them fresh until your cat is ready for more.
To earn bonus points from your cat, whip up a DIY cat toy: Sew a piece of scrap fabric on three sides. Stuff crumpled catnip into the fabric and sew the fourth side closed. Another quicker option is to stuff the catnip into a sock and tie the top. Store the catnip toys in your freezer between play sessions to prolong the life of the dried herb.
Caution: Though organically grown catnip is more potent than what you buy at a pet store, cats can become immune with overexposure. Give your cat home-grown catnip only once or twice a week.